How to Floss Properly? A Comprehensive Guide


How to Floss Properly? A Comprehensive Guide

BY. DR. ERIN MINHEE OH, Cosmetic Dentistry, Avenue Dental Los Angeles, CA


Toothbrushing will clean the large surface area of your teeth but only flossing can clean out the plaque that builds between your teeth and around gums. This is the area that’s critical to gum health and where your toothbrush will not be able to reach.


A recent CDC report stated that 47.2% of adults aged 30 and older have some form of periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is inflammation (bleeding gums) and consequent bone loss around your teeth. Many times, periodontal disease goes undetected because it does not present any symptoms. However, by the time you feel symptoms, chances are you are in an advanced state of periodontal disease.


Unless you suddenly decide to ignore your gum health, flossing should be an essential part of your daily oral care ritual. At OJOOK we even recommend flossing before brushing. Read on to learn more in the below.


Q: How to choose the right floss? 

Floss directly contacts soft and sensitive gum tissues, so we recommend natural fiber with minimal flavors and sweeteners

  • Waxed vs. unwaxed floss: equally effective,  but waxed may be easier to slide in between your teeth.
  • Sustainable material: Note most floss products in the market are made with plastics (polyester, nylon, PLA, etc). We recommend considering natural fiber silk, not only due to the negative environmental impact of plastic but also the accumulation of harmful chemicals (phthalates, PFAS, PTFE, and micro plastic) in your body.
  • Flavored vs. unflavored: equally effective, but both natural and synthetic flavors (fragrance and sweeteners) may contain unwanted chemicals and irritate the soft gum tissues.
  • Ribbon (flat surface) vs. fine floss: Wider floss is able to clean larger portions of your teeth
  • Floss picks: Great for on the go, but less control when it comes to reaching deeper corners of the teeth and most of them are made disposable with plastic, which will end in landfills – I recommend string floss.


Q: How to floss properly? 

The key is being extremely gentle on your gums.

  • Cut 16 to 18 inches of floss. Wrap it around the middle finger of each hand, leaving a good length you can manipulate with your thumb and index finger.
  • Slide the floss between two teeth very gently down underneath the gum of one tooth to the bottom most part of the gum.
  • Take caution to slide it down gently; do not snap it down into the bottom of the gum with force.
  • Wrap the floss around the root in a c-shape and gently scrape up the surface of the tooth with the floss.
  • Continue with each tooth root surface using a new section of the floss.


Q: Should you continue flossing if your gums are bleeding?


Floss should glide through each tooth surface with no bleeding or bumps along the way if your gums are healthy. If you feel a little bump that your floss has to jump over as you floss your teeth, this usually indicates calculus (tartar) build-up which should be manually removed at a dental office. If you are bleeding, don’t panic, and continue flossing. Bleeding gums are usually a sign of inflammation due to a buildup of plaque. Although a lot of people fear flossing due to a misunderstanding that floss causes bleeding, by properly flossing daily, the gums get healthier, you will see less bleeding after several days, and in most cases the bleeding stops completely within weeks.

Q: When to floss? Before or after brushing my teeth?

Either way, but flossing before brushing might be more beneficial. In fact, this study shows flossing first can help prevent cavities better.

  • By flossing first, you may skip flossing less because it becomes an essential step rather than an afterthought.
  • If your floss is infused with gum care ingredients such as bamboo salt and beeswax, flossing first will deliver such ingredients to the gum line and create ideal conditions for toothpaste to do its job.
  • By flossing first, you can skip the mouthwash because there’s no food debris to clean after flossing since brushing teeth will take care of it already.


Q: Can you substitute flossing with a water floss or mouthwash?

Unfortunately the answer is no.

Flossing is an essential part of oral home care and cannot be substituted with rinsing your mouth with your mouthwash or using a water flosser. Imagine a small drop of caramel on a kitchen countertop. What would be more effective in loosening it off? Scraping it with a piece of string or spraying water on it? Your tooth surface is the kitchen countertop. After we eat, sticky plaque builds up on that surface. The surface above the gum can be cleaned easily with your toothbrush, but the surface that resides underneath the gum needs to be cleaned out with floss.


Q: How many times should you floss per day?

Once a day at least. In an ideal world, we would recommend flossing after every meal.


Q: Is it better to floss in the morning or in the evening?

Before going to bed after all meals of the day is the best. While we are asleep we have less saliva to keep our mouth hydrated and clean. If we go to bed with clean teeth and gums, we can decrease the possibility of bacteria causing gum disease and cavities.


    Q: How to floss with braces?

    Floss Threaders can be really useful when flossing with braces on. It is basically a flexible plastic needle to position the floss between the teeth. Interproximal Cavity - cavities in between the teeth - are more common with braces, so it is absolutely crucial to floss while wearing braces.



    Read more:

    - Oral Care 101 Q&A 

    - The Environmental Benefits of Compostable Silk Floss


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