Chances are, even if you know you should be flossing at least once a day, you may not be doing it consistently or correctly. Brushing, while important, isn’t enough to keep your teeth healthy. Flossing after meals is recommended, but if you can only floss once a day, right before bedtime is the most ideal time to do it.
This is because saliva, your mouth’s natural defense against the buildup of bacteria, slows while you sleep. Any kind of debris left in your teeth when you go to bed has a full night to feed bacteria and contribute to decay.
Signs that your flossing technique needs some work
Bleeding gums when brushing or flossing are a sign of gingivitis, a form of periodontal disease. Luckily, gingivitis is reversible with proper brushing, flossing and regular visits to your dentist for cleanings.
Without intervention, gingivitis can progress to a more advanced condition known as periodontitis, which is not reversible without intervention from your dental hygienist.
A disclosing solution will highlight areas that haven’t been getting cleaned properly by turning plaque a bright purple or pink color. If you are seeing a lot of buildup between teeth where brushing alone can’t reach, this is a sign that you need to concentrate on flossing more thoroughly.
How to floss correctly
Take about 18-24 inches of floss – around 2 feet or so – and wind a long piece at either end around your middle fingers. Leave enough space in the middle to use on your teeth.
Hold the floss tightly between your index finger and thumb, and slide the floss up and down between teeth. Move the floss up and down only, not side to side, as this motion can wear notches in to your teeth over time.
Gently pull the floss around the curve of each tooth as you work your away around the mouth. It is important to reach below the gum line, but do not force or snap the floss in to place; you may injure sensitive gum tissue.
Make sure to switch to clean sections of floss as you progress.
What type of floss should you use?
There are a variety of flosses available on the market, depending on your particular needs. Use whatever feels comfortable for consistent flossing.
If there are spaces between your teeth, dental tape is ideal. Teeth that are packed tightly together may require thinner, Teflon-based floss.
Woven yarn floss is great for problem areas along the gums and between teeth.