Health Topics

Healthy Living

October 2010
Floss Flaws
Tips to clean it right
Dr S Girish Rao
Flossing is a much-needed partner to brushing, in order to make the best out of your dental care routines.

Most people tend to disregard flossing, thinking that brushing is more than enough for their dental care. So, why does every dental professional recommend that you floss your teeth every day, in addition to brushing?

Flossing removes any food particles that may remain lodged in between your teeth. If ignored, these food particles eventually rot and break down - causing plaque build-up and tooth decay.

Plaque build-up can be considerably unsightly. They are a general indicator of poor dental hygiene as well. Food particles that remain trapped in your teeth can eventually cause gum irritation - and flossing remains one of the most effective ways of preventing major gum diseases like gingivitis and periodontitis that loosen teeth.

Flossing is a much-needed partner to brushing, in order to make the best out of your dental care routines. Dental flosses aren't expensive and take little effort to incorporate to your dental routine

What is dental floss?
Dental floss refers either to a bundle of thin nylon filaments or a plastic (Teflon or polyethylene) ribbon, used to remove food and dental plaque between teeth.

Should I floss every day?
Yes. Flossing not only cleans your teeth but also prevents the build-up of plaque responsible for tooth decay and gum disease. It should be part of an oral health routine and works best when combined with a toothbrush.

What are the types of flosses available?
There are several types you can buy over the counter, like Teflon, waxed, unwaxed, flavoured, superfloss and ‘dental tape’.

Superfloss is floss with an extremely thick centre, almost like a thin yarn. This is used when you have large spaces between your teeth or can be used with dental floss threaders.

(dental tape) is thicker than regular floss, but not as thick as superfloss. It can be used instead of regular floss, or in conjunction with, depending on what types of dental restorations you have in your mouth.

Which type of floss is good for me?
  • Are there large gaps between your teeth? Try dental tape or superfloss.
  • Not much space between your teeth? You may find that waxed floss is easier to slide into those tight spaces.
  • Do you wear braces or have bridges across teeth? Spongy floss is a good option, though any floss can be used if you wear dental appliances, especially if you use the instrument that can hold your floss in place (imaginatively called a ‘floss holder’, of course).
  • If you’re uncertain, it’s best for you to ask your dentist for advice.
How to Floss
  • Wind about 12 inches of floss around your fingers. Most of it should be wrapped around one finger, and as the floss is used, the other finger should take it up.
  • Use your thumbs and forefingers to guide about one inch of floss between your teeth.
  • Holding the floss tightly, gently guide the floss between your teeth. Then curve the floss into a C-shape against one tooth, and gently slide it beneath your gums.
Dr. S. Girish Rao is Professor & Senior Consultant Faciomaxillary Surgeon at Apollo Hospitals, Bangalore
  • The information on this site does not constitute medical advice and is not intended to be a substitute for medical care provided by a physician.
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