Remove Plaque: Your Comprehensive Flossing Guide

March 1, 2018

Closeup on young woman with dental flossYou probably hear it from your dental hygienist all the time: brushing alone is not enough to keep your teeth healthy. However, it is exceptionally true. The spaces between your teeth actually make up 40% of tooth surface in your mouth. If you’re only brushing, you’re only cleaning 60% of your teeth.

Despite the many toothbrush or mouthwash ads that say they get between your teeth, it just isn’t the same. The only way to effectively remove plaque from between your teeth and your gum line is to floss.

Which Type of Floss is Right?

Let’s start with the basics and make sure you’re buying the right kind of floss to begin with. If you have any questions about this, be sure to ask the hygienist at your next visit.

  • Waxed Floss: You’re probably familiar with this type. It’s typical floss covered with a coating of wax, which makes it less likely to break. Because of this layer, waxed floss may be difficult to use if your teeth are very close together.
  • Unwaxed Floss: As mentioned above, unwaxed floss is a simple nylon yarn. Although more susceptible to rip while flossing, it’s great for tightly spaced teeth.
  • Dental Tape: This type of floss is wide and flat, and is available waxed or unwaxed. Because of its shape, it’s a good tool for those with a little more space between teeth.
  • Polytetrafluoroethylene Floss: You’ve likely seen this at every store that sells floss. This type is made from a Gore-Tex fiber, the same material used in high performance rain gear. The most common brand is Oral B Glide, and it’s great for tightly spaced teeth.

Do You Need a Flossing Aid?

If you have a dental appliance, braces, or any dexterity issues, you may benefit from a tool or aid. There are a few common tools you can find at the drug store.

  • Floss Holder: These are y-shape plastic or wooden prongs with floss threaded through, making it easier to floss between teeth. Floss holders can be purchased pre-threaded and disposable (intended for single use), or for continued use that you’d need to thread yourself. They’re especially helpful if you have a hard time flossing traditionally or if you need to floss someone else’s teeth.
  • Floss Threader: This is a long, plastic, flexible needle that can help thread floss through wire braces or other appliances. If there are very small crevices where food can get stuck, a floss threader is an excellent tool.
  • Super Floss: While they don’t wield any superhuman powers, super floss is individually portioned threads of floss with durable points at each end. They’re another tool that makes it easy to weave around dental appliances.

Flossing Routine Refresher Course

If it’s been a while since you fell out of your regular flossing routine, it’s time to get back in the stride! Here are some steps to remember next time, and be sure to ask your dental professional if you have any questions.

  1. Use about 18 inches of floss each time you floss.
  2. When moving between teeth, remember to slide the floss between your fingers so every space gets a clean thread.
  3. Curve the floss into a c-shape at the base of every tooth, and make sure to use an up-and-down, back-and-forth motion to get all the plaque.
  4. Be gentle when flossing. You can damage gum tissue by being too forceful.