How to Use Dental Floss

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We all know it’s an important part of our oral care routine, but do you know how to use dental floss—that is, how to use it properly? Whether it’s a dreaded task that you only do the night before a dentist appointment, or a tried-and-true practice in your daily routine, this article will help you become an expert flosser. So, let’s dive into How to Floss 101.  

How to Floss: Before or After Brushing?

First things first, should you floss before or after brushing? Turns out, it’s best to floss before brushing. This may come as a shock to those who’ve done a brushing-flossing routine since their childhood years, but the reverse order is actually far better for your mouth. 

Why should you floss before you brush? Well, when you floss, you’re releasing any plaque, bacteria, and food that is trapped in between your teeth. If you were to brush, do this, and then go to bed directly afterwards, it would allow these problematic particles to remain in your mouth until your morning brush. 

So, when you bring your planet- and travel-friendly single-use dental floss on your next trip, be sure to floss and then brush so that you can get rid of food and bacteria right away! Because these particles are immediately released, it’ll minimize the amount of dental plaque in your mouth, therefore reducing your risk of developing gum disease. 

The Correct Way to Use Dental Floss

Now that we know when to floss, let’s get into the actual process. We’ll start with the fact that one-fifth of us never floss at all. So, if you’re one of the 41% of Americans flossing at least once a day, well done!

That being said, however, improper flossing techniques may do more harm than good. It’s good to know the basics so that you don’t end up potentially damaging your gums and teeth. To help you out, here’s a step-by-step guide for how to use dental floss.

How to Use Dental Floss: A Step-By-Step Guide

  • Tear off an adequate amount of dental floss. When it comes to how much dental floss to use, it’s generally recommended to break off about 18 to 24 inches of dental floss. You’ll want to wind it around your middle fingers, just leaving an inch unwound to use for your teeth. 
  • Hold the floss taut. Using your thumbs and index fingers, get the floss nice and taut so that it glides easier. 
  • Line the dental floss up in between teeth. The floss can then be guided up and down so that it rubs against both sides of each tooth
  • Avoid gliding the floss into the gums. Be cautious when you reach the gums as excessive force from flossing might scratch or bruise them. 
  • Form a C-shape. Instead, when the floss reaches your gums, curve it to form a gentle C-shape around the base of the gums. This way, the floss should gently enter the space between your gums and your tooth. 
  • Repeat from tooth to tooth. As you move on from tooth to tooth, unwind the floss so that a new, clean section is used each time. 
  • Floss once a day. While the American Dental Association recommends brushing twice a day, their recommendation for flossing is just once a day. While you can floss anytime of day, it's recommended that you only do so when you have adequate time. For most people, this means flossing at nighttime. 

Ready to level-up as a flossing professional? Let’s glide into the different types of floss. 

Dental Floss: Why Are There Different Floss Types?

Many of us know that flossing is essential, but what about waxed vs unwaxed floss—which is better? 

Conventional floss starts out as a skinny thread. In some cases, a thin layer of wax is added to its surface, making it waxed dental floss. Unwaxed dental floss is the type without the additional layer of wax. By offering a few different types of dental floss, more mouths (and their spacing of teeth) are accommodated for. 

Let’s get into the nooks and crannies (pun intended) of these different floss types, so that you can know which is best for you. 

Waxed vs Unwaxed Dental Floss

While waxed floss is thicker, the wax also makes it easier to glide between teeth. Because of the wax layer, waxed floss may be more suitable for those with tightly spaced teeth. Wax acts as a lubricant, meaning that it makes it easier for the floss to fit into tight spaces between teeth. 

Waxed floss also tends to be more durable than its unwaxed counterpart, meaning that it’s less likely to snap in between molars or while removing that stuck-in spinach from between your front teeth. In some cases, the waxed floss is also flavored—which might make it a tastier experience for those who tend to skip this essential step in the oral care routine. 

Those with braces may also find waxed floss easier to navigate between wires and brackets. Similarly, waxed floss may be more comfortable for children who are new to the oral care practice. 

So what’s the deal with unwaxed floss? It’s still capable of thoroughly cleaning the areas a toothbrush is unable of reaching. Compared with the waxed version, unwaxed floss is just as effective at preventing the buildup of plaque and reducing the risk of gum irritation and disease. 

Without the wax though, this type of floss is thinner, which may make it easier and more comfortable to pull between teeth. However, its thinness may make it more prone to breaking—which is the last thing you’d want when trying to build up your flossing routine!

How to Use Waxed and Unwaxed Dental Floss

When it comes to how to use waxed dental floss, the process is the same as it is with unwaxed floss. Both will glide between teeth, and you’ll want to gently make a C-shape around your gums. Because of the thickness of the wax layer, you might have to use a little more force with waxed floss. Conversely, since it’s thinner, you might want to be careful with unwaxed floss to prevent it from snapping. 

Which Type of Floss is Best?

As we highlighted, different types of floss may be preferred for different types of mouths. There’s no hard and fast rule regarding which type is better, as one study found that waxed and unwaxed floss performed the same as far as plaque removal and gingivitis prevention go. 

What this and similar studies have found is that flossing is far better for our mouths than teeth brushing alone. So, if you want to treat your mouth well, the type of floss doesn’t matter as much as your frequency of using it! Choose the type of floss that’s most comfortable for you, and be sure to use it daily. 

However, for planet-friendly flossing, the type of floss does matter. For the most sustainable oral care practices, consider exactly how your waxed floss is made—and with what.   

Is Waxed Floss Eco-Friendly?

Conventional flossing products might not be the best for our planet (or our pearly whites). Not only is the floss itself often made with polyester filaments or nylon (AKA fossil fuels), but when it’s waxed, it often comes from microcrystalline wax. 

Microcrystalline wax, FYI, is often made from the residue of crude petroleum that’s left over from the refining process. 

To top it off (literally), it may be blended with gum arabic (a binder), artificial sweeteners like acesulfame, glycerin, natural and artificial flavor, coolants, artificial colors, and a range of unpronounceable chemicals. 

We know flossing is important, but who wants to get potentially dangerous ingredients that close to our gentle gums? 

Fortunately, there are other types of wax that can be used for floss. 

Natural Wax Dental Floss is Better

Instead of fossil fuels, corn PLA (a plant-based bioplastic), silk, and bamboo fiber can be used for the floss. Instead of monocrystalline wax—which is really petroleum sludge (gross)—some eco-friendly oral care brands are making use of beeswax, candelilla wax, or rice bran wax to add a little thickness to their natural wax dental floss. 

These natural alternatives to waxed floss are often combined with other teeth-supporting ingredients like essential oils, coconut oil, and activated charcoal. And for good reason, as the benefits of activated charcoal dental floss are many! 

Because it’s black, activated charcoal floss makes it easy to see what’s being removed with every glide. Not only is natural wax dental floss made with easy-to-recognize ingredients that aren’t sourced from an oil refinery, but those like activated charcoal do a better job of ridding the mouth of bad bacteria and toxins. In doing so, they support gum health and a fresher mouth. 

It isn’t just humans who benefit from natural, bamboo-based floss. Our planet wins, too! Because the floss starts out as bamboo fiber and only natural, plant-based ingredients are added—including vegan candelilla wax—the Brilliant Black Dental Floss from Terra & Co. is 100% biodegradable. Did we mention it comes in a recycled and recyclable paper box—not a difficult-to-recycle plastic container? 

This black waxed floss is Earth-friendly, gum-friendly, and smile-friendly. What more could you want in a pack of dental floss?  

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