Most people don’t love flossing. But everyone wants to keep the teeth they were born with and live without pain. Keeping your teeth is worth the effort of flossing. As you age, keeping your own teeth means enjoying your food more, having healthier digestion and feeling better.
So how should you floss? Pick the floss that is comfortable for you. There are flavored and unflavored flosses, waxed and unwaxed, round and tape. Flavored flosses leave a taste of mint or cinnamon in your mouth, giving you a fresher feeling than unflavored. However, if you don’t like strong tastes, use unflavored. Waxed floss moves between dental work more easily, and tape has a broader surface the work against the tooth. It’s a personal decision, so choose whichever floss you will use most often.
According to Dentist.net, the right way to floss starts by cutting about 18 inches of floss off the roll. Wrap the floss around the middle fingers of each hand, and create a “control zone” of about two inches by holding the floss between the index finger and thumb of each hand.
Using a back and forth motion, gently work the floss between two teeth. Using just enough force to pull the floss into a U shape around a tooth, move the floss from side to side—toward your tongue and then toward your cheek. Move the floss up and down, too—from you gum to the top of the tooth.
Here’s a video to show you how:
Before you pull the floss from between the two teeth, move to the surface of the other tooth. Create the same U shape, now facing the opposite direction, and slide the floss back and forth, up and down.
When you are done with both sides, gently bring the floss up and out between the teeth, using a gentle sawing motion. When the floss is out, move to a fresh space of floss, winding it in one direction, and complete the same cleaning between all the teeth in your mouth. If the floss shreds or tears, make an appointment to see your dentist. The surface of the tooth or the filling may be damaged.
“Flossing the right way will not make healthy gums bleed,” says Dr. Ford. “If your gums bleed when you are flossing correctly, it’s a sign of gum disease and something you should discuss with your dentist.”
If you really hate the floss, there are flossing aids available, from floss holders, to tiny brushes that scrub between the teeth, to flat wood gum stimulators that work around the base of the teeth. “Anything that removes plaque is good, but the best thing to use is the tool that you use daily,” smiles Dr. Ford.