Proper oral hygiene isn’t just about the look of your teeth. Oral hygiene is essential for overall health. Today, people have more options than ever for keeping their mouths healthy, from electric toothbrushes to countless types of toothpaste. Yet flossing remains one of the most effective ways to take care of your teeth and gums.

Why It’s Important to Floss

Floss reaches places your toothbrush – even electric ones – can’t get to. Toothbrushes and mouthwash are useful for cleaning large portions of each tooth, but that’s not where food particles tend to collect. Food particles often sink into the gum line and get wedged in between our teeth. If these particles aren’t removed, they give rise to bacteria, and ultimately lead to a variety of problems including:

  • Tooth Decay
  • Bad Breath
  • Plaque Build Up
  • Gum Disease

These conditions do not just affect your gums either. Studies have shown that teeth that gum disease and decay can cause problems with your overall health as well. For example, gum disease can be the starting point for diabetes and heart disease, and may affect your overall immune system. In most cases, this can be prevented through flossing.

How to Floss

In recent years, flossing has become more common because of products that are designed to make it easier. They go by several names (e.g. floss sticks, floss picks, etc.). These products are useful in absence of other flossing techniques, but the original string style floss is still the best for getting to the gum line.

When you floss, pull about 18 inches of floss and grab the strand on both ends by wrapping it around your index fingers. Leave more on one finger than the other. Push the floss in between the teeth until you reach the gum. If your teeth are close together, you might need to tug a bit before it reaches the gum line.

Once you’ve reached the gum line, wrap the floss around one side of one tooth in a C shape and move the floss up and down. Then make a C shape around the other tooth and move it up and down. This will help dislodge any extra food. As plaque begins to build up on the floss, give yourself a clean section by collecting the used portion in one hand and unwrapping more from the other.

How Often to Floss

The first couple of times you floss, it is possible that your gums may bleed a bit. This bleeding is not dangerous, and is usually a sign that your gums already have a minor infection from not flossing. Over time, your gums will become stronger and used to flossing. Waxed floss is a good type to start with because it will be much gentler.

Floss at least once a day, but make sure you are taking your time with it and following the above instructions to clean each tooth. Flossing once per day is often enough. Make sure that you reach each tooth as well – especially the back molars.

It’s still important to brush your teeth and follow healthy eating habits to ensure your teeth and gums are healthy. Make sure flossing becomes a part of this routine as well.