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The Dos and Don’ts of Flossing Correctly

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Flossing is an essential part of maintaining good oral hygiene. It helps remove plaque and food particles from between the teeth and along the gumline, preventing tooth decay and gum disease. However, many people are unsure about the correct way to floss and may not be getting the full benefits of this important practice. In this article, we will explore the dos and don’ts of flossing correctly, backed by research and expert advice.

The Importance of Flossing

Flossing is often overlooked or neglected in daily oral hygiene routines. However, it plays a crucial role in maintaining oral health. Brushing alone cannot reach the tight spaces between the teeth and along the gumline, where bacteria and food particles can accumulate. Flossing helps remove these substances, reducing the risk of cavities, gum inflammation, and bad breath.

Research has shown that flossing can significantly reduce the incidence of gum disease. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology found that individuals who flossed regularly had a 40% lower risk of developing periodontal disease compared to those who did not floss. Another study published in the Journal of Dental Research found that flossing, in combination with brushing, reduced the risk of tooth loss by 17%.

The Dos of Flossing

1. Use the Right Technique

Proper flossing technique is essential to ensure effective plaque removal and prevent injury to the gums. Follow these steps:

  • Start with a piece of floss about 18 inches long.
  • Wrap the ends of the floss around your middle fingers, leaving about 1-2 inches of floss between them.
  • Hold the floss tightly between your thumbs and index fingers.
  • Gently insert the floss between two teeth, using a back-and-forth motion.
  • Curve the floss around each tooth in a C-shape and slide it up and down.
  • Repeat this process for each tooth, using a clean section of floss each time.

Remember to be gentle while flossing to avoid injuring the gums. If you have difficulty using traditional floss, you can try using floss picks or water flossers, which can be equally effective.

2. Floss at Least Once a Day

Consistency is key when it comes to flossing. Aim to floss at least once a day to maintain optimal oral health. Flossing before bedtime is particularly important, as it helps remove any food particles that may have accumulated throughout the day.

Research has shown that flossing once a day can significantly reduce the risk of gum disease. A study published in the Journal of Periodontology found that individuals who flossed daily had a 70% lower risk of developing gum disease compared to those who flossed less frequently.

3. Use the Right Type of Floss

There are various types of floss available, including waxed, unwaxed, flavored, and tape floss. The type of floss you choose depends on your personal preference and the space between your teeth. However, it is important to use a floss that is approved by the American Dental Association (ADA) and has the ADA Seal of Acceptance.

The ADA Seal of Acceptance ensures that the floss has undergone rigorous testing for safety and effectiveness. It is a reliable indicator that the floss is of high quality and can effectively remove plaque and debris from between the teeth.

4. Be Thorough

When flossing, make sure to clean both sides of each tooth and go all the way down to the gumline. Plaque and food particles can accumulate in these areas, leading to tooth decay and gum disease if not removed regularly.

Take your time and floss each tooth individually, using a clean section of floss for each tooth. This ensures that you are not transferring bacteria or debris from one tooth to another.

5. Seek Professional Guidance

If you are unsure about the correct way to floss or have any concerns about your oral health, it is always best to seek guidance from a dental professional. They can provide personalized advice and demonstrate the proper flossing technique.

Your dentist or dental hygienist can also recommend specific flossing aids or techniques that may be beneficial for your individual needs. They can help you develop a customized oral hygiene routine that includes flossing as an integral part.

The Don’ts of Flossing

1. Don’t Snap the Floss

Snapping the floss between the teeth can cause injury to the gums and may not effectively remove plaque. Instead, use a gentle back-and-forth motion to guide the floss between the teeth.

2. Don’t Skip the Back Teeth

It is common for people to neglect flossing the back teeth, as they are harder to reach. However, these teeth are just as susceptible to plaque buildup and should not be ignored. Take the time to floss all the way to the back of your mouth, ensuring that you clean between every tooth.

3. Don’t Reuse the Floss

Using the same section of floss for multiple teeth can transfer bacteria and debris, increasing the risk of infection. Always use a clean section of floss for each tooth to ensure effective plaque removal.

4. Don’t Floss Too Aggressively

Flossing too aggressively can cause gum irritation and bleeding. Be gentle when flossing, and if you experience bleeding or discomfort, consult your dentist. It may indicate an underlying issue that needs to be addressed.

5. Don’t Substitute Flossing with Mouthwash

Mouthwash can be a valuable addition to your oral hygiene routine, but it should not be used as a substitute for flossing. While mouthwash can help freshen breath and kill bacteria, it cannot effectively remove plaque and food particles from between the teeth.

Flossing and mouthwash work together to maintain optimal oral health. Incorporate both practices into your daily routine for the best results.


Flossing correctly is crucial for maintaining good oral health. By following the dos and don’ts outlined in this article, you can ensure that you are flossing effectively and reaping the full benefits of this important practice.

Remember to use the right technique, floss at least once a day, use the right type of floss, be thorough, and seek professional guidance when needed. Avoid snapping the floss, skipping the back teeth, reusing the floss, flossing too aggressively, and substituting flossing with mouthwash.

By incorporating these practices into your daily routine, you can keep your teeth and gums healthy, preventing tooth decay, gum disease, and other oral health issues. So, make flossing a priority and enjoy the benefits of a healthy smile!

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