Managing Wellness

How to Floss Teeth and When to Do It

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Posted by January 12, 2017

You already know you should brush your teeth twice a day and floss once a day, but often the advice stops there. Do you know how to floss, whether you should floss in the morning or evening, before or after brushing? When should children start to floss? Flossing your teeth to keep them healthy isn’t as hard a habit to maintain as it might seem, providing you follow a few simple guidelines.

When to Floss

The best time to floss your teeth is whenever you can do it well. The American Dental Association (ADA) took a poll of readers of its website,, and found that 53% said they floss after brushing, while 47% said they floss before. Both groups are correct. The ADA says it’s the effectiveness of your flossing, not whether you do it before or after brushing, that counts.

You can also choose to floss in the morning, evening, or even after lunch; it’s up to you. The time of day when you can most easily spend an extra two or three minutes on your dental care is the ideal time for flossing.

Flossing for Kids

Flossing is just as important for children as adults. Through flossing from an early age, children pick up a healthy lifetime habit and help prevent decay in their milk teeth, which can have long-term effects. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry advises parents to begin gently flossing babies’ teeth as soon as it becomes difficult to brush all sides of the teeth.

Children don’t have the manual dexterity to floss on their own. The ADA recommends that parents floss their children’s teeth until the age of 10 or 11. If your child finds the sensation of flossing uncomfortable, you can try another brand or type, such as comfort floss.

How to Floss

When flossing your teeth, clean between every tooth and under your gums. If you’re using dental floss, you need a piece about 18 inches long. Waxed floss is usually easiest to slide between your teeth.

  • Wrap the ends of the floss around your fingers until two inches remain between your hands.
  • Hold the floss between your thumbs and forefingers so that it’s taut.
  • Starting at the back of your mouth, at the bottom or top, slide the floss between the teeth in a C-shape on one side, then the other—slipping it gently under your gums.
  • Wind up the used floss onto one hand and unwind a fresh, clean section before flossing between the next pair of teeth.
  • Repeat the process to clean between all your teeth.
  • Rinse out your mouth with water.

Floss or Interdental Cleaners?

Is it better to use regular dental floss or another interdental cleaner? According to the ADA, providing you’re cleaning between your teeth thoroughly, it doesn’t matter what you use. Waterpiks, small brushes and special plastic or wooden picks or sticks can all clean your teeth efficiently.

Is It Ever Better Not to Floss?

Though some research questions the effectiveness of flossing, dental professionals agree that the daily ritual is essential to oral health. Both the ADA and the American Academy of Periodontology state that flossing helps avoid dental decay and tooth cavities in the areas where toothbrushes don’t reach. Flossing also helps prevent gum disease and tooth loss. If you have problems when flossing, tell your dentist or dental hygienist. She can show you how to floss correctly and suggest the best product for your needs.

Bacteria invade the areas between your teeth and form layers of plaque, so flossing is important for your dental health. Providing you floss thoroughly every day, it doesn’t matter when you do it or what flossing product you use. Make flossing a daily ritual and see the benefits to your smile.

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