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Is Flossing Really Beneficial?

Published on Apr 15, 2022 and last reviewed on May 27, 2022   -  4 min read


Flossing is the most commonly recommended method to remove plaque from the spaces between the teeth. This article will take you through flossing in detail.



It is believed that the mouth is the index of the body. Medical conditions that are hidden within are reflected through the oral cavity. Therefore, maintaining good oral hygiene should be considered important as maintaining good overall health. Dentists recommend several techniques to maintain good oral hygiene. Brushing twice a day, flossing, using mouth rinses, and regular dental checkups help in promoting oral health. The main goal of these techniques is to remove dental plaque and prevent dental disease.

What Is Flossing?

Flossing or dental flossing is the most commonly recommended method to remove plaque (a film of bacteria that sticks to the teeth) from the spaces between the teeth. Numerous aids such as floss, interdental brushes, and wooden or plastic tips are available to clean interdental areas. However, several factors like space between the teeth and gingival (gum) health help determine the selection of interdental aids.

Why Is Flossing Necessary?

As discussed above, flossing is necessary to prevent the growth of bacteria in interdental regions. Cleaning between teeth is essential to prevent gum diseases and cavities. Plaque sticks to the teeth snugly and is not removed by regular brushing. Regardless of efficient brushing methods, food debris is not entirely removed from tight junctions between the teeth. This becomes a harbor for the growth of microorganisms. According to the US health and human services department, flossing is declared an essential oral hygiene practice.

According to research, it was estimated that 61 % of Americans had used their fingernails to pick a tooth. In addition, 40 % have used folded paper cards, 20 % used cutlery, and 14 % used safety pins and even hair strands. These items can be harmful to teeth and gums. Therefore, consulting a dentist is essential before trying out unconventional methods.

What Is the History of Dental Floss?

A dentist named Levi Spear Parmly invented the first type of dental floss in 1819. He described it as running a waxy silk thread between the teeth to remove irritating substances. Dental floss was commercially available from 1882.

What Are the Types of Dental Floss?

1. Waxed Floss - It is usually made of nylon. The thread contains a single filament coated with wax or polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). The floss does not fray but tends to get cut. The demerits include decreased blood circulation to the finger and the inability to reach the posterior teeth.

2. Unwaxed Floss - It is also made of nylon, but the filament is unwaxed. The filament contains multiple threads and has the same demerits as a waxed floss.

3. Dental Tape - It is similar to waxed floss, but it has a broader and flatter design. Dental tapes are designed for teeth with a larger surface area. Dental tapes are used only once and disposed of later.

4. Tufted (Braided Dental Floss or Superfloss) - The floss threads are wider, braided, and have a regular diameter. However, the fibers may irritate and injure the gum.

5. Floss Holder - The regular floss is attached to a Y-shaped or F-shaped holder. A floss holder is highly recommended for individuals who are physically challenged. The holder can be used multiple times, while the thread must be changed after each use.

6. Floss Threader - It is a nylon loop designed to resemble a needle with an opening for dental floss. It helps clean the interdental areas with little or no gap. The floss holder allows cleaning between bridges, crowns, implants, and orthodontic appliances. However, the floss holder tends to damage the gums.

What Are the Steps in Flossing?

Follow these steps to floss your teeth properly:

Step 1 - Cut about 18 inches of floss and wind (longer length) around the middle finger of one hand. Next, use the middle finger of the other hand to wind (shorter length) the rest. The finger with the shorter floss length will take it up as the floss gets dirty.

Step 2 - The floss should be held tightly between the thumb and forefingers.

Step 3 - The floss should be guided between the teeth in a gentle motion. Do not force the floss into the gums.

Step 4 - Floss along the gum line with a C-curve against the neck of the tooth. Slide the floss gently into the gap between the tooth and gums.

Step 5 - The floss should be held tightly against the tooth and gently rubbed against the tooth in an up and down motion. This motion should be repeated on the rest of the teeth.

Step 6 - The floss should be thrown away once the tooth is clean.

What Is the Best Time to Floss Your Teeth?

There is no best time to floss your teeth as long as you do a good job. Flossing can be done anytime during the day. It can be done first thing in the morning or during the night. Flossing is also recommended for children.

How to Floss Your Teeth When You Have Braces?

The method is similar to general flossing, but you might have to dedicate 10 to 15 minutes if you have braces.

1. Cut 18 to 25 inches of waxed dental floss.

2. Ensure you stand in front of a mirror for clear visualization.

3. Gently slide the floss between your teeth and a dental archwire (primary wire across the teeth).

4. Twist the ends of the floss with your index fingers for easy movement.

5. The floss should be pressed and slid along the sides of the teeth.

6. Follow the curvature of the teeth at the top until you get to the gum line.

7. Remove the floss, unthread it, and move to the next teeth.

Things to Keep In Mind:


Flossing is the most commonly recommended method to remove plaque (a film of bacteria that sticks to the teeth) from the spaces between the teeth. Flossing is necessary as brushing alone is not enough to remove the debris from the interdental area. The right choice of floss depends on the tightness between adjacent teeth, the roughness of the surface, and the patient's manual dexterity. Before choosing the floss, contact your dentist for better guidance. Floss your teeth every day to prevent gum problems and cavities.

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Last reviewed at:
27 May 2022  -  4 min read




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