The Grapevine

Tips For Better Dental Flossing

Flossing has been a subject of much debate as experts are divided on whether it is actually necessary. Though studies have offered mixed findings, the American Dental Association has continued supporting the use of dental floss to maintain oral health.

"If you floss after you brush and there are food particles on your floss, that otherwise would’ve remained between your teeth, it is hard to believe that the process of flossing is not beneficial," said periodontist David Genet. To make sure you do it right, here are a few tips to keep in mind.

Traditional stringed floss is said to be a bit more effective than modern floss picks. While picks can be more convenient, they are limited in terms of their length and flexibility.

However, dentists say you can experiment with different types of interdental cleaners and see what works best for you. For instance, there are ADA-approved flosser devices which can remove plaque by using water.

If you opt for the traditional kind, break off approximately 18 inches of floss for one cleaning session. While some recommend doing this twice a day — once in the morning and once at night — guidelines say that flossing once a day should be adequate.

Use an up-and-down motion to gently scrape the sides of each tooth with a fresh section of the floss, which should be around one or two inches long. To make sure the plaque is removed, you should tighten the floss between your thumb and index finger.

As a reminder, dental plaque is continuously forming on the enamel of our teeth. The buildup of plaque is what leads to tooth decay and periodontal disease over time. Furthermore, poor oral health has been linked to other harmful conditions by researchers.

When flossing, you should move to "the highest contact point between the teeth," according to the website of David. E. Pettey, a dentist in Roseville, California. "Apply pressure with your fingers away from the gum triangle, letting it curve around the side of the tooth forming the letter 'C' with the floss," the site added. 

If you have trouble visualizing the described technique, you can watch this video. As for precautions, remember that floss is meant to clean your teeth, not your gums. In other words, avoid pulling the floss straight into your gum tissues as this can lead to injury and bleeding.

It is also worth paying attention to the product you purchase, as suggested in a new study. The use of dental floss containing PFAS (such as Oral-B Glide) was said to contribute to elevated levels of chemicals in your body. 

"The good news is, based on our findings, consumers can choose flosses that don't contain PFAS," said lead author Katie Boronow, a staff scientist at the Silent Spring Institute. Some good non-PFC options recommended by TreeHugger include the antiplaque floss from Tom's of Maine and the tea tree floss from Desert Essence.