303-469-3344 Email Us

When are you supposed to floss?

The Chicken or The Egg Effect…Do you floss before or after brushing?

Face it. Your dentist will be thrilled with any flossing you do, but when to floss is a question that remains unanswered for many of us.

It takes about 24 hours for plaque to form on teeth. Flossing disrupts this production and discourages plaque build up. Flossing once a day
rids the mouth of bacteria which grows between the teeth causing cavities and gum disease.

Why is this so important? While tooth brushing removes the plaque on the tooth’s surface, it does little for the contact points between the teeth.
In a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control they found that there is a close link between your gum health and your
overall general health. Maybe it’s because those who floss generally have good health habits…but maybe it’s not…are you willing to risk your health for
a couple minutes a day?

Some dental professionals have the opinion that you should floss BEFORE you brush. The reasoning is that it gets this task done first and most of us will still feel the need to brush. Doing it in the opposite order gives your mouth a fresh, clean feel and some may think they don’t need to go any further and eliminate the flossing procedure. This is one time that GOOD definitely isn’t GOOD ENOUGH!

It would also make sense that if flossing removed debris between teeth, you’d want to do this first so that when you brush it would sweep the debris away.

Other dentists and hygienists say flossing is best done AFTER you brush because it allows the fluoride in the toothpaste to work it’s way into the
surfaces between the teeth.

Before or after brushing – morning or night – it really doesn’t matter. As long as you do it at least once a day, you’ll be minimizing the harmful bacteria that hides out between your teeth and causes decay.

And while we are at it…I bet you’re wondering about unwaxed vs waxed vs easy slide floss. Know that slippery/easy slide floss has a tendency slide right over the plaque buildup. But waxed or unwaxed does not seem to make much of a difference. You should know that string floss seems to work better than those little dental picks, though.

There is, however, a right and wrong way to floss. Wrap the floss into a c-shape around the tooth and slide the string up
and down the sides of the tooth to the gum line.

And, in case you’re wondering, NO a water flosser does not substitute for string floss.
String floss scrapes and wipes the sticky plaque away. Water flossers just rinse the area. But, if you’re one of those people who
like getting all the extra credit points – combining water flossing with string flossing gives excellent results!

So now we’ve got you thinking about flossing more…but how do you tell if it’s really making a difference? You can get plaque disclosing tablets to give you visual proof. Available over-the-counter, these tablets are chewed after you clean your mouth. Red dye will stain plaque that has not been removed, showing you spots that need additional cleaning. It’s easy…and kinda fun!

If we’re being truthful, only about 15% of us floss daily anyway…regardless of what you tell your dental professional at your twice yearly appointments.
Of course, the American Dental Association now recommends that people floss and brush TWICE a day…but no one likes an over-achiever, right?!

5 flossing mistakes people make:

  1. Flossing too much or too little.
    Once a day is usually sufficient. If you feel the need to have to floss more often, you might be doing it wrong. Ask your dentist for instruction.
    Technique is critical to avoid damage to the gums
  2. Using the wrong motion.
    The goal is to wipe and scrape each side of the tooth. This requires an up and down motion…not back and forth (see-saw motion). Scrape up and down from the gum to the contact.
  3. Cleaning only one side of the tooth.
    It’s not enough to slip the string between the teeth and pull the string out.
  4. Take some time.
    Plaque and tarter is tough stuff. You know this because of what is needed to clean it off at your routine cleaning.
  5. Stopping if your gums bleed.
    This is your gums way of showing you that you need to FLOSS MORE, they need exercise like your muscles do. Your gums are inflamed because there is bacteria present. Continue to floss daily and this bleeding should eventually subside as your gums become healthier.
Author Info

Molly Burnett