The use of floss helps to prevent disease of the gums and supporting tissues by removing of small particles of food debris and plaque from between your teeth. Plaque is a sticky substance made of bacteria. If allowed to build up, the bacteria can irritate the gums and cause inflammation.
If your dentist advises you to clean between your teeth (interdental cleaning), they may recommend using dental floss.
How do you use dental floss?
Dental floss is a thin, soft thread made of nylon or plastic that removes food and plaque from between your teeth. Many people find dental tape, which is thicker than floss, easier to use.
If you use dental floss incorrectly, it can damage your gums. You should therefore follow your dentist’s advice about using dental floss, including how often you should use it. The tips below may also help.
- Cut off a section of floss about 45cm (18 inches) long. Wind it around the middle fingers of each hand.
- Grip the floss with your thumb and forefinger of each hand so that the floss between your hands is about 2.5-5cm (1-2 inches) long. Pull it tight so you can insert the floss in a gap between two teeth.
- Gently guide the floss up and down against the sides of the teeth and under the gumline. When the floss reaches the gumline, curve it into a C-shape against the tooth until you feel resistance.
- Hold the floss against the tooth and gently scrape the side over it, away from the gum. This will help you to floss under the gumline without causing any damage.
- Repeat this process for the next gap, along the side of the next tooth.
- Make sure you floss between every single tooth. Working to a pattern round the whole of your mouth makes it less likely that you’ll miss out any teeth.
- Remember to floss the side of the teeth at the back of your mouth.