Flossing is the most important part of any dental hygiene regimen, but often it is overlooked and forgotten by a large percentage of the population. Everyone should floss at least once per day, but if flossing isn't done properly, you may as well be skipping it altogether.
Flossing is the only way to properly remove bacteria and food accumulations from under the gums in between the teeth. Many people believe that rinsing well will accomplish this, but rinsing, even with an antibacterial mouth rinse, cannot clean well enough to prevent gingivitis and periodontitis (forms of gum disease) around the teeth.
Everyone should floss at least once daily. Flossing twice is better, and after every meal is best, but for those with a healthy diet and good home care, once is usually sufficient. One important key to flossing properly is the technique used to hold the floss. A length of floss about twelve inches in length should be used. The floss should be wrapped around the middle fingers of each hand. The floss should be wrapped only two or three times around the middle finger of the right hand and should be wrapped much more around the middle finger of the left hand, leaving about three inches of floss free between the fingers. As you floss, you can wind the "dirty" floss around the finger of the right hand more and unwind "clean" floss from the left hand. This will ensure that you aren't putting bacteria back between the teeth as you go around.
To begin, you should place the floss between the teeth and use a sawing motion to get the floss past the tight contact area of the teeth. Be careful not to pop or saw the floss down onto the gums, as this can cut or irritate the gum tissue. When the floss is between the teeth, you should pull the floss around one tooth in a C-shaped formation, then move the floss up and down along the side of the tooth. Be sure the floss slides down below the gums so that any bacteria can be broken up and washed away. After you've done one tooth, pull the floss to the other tooth in the same space, forming a C-shaped formation on that side as well. Next, pull the floss out and move to the next area. Don't forget to floss behind the very back teeth! This is an important area that is often overlooked.
While this may seem complicated and clumsy, once you are used to the motion, it will only take about 30 seconds to one minute to floss your entire mouth. This is a small price to pay for healthy teeth and gums that can keep you eating comfortably well into your Golden Years.