Flossing And Your Dental Health: How Often Should You Be Doing It And How Do You Do It Correctly?

Flossing is a very important part of oral hygiene. Like brushing, dental floss is used to remove plaque that builds up on your teeth. Removing plaque helps to prevent tooth decay, decreasing the chance that you'll develop cavities. However, floss is able to reach areas that your toothbrush can't, such as between your teeth.

Mouthwash can reach between your teeth, but it's not very effective at removing adhered plaque — dental floss can. If you're not flossing regularly, you're not doing a thorough job of removing plaque from your teeth. To learn more about how to floss properly, how often you need to do it, and what type of floss to use, read on.

How Often Do You Need to Floss?

You should floss your teeth at least once a day, and it's best to floss your teeth right before you go to bed. The reason for this is that your saliva production decreases during the night, and this increases the risk that bacteria in your mouth will cause tooth decay. Going to sleep with an entirely clean mouth is ideal. However, it's always better to floss rather than to skip it entirely, regardless of the time of day you do it.

How Do You Floss Your Teeth Correctly?

Break off a foot-long piece of floss and wrap it around your middle fingers on both hands. Guide the floss around one of your teeth and encircle it on thee sides. Use an up-and-down motion to scrape off any plaque that has adhered to your tooth. Take care not to use a sawing motion with the floss against your gums, as you can irritate them. After cleaning a tooth, twirl the floss around your fingers to expose a piece of floss that doesn't have any plaque on it, and then floss another tooth. 

When Should Children Start Flossing Their Teeth?

You should start flossing your kids' teeth once their baby teeth begin to come in. It's good to develop this routine early to make sure your kids continue to floss for the rest of their lives. Children can typically start flossing on their own once they're around ten years old — it can be too difficult for younger kids to maneuver a piece of dental floss around their teeth in order to ensure a thorough cleaning.

Should You Use Unwaxed Floss or Waxed Floss?

Unwaxed floss is typically a better choice than waxed floss, since the nylon threads will spread out slightly as you're flossing your teeth. This gives them a bigger surface area, which helps them remove more plaque. However, waxed floss is often easier to use — the wax acts as a lubricant that allows the floss to slip between your teeth easier. People who have very sensitive gums often find that wax floss is less irritating as well.

Should Flossing Be Painful?

When you first start flossing, it's common to experience pain and bleeding around your gumline. It takes some time for your gums to acclimate to the dental floss. If you've been flossing for over two weeks and still have persistent irritation, however, you should schedule an appointment with your dentist. Sore, bleeding gums are sometimes an early sign of periodontal disease.

Overall, flossing is a very important part of dental health that's often neglected. If you're not sure that your flossing technique is correct or if you have limited mobility in your hands, make an appointment with your dentist. A dentist can demonstrate the correct technique to you and recommend aids such as flossing sticks that make it easier to do.