The goal of flossing is to remove plaque from surfaces of teeth that toothbrushes cannot reach. Plaque is a sticky film that accumulates on teeth and contains bacteria. If it is not disrupted and removed, plaque will contribute to the development of gum disease, decay and bad breath. Your toothbrush is designed to clean the sides and chewing surface of your teeth. Flossing allows you to effectively clean between your teeth.
How To Properly Floss Your Teeth:
To effectively floss, wrap the ends of an 18 inch piece of floss around the middle fingers of both hands. Hold the floss tightly between you thumbs and forefingers, with about 1 inch of floss between them. Gently work the floss between your teeth. When you reach the gum-line, curve the floss into a "C" shape against the tooth. Gently slide the floss up and down each tooth, being sure to slide under the gums each time. Repeat this procedure between each and every tooth, front and back, upper and lower. Unwind new floss as needed. Your gums may bleed slightly the first week until the plaque layer is broken up, bacteria are removed, and the gums become healthier.
Ideally, you should try to floss once each day. Floss holders are a pre-threaded flossing device which allow for one-handed flossing. These can be handy for people with limited dexterity, for those who are just beginning to floss, and for caretakers who are flossing someone else's teeth. While toothpicks and water-picks can be helpful additional cleaning aids, they are generally considered to be less effective at plaque removal than floss.
Flossing skills are probably best illustrated in person. If you are unclear about how best to floss, ask Dr. Mahlin or his hygienist to show you. And remember to brush a minimum of twice a day and after every meal when possible, floss once a day, and see Dr. Mahlin for regular examinations and cleanings.
If you have any questions about oral hygiene, Dr. Mahlin will be happy to discuss them with you.