Dental Floss: Do You Need It? This Will Help You Decide!

A white and green container of dental floss with part of the string pulled out. Daily use of dental floss helps to remove plaque from your teeth and prevents gum disease. The American Dental Association recommends that you brush for two minutes twice a day using a fluoride toothpaste. Likewise, you should floss at least once a day. Daily flossing is essential because gum disease starts at the gum line and between teeth. Flossing removes plaque from the areas where a toothbrush doesn’t reach. Poor dental health may result in tooth loss, gum disease, bad breath. It can also lead to serious health problems, including dementia, pneumonia, brain abscesses, diabetes, kidney disease and heart disease, stomach ulcers, pregnancy complications and even cancer.

What is Dental Floss?

It is a cord of floss silk or similar material which you can use to detach food and dental plaque between teeth. Dental floss is generally used where a toothbrush is unable to reach. Regardless of the availability of various interdental cleaning aids, dental floss is highly popular. The inventor of dental floss was Levi Spear Parmly, a New Orleans dentist. He recommended a waxen silk thread to floss the teeth. During World War II, Physician Charles C. Bass developed nylon floss. It was found to be better than silk because it is more resistant to abrasion.

Reasons Why Flossing is Important

Flossing alone can remove about forty percent of the sticky bacteria or plaque from your teeth. Listed below are more reasons why you should floss every day.

Prevents tartar buildup

Tartar is the hard buildup of plaque that builds around your gum line. The plaque secretes acids which irritate gums, produces cavities, and ultimately leads to gum disease. If the plaque gets hardened, you need professional help to remove it. Flossing helps you to remove plaque in its early form when it is sticky yet soft and pliable. Moreover, flossing helps to retain your youthful aesthetic smile.

Flossing prevents other diseases

Research studies have shown that the bacteria that reside in a dirty mouth can harm the rest of your body. It can lead to heart disease, respiratory illness, and diabetes. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has called on public health initiatives to address oral health as one of the steps to prevent these systemic diseases. Heart disease is a leading cause of death in the United States. If periodontal disease contributes to heart disease and other systemic diseases, then a simple action such as flossing may improve public health. Dental floss is a simple and inexpensive tool but can have important implications for your long-term health benefits.

Saves money

Replacing a lost tooth can be a significant financial investment. Regular flossing keeps gum disease and periodontitis at bay. CDHP researchers compared the dental care of children within the first year of age who had regular dental checkups to children who had visited the dentist for the first time after that age. The results showed the first group had overall dental care costs some 40 percent lower than their peers. It is essential to realize that regular flossing can significantly reduce many systemic diseases that can cost you a fortune to treat.

Gum protection

Flossing has a vital role to play in the area where your gums and teeth meet. Small particles of food can get lodged in the crevices. Furthermore, the plaque buildup can result in bacterial growth and may lead to gingivitis. Gingivitis or gum disease causes your gums to become inflamed and to bleed during brushing. If you leave it untreated, it might progress to periodontitis that causes tooth loss and death of surrounding tissues.

Types of Dental Floss

Not all dental floss is the same. Over the years, a variety of different types of dental floss have been created. Listed below are the different kinds of floss currently available on the market today.

Regular floss

You may be familiar with the stringed floss, but there are various types of floss such as waxed floss, unwaxed floss, and mint flavored floss. Waxed floss slides in between your teeth much easier than unwaxed floss. Mint floss gives your mouth a fresh feeling.

Floss pics

Flossers, or floss pics, gently hold the floss. It makes it extremely convenient to floss with one hand. Though they are convenient, they are not as effective as regular floss.

Oral Irrigators

An oral irrigator uses a stream of pulsating water to remove food particles and plaque from teeth. The oral irrigators not only remove plaque but they also improve your gingival health as well.

How to Choose Dental Floss?

Dental floss is an essential part of home dental care. In fact, dentists say that flossing is more important than the type of floss. With so many options there is surely one that is right for you. But how do you know which type will best fit your needs?

Deciding between types of floss

If you have large spaces between your teeth, choosing a thick floss will make flossing easier. A thinner floss will be helpful if you’re teeth are tightly held together without gaps. Waxed floss guides smoothly and would be beneficial if you’re wearing braces. On the other hand, unwaxed floss makes a squeaking noise against clean teeth, so it helps you to know when your teeth are clean. If you’re not sure whether to go with flavored or unflavored floss, you should know that flavoring can make it more enjoyable to floss. As a result, you’ll be flossing more often. Next, you have to choose between a multifilament or single filament. The single filament is made of plastic or rubber, while the multifilament is made using nylon. The multifilament floss will be useful if your fillings are not properly adjusted or if there are small pieces of tartar on your teeth. So the floss will be worn out even after a single use. The single filament is stronger, glides more efficiently and is expensive, while the multifilament nylon floss is much cheaper. Once again everything boils down to your preference.

How about the alternatives?

Floss pics may not be as efficient as the regular floss. On the other hand, these flossers do help you to floss further back in your mouth where it is difficult to floss with both your hands. An electric flosser is same as the pick, but it has the added benefit of vibration. Additionally, it helps to remove plaque more thoroughly and even massages your gums. Make sure you purchase electric flossers with a long handle and a smaller head, so it is easier for you to get into hard to reach places. Water flossers re great if you have dental implants, crowns, bridges or braces. Wood plaque removers look similar to a toothpick, but they’re designed to remove plaque. You need to soften it in your mouth and insert the flat side of the stick to the gums and move it slowly in and out. Wood plaque removers work best for people with gaps between their teeth.

How to Use Dental Floss?

Since you’ll be putting your fingers into your mouth, be sure to wash your hands before you floss. Listed below are the appropriate flossing techniques advised by the experts at the American Dental Association.


Choose the floss that you feel most comfortable with. Wrap 18-inches of floss around the middle fingers of both hands. Now hold the floss between your forefingers and thumb. Expose about 3-4 inches of the floss, which you’ll be using to floss your teeth. Pinch the floss between your thumb and index finger. To floss your upper teeth use your thumb. Using your index fingers will be more comfortable when flossing the bottom teeth.


Gently slide the floss between your tooth and gumline. It’s important to realize that if you’re too aggressive, you may end up hurting your gums or causing them to bleed.


Slowly glide the floss between the teeth by using a zig-zag motion. Curve the floss in a C shape around the tooth and dip it 2-3 millimeters below the gum line. This action pulls any plaque or food particles out from the contours of the mouth. Floss in a back and forth motion to scrape out the other plaque and debris.


Move slowly from one tooth to the next and always clean the backside of each tooth. As soon as you move from one tooth to the other, unravel some of the clean floss that is wound in your index finger so that you use clean floss for each tooth. If your gums start to bleed, then you must floss more often to enhance your gum health. Once you’ve finished flossing, rinse your mouth with water or mouthwash. This action flushes out all the impurities from your mouth and gives your mouth a fresh clean feeling. Using chlorhexidine mouthwash destroys any trace of bacteria. Additionally, it forms a protective barrier around the freshly flossed gums and teeth.

Using a flosser

The technique for using a floss pick is a lot like regular flossing. Firmly hold the flosser handle and point the flossing tip at an angle to the area where you want to floss. Gently guide your floss between two teeth and avoid snapping or popping. Use the same motions as you would with regular floss.

Using an electric flosser

The same flossing techniques apply to electric flosser. Use this device the same as you would with a non-electric flosser. Take care not to use too much pressure so that you don’t damage your gums.

Flossing around braces

If you wear braces, you can use different orthodontic floss or a floss threader. The unique orthodontic floss has a solid end which you can easily thread under the central wire of your braces. A floss threader is a flexible device with a pick on one end and a loop on the other. To use this device place an 18-inch piece of floss through the loop. Slowly insert the pointed end of the flosser under the main wire and pull through, so the floss is under the main wire. Follow the same principles of regular flossing once you have the floss in place. The experts at the American Dental Association recommend that you floss for two to three minutes. But it’s okay even if you floss just sixty seconds a day because it will significantly enhance your gum health. Poor flossing techniques can cause complications, especially with an electric flosser. So take time to understand the proper method of using dental floss.

  Featured Image CC0 Muklinika via Pixabay

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