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Sunday, 27 August 2017

Are You Flossing Properly?

Dr. Vincent Wan


When we talk about flossing, most patients say they know how to do it, they just don’t do it.  However, when we start demonstrating how to floss properly, they are surprised that their idea of flossing is totally different to that recommended by a dentist.  Even those who floss every day may not be doing it most effectively.

There is more to effective flossing than just passing floss up and down between the teeth.  Most patients think floss just needs to get between the teeth where they contact.  However, this is only one part of flossing effectively.

Brushing with a toothbrush and toothpaste can only clean the biting surfaces and sides of the teeth next to the cheek and lips, and tongue and palate.  Flossing is used to clean the remaining surfaces.  So after passing through where the teeth contact, we need to wrap the floss around the side of the tooth behind the contact and jiggle gently up and down, and do the same with the tooth in front of the contact.  This technique cleans the whole space between the teeth, not just the contact points between the teeth.

I prefer to pull the floss out the side rather than pulling it through the contact again.  This avoids trapping food debris that has been loosened back between the contact of the teeth.  Pulling the floss out from between the teeth pulls any food debris out with it which you can spit or rinse out easily.

Remember to be gentle when you floss to avoid hurting the gums.  Never use floss like a saw, moving aggressively backwards and forwards, as this will only cut the gums.

Wrap a 20 to 30 centimetre length of floss between the index fingers till the fingers are quite close together.  If the fingers are close together, the floss can be better controlled.  Pinch the floss with the thumbs and index fingers to control it between the teeth.  A middle finger can be used to keep the floss taunt when flossing back molar areas, where it is hard to keep the index fingers and thumbs very close together.