4 mins read

Am I Flossing Right?

by | May 6, 2019

Flossing is one of the best things you can do for the health of your gums and teeth. Regular flossing removes the plaque on your smile that can lead to cavities, tartar, gingivitis, and even advanced periodontal disease. Gum disease like gingivitis and periodontal disease can lead to heart disease and other medical problems if left untreated, making flossing vital for optimal oral health.

You may find yourself asking, ‘am I flossing right?’. If you floss incorrectly, you may not see all the benefits flossing provides and you can even injure yourself. Learning what types of floss you should use and how to floss correctly will keep your smile bright and healthy.

Types of Floss

Dental floss has come a long way since the 1800’s, when New Orleans dentist Levi Spear Parmly first advised patients to floss with a thin silk thread. Johnson & Johnson followed a few years later with a patent for dental floss made from the same silk material doctors used for stitches. Nylon replaced silk as the material for dental floss in the 1940s, which allowed for the development of waxed floss and dental tape.

Today’s dental floss features new materials and new textures to make flossing easier and more effective. Here are a few of the many types of floss:

  • Unwaxed Floss  – Made from strands of nylon, this type of floss easily fits into tight spaces between teeth. However, unwaxed floss can be prone to shredding and breaking.
  • Waxed Floss – Waxed floss is less likely to break than unwaxed floss, but is harder to fit into tight spaces.
  • Dental Tape – Dental tape may be more comfortable for people with wide spaces or gaps between their teeth.
  • Polytetrafluorethylene Floss (PTFE) – Made from the same material as Gore-Tex, PTFE floss slides between teeth easily and is not likely to shred.
  • Disposable Dental Flossers – Disposable, handheld devices that hold the floss and may help users reach hard to floss areas, like molars.

How to Use Dental Floss

While some dentists recommend specific types of floss, most dentists prefer any floss that encourages their patients to floss their teeth daily while removing food particles and plaque effectively. Some patients often ask, ‘how often should you floss?’ at their dental cleaning appointment; the answer is every single day. Here is how to properly floss in six easy steps:

  1. Break off an 18” strand of floss and wind most of it around one of your middle fingers, this finger will hold the clean floss.
  2. Wind the rest of the floss around the index finger of your other hand. This finger will eventually hold the used floss.
  3. Hold the remaining floss tightly between your forefingers and thumbs. You can now begin flossing.
    • First, guide the floss between your teeth, and use a gentle rubbing motion to remove food and debris from between the teeth. You should avoid snapping the floss into your gums.
    • Second, hold the floss so it forms the shape of the letter “C” against one tooth, and then glide the floss into the space between the tooth and the gum.
    • Third, move the floss against the side of your tooth using an up and down motion to rub the side of the tooth. You should move the floss and food particles up and away from the gum.
  4. Wind the used floss onto your index finger and unwind clean floss from your middle finger as you go. You should use the three techniques above on each tooth.
  5. For back teeth, using PTFE floss or disposable dental flossers may make the process easier.
  6. Throw the floss away when done, as used floss cannot clean as well and may even leave bacteria in your mouth.

You should floss at least once a day, if not after each meal. Check with your dentist or dental hygienist to be sure you have the proper dental flossing technique, or if you’re having any difficulties while flossing.

The Consequences of Flossing Incorrectly

If you’ve ever been flossing and accidentally angled into your gum too deeply that made you flinch in pain, you aren’t alone. In 2017, 16% of Americans reported that the reason they don’t floss is because it is too painful. If you’re finding that flossing is painful, you either don’t floss enough, or you are flossing incorrectly and are damaging your gums. You can damage your gums in a number of ways, such as:

  • Flossing Too Quickly – It takes time to floss between each tooth, and flossing too quickly can cause trauma to the gum tissue and leads to missed spots.
  • Flossing Too Frequently – Flossing too often can irritate your sensitive gum tissue.
  • Flossing Too Assertively – Flossing too aggressively can also irritate your gums.
  • Using The Wrong Tools To Floss – Many people in the United States use the wrong tool to remove food from between their teeth. In fact, 61% of people in a survey said they have used their fingernails to floss, 40% said they used folded paper or cards, and 14% used safety pins.


Brushing twice a day, flossing daily, and seeing your dentist regularly combined will help you maintain optimal oral health. If you aren’t flossing enough or flossing correctly, you are more susceptible to plaque build up, cavities, and even gum disease. If you have any concerns about your flossing routine, talk to your dental hygienist and dentist at your next dental cleaning for flossing tips and tricks.



Triangle Dentistry located in Raleigh, NC provides a state-of-the-art facility that offers exceptional general dental and specialty services guided by empathy of patient’s needs and desires. Services range from dental crowns and implants to veneers and whitening procedures. For further information, questions or to schedule an appointment, contact the office at (919) 747-3592.