How to Floss Your Teeth – A Guide

Maintaining good oral hygiene is one of the most crucial aspects of good dental health. Tooth brushing and dental flossing are recognized as one of the most widely recommended methods for maintaining healthy gums and teeth.

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Tooth flossing is routinely advised by dental practitioners; however, less is known about the recommended flossing technique.

Why is tooth flossing recommended?

The oral cavity provides an ideal environment for housing various bacteria. As soon as the food is consumed these bacteria combine with food particles resulting in the formation of plaque. Plaque if not removed, can slowly accumulate in between the tooth spaces in the form of hard deposits referred to as tartar.

Both plaque and tartar result in dental concerns like inflammation of gums resulting in gum ailments like gingivitis and periodontitis. Plaque entrapped between teeth is a host of various dental issues like:

  • Tooth decay known as tooth caries leads to decay of the tooth structure
  • Gingivitis referred to as swelling of the gums thereby causing bleeding from the gums
  • Periodontitis which causes the damage of structures supporting teeth such as ligaments and bone
  • An overall decline in oral health which can manifest in various symptoms like pus formation, tenderness, and inability to masticate food
  • Deranged dental health not only contributes to the above mentioned oral conditions but can also lead to severe medical conditions including cardiac disease and even preterm labor.

Tooth flossing is specifically recommended to such individuals who have a tight interdental (space between two adjoining teeth) spacing especially because there is an increased risk of entrapment of food particles which does not easily go away by rinsing or tooth brushing.

What is the right age to start tooth flossing?

Tooth flossing is recommended soon after the permanent dentition replaces the milk teeth. Children can start flossing teeth once they reach an age of 12 years; however, it is imperative to seek advice from a dental practitioner primarily to understand the right technique.

Children can also use interproxa brushes instead of dental floss as they are considered a good substitute. Various facts play a role in promoting flossing habits in children; however, one study was conducted to understand the predictors of dental health in school-going children.

The results showed that a supportive family environment plays a crucial oral in encouraging children towards dental flossing.

Flossing is recommended among all age groups ranging from children to older age groups. One such study was done to assess the effects of flossing on the elderly population. The results indicated that subjects who included flossing in their daily regimen experienced better oral health.

The analysis was based on an observation for 5 years supported the fact that flossing in the elderly can prevent many oral diseases like caries, gingivitis, and periodontitis.

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What is the right technique for flossing?

According to the American Dental Association, tooth flossing is recommended at least once a day. Below is a series of sequential steps which one can follow:

  1. Tear off at least 18 inches of floss and wrap it around one of the middle fingers. Wrap the rest of the portion of floss around the finger of the opposite hand. Floss wrapped on the opposite finger will retain the food particles removed during the process
  2. Tightly hold the floss between thumbs and your fingers and then gently direct the floss towards the teeth using a gentle rubbing motion but make sure not to push the floss directly into the gums.
  3. Once the floss is at the gum line turn the floss around the neck of the tooth to make a C shaped curve. Move the floss slowly into the area between the gums and the teeth
  4. Floss should be retained at a position firmly against the tooth and then smoothly start rubbing the floss gently against the tooth and start sliding the floss away from the gum in upside and downward motion.
  5. Follow the same steps for each tooth not leaving aside the backside of even the last tooth of both upper and lower arches.
  6. Discard the floss after completing the above procedures. Never reuse the floss once it is used as reusing the same floss may reintroduce the bacteria in the gums

Which is the most appropriate floss?

There is a wide range of dental products available in the market including a variety of dental floss. However, it is recommended to buy floss that bears the seal of the American Dental Association, primarily because it is marketed only once as it holds the acceptance of safety and efficacy.

Researchers are trying to introduce a variety of dental flosses primarily to make flossing more effective during the routine dental cleaning process. One such recent study revealed that dental floss soaked with povidone-iodine solution enhances the antibacterial capacity of floss.

Dental floss saturated the povidone-iodine solution has the antibacterial potency and thus exhibits an excellent therapeutic property in aiding good dental health.


  • Mouth Healthy. (5 Steps to a Flawless Floss)
  • NIH (2016). Don’t Toss the Floss!.
  • NIH. (2020) Taking Care of Your Teeth and Mouth.
  • Medline Plus (2020). Dental care – adult
  • American Dental Association. (2016). Government, ADA recognize the importance of flossing…/association-responds-to-news-story-challenging-benefits-of-dental-floss-use
  • American Dental Association. (2016). Federal Government, ADA Emphasize Importance of Flossing and Interdental…/statement-from-the-american-dental-association-about-interdental-cleaners
  • Queensland Government. (2017).Brushing and flossing…/brushing-and-flossing
  • JT Marchesan et al. (2020). Flossing Is Associated with Improved Oral Health in Older Adults.
  • S Bashirian et al. (2020). Predictors of Oral Health Promotion Behaviors among Elementary School Children: Examination of an Extended Social Cognitive Theory.
  • K Kaewiad et al. (2020). Dental floss impregnated with povidone-iodine coated with Eudragit L-100 as an antimicrobial delivery system against periodontal-associated pathogens.

Further Reading

  • All Teeth Content
  • Dental Health in Children
  • Foods Good for Teeth
  • Tooth Polishing Procedure
  • When Should Children Get Their Adult Teeth?

Last Updated: Sep 16, 2020

Written by

Akshima Sahi

Akshima is a registered dentist and seasoned medical writer from Dharamshala, India. Akshima is actively involved in educating people about the importance of good dental health. She examines patients and lends free counseling sessions. Taking her passion for medical writing ahead, her aim is to educate the masses about the value of good oral health.

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