How to Floss Properly

July 6, 2021 | Dental Blog,General Dentist

Flossing your teeth is an important habit that reduces the amount of plaque and bacteria buildup on your teeth, helping you achieve a healthy mouth. If you are flossing incorrectly, however, you can cause more harm than good. Improper flossing could damage your teeth and gums. It is also not as effective at cleaning your teeth and preventing dental problems. Take the following steps to properly floss your teeth. Always supplement flossing and brushing with regular professional dental cleanings.

Wind the Floss Around Your Middle Fingers

Pull approximately 18 to 24 inches (1.5 to 2 feet) of dental floss out of the container and break it off using the metal cutter. Wind most of the floss around one of your middle fingers. Then, wind the rest around your other middle finger, leaving only one to two inches in between both hands. The middle finger with the least amount of floss will be the one that receives the dirty floss after it has been used. 

Gently Glide Between the Teeth

Use both thumbs and index fingers to hold the dental floss taut. Place the exposed one to two inches of floss between two of your teeth. You can start anywhere you like in the mouth, but make sure you remember which teeth have not yet been flossed. Gently glide the dental floss in an up and down motion between your teeth. Be gentle as you rub the floss against both sides of either tooth.

Do not yank the floss down into your gums, as this can injure them. When you approach the gums with the floss, curve it around the base of your tooth in a C shape. This way, the floss can reach the space between your gums and your tooth, collecting and removing debris there. This is a common area for plaque buildup.


Remove the floss and wind it around the discard finger for a fresh inch to use on your next two teeth. Repeat this process over and over until you have flossed between all of your teeth. Don’t forget to floss the backs of your molars – the last teeth at the back of your mouth.

How to Floss If You Have Braces

Flossing with braces is a little different. First, choose waxed rather than unwaxed floss, as this will be less likely to tear on your braces. Break off the same amount of floss, but thread it between your teeth and the main wire of your braces before winding it around your fingers. Use your index fingers to hold the extra floss instead of your middle fingers to move the floss more easily.

Gently move the floss up and down along both sides of each tooth. Make an upside-down U shape with the floss when flossing your top teeth to gently reach the floss to your gums. When you are done with one tooth, carefully unthread the floss from behind the wire and remove it. Do not pop dental floss out of your teeth if you have braces, as this could dislodge a wire. Repeat the same technique with all of your teeth.

Floss at Least Once Per Day

Floss every day for the best results. The American Dental Association recommends flossing at least once per day and brushing twice per day. Flossing once per day is generally enough to dislodge debris, clean hard-to-reach areas of the mouth, prevent plaque buildup, and reduce the likelihood of tooth decay and gum disease.

Explore Your Other Flossing Options

Nowadays, there are multiple options for dental floss. The instructions here are for traditional dental floss, which is a long strand of nylon or plastic filament. Other options include disposable floss picks, dental tape, water flossers and air flossers. 

The process is essentially the same with a floss pick, minus threading the floss around your fingers. Read the directions for other types of floss. Research your options to choose the best flossing tool for you. The choice is personal preference, including which tool is easiest for you to use and which you will use the most often. For more dental hygiene tips, contact Dental on Central to schedule a cleaning.