You know the rules. Brush in the morning and again at night. And, between meals if possible! But, do you know how often should you floss?
You know you’re supposed to floss. But, I bet you didn’t know that there’s an official answer to the how often should you floss question. And, you may not have realized that flossing plays an essential, though often overlooked, role in your dental health.
Don’t freak out if you haven’t regularly been flossing. It’s never too late to start. And, if you hate flossing because it hurts or you can’t seem to get the hang of it, that’s fine. There are several alternatives to traditional string floss that are gentle on your gums and easy to use.
How Often Should You Floss?
The short answer is once a day. In fact, to maintain the health of your teeth and gums, the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that you brush your teeth twice a day, and floss once a day.
When should you floss?
You might be confused. If you’re supposed to brush twice a day but only floss once day, when exactly are you supposed to floss?
It doesn’t matter.
The ADA’s answer to “how often should you floss” is once a day. Moreover, the ADA also says it doesn’t matter when you floss as long as it happens daily.
So, if you like to floss first thing in the morning, go for it! If you prefer to floss at night so you sleep with a clean mouth, that’s cool too. If for whatever reason, it’s best for your schedule to floss in the middle of the day (say, after lunch), that’s perfectly fine.
The point is it doesn’t matter when you floss, as long as you do it once a day.
Brush first then floss, right?
To keep things interesting, get this.
It doesn’t matter what order you brush and floss!
Sure, it’s more common for people to brush first then floss. Most people figure that if you brush first, you get as much “stuff” out first. Then you use floss to finish the job. But, you don’t have to do that.
You could floss first, then brush, letting the brush finish the work the floss couldn’t do.
Either way, you’re good to go. Just get that flossing done!
Do You Have to Floss?
Yes. Unfortunately, brushing alone is not enough. It doesn’t matter what kind of toothbrush you’ve got (or how fancy it is), it just won’t get the work done. And, here’s why.
Toothbrushes are great for cleaning the visible parts of your teeth. By that, we mean, the parts of your teeth you can easily see -- the front and the back. But, you can’t see the sides of your teeth or the part below the gumline.
Those are the parts that a toothbrush can’t effectively clean. And that’s where floss can help.
What happens if you don’t floss
You might be thinking that what you don’t know (or see) can’t hurt you. Well, when it comes to teeth, that’s just not the case.
When you brush your teeth, you’re removing plaque. Plaque is made up of bacteria that can form in your mouth when you don’t brush (and floss) regularly. The plaque that forms is soft and easily removed with brushing and flossing.
If you don’t brush and floss regularly, food debris can build up in your mouth and on your teeth. The plaque feeds on this debris and settles on your teeth around your gum line. If you’re not regularly removing the plaque, it’s going to stay there and grow.
Over time, the plaque can harden and turn into tartar. Once you get tartar on your teeth, you can start having more dental problems (like stained teeth, gingivitis, and cavities). And, you can’t remove tartar with a toothbrush or even flossing. Tartar build up requires a trip to the dentist.
A toothbrush alone can’t reach between your teeth and below the gumline, which means you aren’t getting those areas clean. That, in turn, means you’re more likely to develop plaque and tartar build-ups between your teeth.
But, flossing once a day helps you get the plaque out, meaning you less likely to have tartar build-up and the resulting dental problems.
How Do You Floss?
So, now you know how often should you floss, and that’s once a day, but you aren’t sure how to properly floss your teeth. Well, we’re here to walk you through it.
1. Get the right amount
Tear off about 18 inches of dental floss. This may seem like a lot (and even feel wasteful), but you’ll want to use fresh, clean floss between each tooth. Eighteen inches gives you enough floss to have a clean section for each tooth without running out.
2. Wind it up
Take one end of the dental floss and wrap it around your middle finger. Repeat on the other hand.
3. Grab hold
Pinch the floss between your thumb and pointer finger. Make sure you don’t place your fingers too close together. You want to leave enough room to get the floss between your teeth without poking yourself.
4. Start like this
Guide the floss between your teeth with a gentle motion. You may have to push or pull a little more than you anticipate, but you shouldn’t have to press too hard. Don’t snap the floss between your teeth or use a sharp motion. You could damage your gums.
5. Floss away
Gently rub the floss back and forth on the sides of your teeth. Repeat this motion and guide the floss down to your gum line.
6. Down below
At the gum line, pull the floss into a “C” shape and slide it between your tooth and gum. It shouldn’t hurt when you do this. Gently rub the floss then pull up from between the tooth.
Do this all the way around your mouth between each and every tooth. Don’t forget the space behind your last tooth where it meets your jaw.
When you’re done, throw the floss out. While you might think you could rinse and reuse the floss, don’t! The floss won’t be as effective the next time, and it could redeposit bacteria in your mouth.
Confused? We’ve got you covered.
What Floss Is Right for You?
Now that you’ve committed to daily flossing because you now know how often should you floss, you head to the store. Only, you get there, and the different types of floss floor you. Waxed or unwaxed? Thick or thin? Is dental tape the same thing as dental floss?
Don’t panic. Sure, there are a lot of different types of dental floss. But, in most cases, the right kind of dental floss for you is the one that feels good and encourages you to floss once a day.
It can be flavored, unwaxed, or super-thin. As long as it works for you, it’s the right choice.
There are a few exceptions to this rule, though. If you have wide gaps between your teeth, consider using a wide dental floss or dental tape. On the other hand, if you have teeth that are very close together, look for a dental floss that’s extra-thin and shred resistant.
What Are the Alternatives to String Floss?
You’ve tried every type of string floss out there, but nothing seems to work. They hurt your teeth, bother your fingers, or maybe they just taste weird.
No worries, there are plenty of alternatives to string floss for you to try.
Instead of using floss to clean your teeth, you can use water. Water flossers work by forcing water through a tube. The pressure is enough to blow the plaque out from between your teeth and below your gum line, but gentle enough not to hurt you.
These are great for people who don’t like traditional floss or who have sensitive gums and teeth. While the water pressure is powerful, for some people, it’s a more gentle alternative that encourages them to floss daily.
Water flossers are also great for kids with braces who can’t use traditional floss and hate using the floss threaders to get between their teeth.
It’s floss on a stick! These are great for when you’re on the go and need to floss but don’t want to yank out the required 18 inches for regular flossing.
Flossers have a tiny bit of floss threaded tightly on a handle. That means you don’t have to wrap the floss around your fingers (which can hurt) and you don’t have to stick your hands in your mouth. It also allows you to switch your grip which may be more comfortable for you.
Sticks (for real!)
They’re kind of like toothpicks, only not as pointy. These flat sticks are thin and can be slid between the teeth to help remove plaque. Like flossers, these sticks are very portable and can be used discreetly (unlike 18 inches of floss).
These look like feather dusters, only for your teeth. The tiny bristles are just like a toothbrush. However, because the brush is shaped like a tree (instead of like a traditional toothbrush), you can slide them between your teeth and brush plaque away.
How Often Should You Floss with Your New Superhero
Now you know how flossing plays a vital role in your dental health. And you know the answer to exactly how often should you floss: daily, but it doesn’t matter when you do it.
So, no more excuses. You’ve got all the knowledge you need to floss every single day. If you don’t like string floss, no problem, try another between the teeth cleaner and get those pearly whites sparkly and clean. If nothing else, future you will thank you when the dentist tells you no cavities!
Do you have a favorite type of floss? Tell us about it in the comments.