Ask a Dentist

April 23, 2022

Q: How Do I Floss Properly?

An open container of floss against a blue background.

Plaque is the main cause of periodontal disease. Flossing is critical to removing plaque between your teeth and under your gum line. When you don’t floss, you’re only cleaning about two-thirds of your tooth surface, according to the Canadian Dental Association. Within 24 hours, plaque eventually hardens into tartar, which can only be removed with a professional cleaning. 

General Pointers

Here are a few things you need to know about flossing:

  • Floss once a day — We recommend flossing at least once a day, but if you tend to get food trapped between your teeth, flossing more often can help remove it.
  • Take your time — Flossing properly requires a certain amount of finesse and concentration, so don't rush.
  • Choose your own time — Many people find that just before bed is an ideal time to floss, but we suggest flossing whenever it’s most convenient to you. There’s no specific time when you need to floss; however, if you floss before bed your teeth and gums will be free of food as you sleep, which is ideal. 
  • Don't be stingy —You should use as much floss as you need to clean both sides of every tooth. You may need to floss one tooth a few times to remove all the leftover food particles. 
  • Choose the floss that works best for you — There are many different types of dental floss, such as waxed, unwaxed, flavoured, unflavoured, ribbon and thread. You can try different variations before settling on one. For instance, people with closely spaced teeth find that waxed floss slides more easily into the tight space. 

Step By Step Guide To Flossing

Flossing daily is very important, but not everyone may know how to do it properly. The most common way to floss is to wind 18 inches of floss around the middle fingers and then slide the floss between your teeth using a gentle rubbing motion, using your index fingers to control and finesse the floss around your teeth. Be sure to gently floss around the base of the tooth and under the gumline. Don’t forget to floss both sides of every tooth and the backs of your last molars as well. Once you’re finished, throw the floss in the garbage. Never flush it in the toilet. 

Flossing Problems and Solutions

Sometimes, your gums may bleed when you floss. It’s common for your gums to bleed when you floss for the first time, according to Colgate. In fact, bleeding gums means you need to floss more often and visit your dental hygienist for your regular cleanings.

But, if the bleeding doesn't stop after a few days, visit your dentist. If you'd like to speak with a dentist about your flossing habits or need help getting the proper technique down, visit your local Dental Image Therapy Centres. We’re conveniently located at St. Vital Centre and Garden City Shopping Centre.

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