Using Dental Floss: A Step-by-Step Guide to Healthy Smile

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In this post, I will provide a comprehensive guide on how to properly start using dental floss. The reason behind writing this blog post is the countless number of times patients have asked me this question. Some patients assume that using dental floss is common knowledge, leading them to overlook its importance in maintaining good oral health. As a result, they may experience serious dental issues such as plaque buildup, tartar formation, and even interproximal cavities (cavities between teeth).

Dental floss is a fundamental tool for maintaining good oral hygiene, as neglecting to floss can leave up to 35% of our mouths unclean. However, it is common for individuals to only use dental floss in areas where they can visibly see food debris, neglecting to floss in areas where they assume there is no food residue. This approach only prolongs the time needed for proper brushing and fails to effectively clean all areas of the mouth.

It is important to dispel a common myth that using an oral rinse alone can effectively remove bacterial plaque from the teeth. This is not true, as an oral rinse only complements regular brushing and flossing and cannot replace the physical removal of plaque through these methods.

Step by step how to using dental floss

Using Dental Floss

  1. Brushing your teeth should be your first step in any oral hygiene routine.
  2. Selecting the right dental floss for your oral hygiene routine is important for achieving optimal results. There are many different types of dental floss available on the market, and it’s important to find one that you feel comfortable using. Personally, I prefer dental floss that has a wax coating and is flattened, as I find it glides more smoothly and covers a greater surface area of the teeth. Additionally, I prefer a mint flavor to mask any taste of wax. However, it’s important to note that the characteristics of the dental floss are not as important as the technique used to floss. While these personal preferences may enhance the flossing experience, any type of dental floss used with the correct technique can still provide excellent results.
  3. To properly use dental floss, take approximately 30 cm of floss and wrap it around your index fingers. As you move along the teeth, be sure to use a clean section of the floss to effectively remove any plaque or debris.
  4. Ensure that you pass it through every tooth, without missing any gaps. To do this, guide the floss between each tooth and gently slide it against the surface of one tooth before moving it against the surface of the neighboring tooth. This technique effectively removes any plaque or debris that may have accumulated between the teeth.
  5. After completing the flossing process, it’s recommended to rinse your mouth with water to remove any food particles that were dislodged by the dental floss. Alternatively, you can use an alcohol-free mouthwash to freshen your breath and enhance your oral hygiene routine.

How often, clean thread cleaning should be performed

It’s important to perform the thorough cleaning technique described above at least once a day. Some individuals may choose to perform this technique more frequently, but it’s important to avoid only focusing on teeth with visible food debris. Neglecting certain teeth can compromise the effectiveness of the cleaning process.

Traditional dental thread alternatives

For those who avoid using dental floss due to discomfort, there are alternative options that can make your oral hygiene routine more enjoyable. Below, I’ll explain a few of these options.

  • Floss with applicator.

One alternative to traditional dental floss is a type of floss that comes with a plastic applicator. This applicator eliminates the need to use your fingers to maneuver the floss, allowing for greater control and ease of use, even for individuals with limited dexterity. Additionally, this option allows you to maintain a comfortable posture while flossing.

  • Super Floss.

Another alternative to traditional dental floss is a type of floss known as “super floss.” This type of floss is especially useful for individuals with teeth that are very close together, patients with dental bridges, or individuals with orthodontic appliances. Super floss features a rigid end that can easily pass through tight spaces without the need for additional tools or threading.

  • Waterpik.

For those who seek an alternative to traditional dental floss, water flossing is an excellent option. It employs a water jet to remove debris from between teeth and gums. However, the cost of this system is relatively high and may not be justified solely for replacing traditional dental floss. It is more beneficial for patients who require additional dental work such as orthodontics or dental crowns.

Dental floss allergy

I would like to add a further point regarding a topic that is not widely discussed. During my years of experience as a dentist, I have come across a few patients who claim to be allergic to dental floss despite having no known allergies. Upon examination, I found that they suffered from significant bleeding and dental calculus due to not using dental floss regularly. Further inquiry revealed that after using dental floss, their gums became more inflamed and bled more than usual the next day.

In this scenario, the infrequent use of it has caused internal damage, leading to inflammation and bleeding when the patient finally decides to use it. This is because the bacterial plaque has accumulated over time, causing dental calculus and other issues. Once the teeth are thoroughly cleaned, the body’s response is temporary inflammation, much like the reaction we experience after a facial cleaning where some blemishes are removed.

If you have experienced similar symptoms, my advice would be to use dental floss for at least five consecutive days, following the method I have outlined in this blog. If the inflammation persists after five days, it would be best to seek an appointment with a specialized dentist for further evaluation and treatment.


Sara Pelaez Monsalve

Aesthetic dentistry with more than 14 years of experience in the field. Founder of Clinica Viena and Viena Kids (clinic focused on pediatric dentistry). Professional focused on patient care, on the application of best practices and high-quality world-class treatments.

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