Flossing (along with brushing) loosens the bacteria from the side of the tooth. It can also help to dislodge food particles caught between the teeth, but the main goal is to disrupt the colonies of bacteria building up on the sides of the tooth and root.

Flossing is the most difficult cleaning procedure in the mouth. And effective flossing requires even more time and patience. But it is well worth the time and effort.

Remember, you are trying to remove something that you can not see from both sidea of every tooth (including the back side of the last tooth in each corner of your mouth). Effective flossing (and brushing) depends on being thorough, not aggressive. You do not want to be rough with your gums.

To effectively floss your teeth (at least once per day):

  • Start with about 18 inches of floss.
  • Wrap the floss around your middle finger (or both middle and ring finger if you find the floss is cutting off circulation to one finger only).
  • Using a small section of the floss (about an inch or less) between your thumbs and first fingers, gently guide the floss between two teeth. Use a gentle “sawing” motion to avoid snapping the floss into your gums.
  • Once past the point where the teeth are touching, gently guide the floss down and into your gums, curving the floss around the contour of the tooth.
  • Slide the floss up and down, gently, 10 strokes on both sides of every tooth, including the back side of the last tooth.

Yes, you read that correctly – 10 strokes on both sides of each and every tooth. At least once a day.

Being consistent about when you floss, flossing at a time when you are not rushed, combining flossing with something else you do every day at a particular time are all tricks to help you get in the habit of flossing daily.

Be gentle and thorough.

The old joke about only flossing the teeth you want to keep is NOT a joke. (And don’t forget brushing your teeth, at least twice a day.)