How To Floss

Online Dental Education Library

Our team of dental specialists and staff strive to improve the overall health of our patients by focusing on preventing, diagnosing and treating conditions associated with your teeth and gums. Please use our dental library to learn more about dental problems and treatments available. If you have questions or need to schedule an appointment, contact us.

 


A

Air abrasion - is a drill-less technique that is being used by some dentists to remove tooth decay and for other applications
Amalgam - Material made from mercury and other alloy mixtures used to restore a drilled portion of a tooth. 
Anesthesia - Medications used to relieve pain.
Anterior teeth - Front teeth. Also called incisors and cuspids.
Arch - The upper or lower jaw.

B
Baby bottle tooth decay - Caused by sugary substances in breast milk and some juices, which combine with saliva to form pools inside the baby's mouth.
Bicuspids -Back teeth used for chewing.
Bitewings - X-rays that help a dentist diagnose cavities.
Bonding - Application of tooth-colored resin materials to the surface of the teeth.
Bridge - A fixed or removable appliance that replaces lost teeth.
Bruxism - Teeth grinding.

C
CAD/CAM dentistry, (Computer-Aided Design and Computer-Aided Manufacturing in dentistry), is an area of dentistry utilizing CAD/CAM technologies to produce different types of dental restorations, including crowns, crownlays, veneers,  inlays and onlays, fixed bridges, dental implant restorations and orthodontic appliances.
Calculus (tartar)-  Calculus is hardened plaque (a sticky substance) that has been left on the tooth for some time and is now firmly attached to the tooth surface. Calculus forms above and below the gum line and can only be removed with special dental instruments.
Canal - The narrow chamber inside the tooth's root.
Canines - Also called cuspids.
Canker sore - One that occurs on the delicate tissues inside your mouth. A canker sore is usually light-colored at its base and can have a red exterior border. 
Caries - Another term for decay, which causes cavities.
Cold sore - Usually occurs on the outside of the mouth, usually on or near the nose or lips. A cold sore is contagious because it is caused by the herpes simplex virus, and it is usually painful and filled with fluid. 
Composite filling - Tooth colored restorations, also known as resin fillings. 
Composite resin - A tooth colored resin combined with silica or porcelain and used as a restoration material.
Contouring - The process of reshaping teeth.
Crown - An artificial cover that is placed on the top of a tooth following restoration.
Cusps - The pointed parts on top of the back teeth's chewing surface.
Cuspids - Front teeth that typically have a protruding edge.

D
Dentin - The tooth layer underneath the enamel.
Denture - A removable set of teeth.

E
Endodontics - A form of dentistry that addresses problems affecting the tooth's root or nerve.

F
Fluoride - A naturally occurring substance added to water, toothpastes and some rinses and used for strengthening the tooth's enamel.
Fluorosis - A harmless over-exposure to fluoride and resulting sometimes in tooth discoloration.

G
Gingiva - Another word for gum tissue.
Gingivitis - A minor disease of the gums caused by plaque.
Gum disease - An infection of the gum tissues. Also called periodontal disease.

I
Impacted teeth - A condition in which a tooth fails to erupt or only partially erupts.
Implant - A permanent appliance used to replace a missing tooth.
Incisor - Front teeth with cutting edges; located in the center or on the sides near the front.
Inlay - An indirect artificial filling made of various materials, including porcelain, resin, or gold.  fitted to a cavity in a tooth and cemented into place.
Intracoronal - situated or made within the crown of a tooth

L
Laminate veneer - A shell that is bonded to the enamel of a front tooth. The shell is usually thin and made from porcelain resin.

M
Malocclusion - Bad bite relationship
Mandible - The lower jaw
Maxilla - The upper jaw
Molar - Usually the largest teeth, near the rear of the mouth. Molars have large chewing surfaces

N
Nightguard - Night mouth guards are bite pads that are worn at night as you sleep. There are also used as mouth guards for day use. These guards are made of high-grade plastic and are custom fit to the mouth. This device keeps the upper teeth from grinding with the lower teeth, offering an instant solution to teeth clenching problems.
Neuromuscular Dentistry - Are more than the aches and pains felt in and around the neck and head that are associated with your teeth and jaw.

O
Onlay - An indirect artificial filling made of various materials, including porcelain, resin, or gold;  fitted to a cavity in a tooth and cemented into place. It is designed to protect the chewing surface of a tooth by extending to replace a cusp.
Orthodontics - A field of dentistry that deals with tooth and jaw alignment.
Overdenture - A non-fixed dental appliance applied to a small number of natural teeth or implants.

P
Palate - Roof of the mouth.
Partial denture - A removable appliance that replaces teeth. Also called a bridge. 
Pedodontics - A field of dentistry that deals with children's teeth.
Perio pocket - An opening formed by receding gums.
Periodontal disease - Infection of the gum tissues. Also called gum disease.
Periodontist - A dentist who treats diseases of the gums.
Permanent teeth - The teeth that erupt after primary teeth. Also called adult teeth.
Plaque -Plaque is a sticky, colorless, almost invisible film or substance that forms on the teeth after sleep or periods between brushing. It is a growing colony of living bacteria, food debris, and saliva. 
Posterior teeth - The bicuspids and molars. Also called the back teeth.
Primary teeth - A person's first set of teeth. Also called baby teeth or temporary teeth.
Prophylaxis - The act of cleaning the teeth.
Prosthodontics - The field of dentistry that deals with artificial dental appliances.
Pulp - The inner tissues of the tooth containing blood, nerves and connective tissue.

R
Radiographs - Diagnostic X-rays essential for detection of decay, tumors, cysts, and bone loss.  X-rays also help determine tooth and root positions.
Receding gum - A condition in which the gums separate from the tooth, allowing bacteria and other substances to attack the tooth's enamel and surrounding bone.
Resin filling - An artificial filling used to restore teeth. Also called a composite filling.
Root canal - A procedure in which a tooth's nerve is removed and an inner canal cleansed and later filled.
Root planing - Scraping or cleansing of teeth to remove heavy buildup of tartar below the gum line.

S
Sealant - A synthetic material placed on the tooth's surface that protects the enamel and chewing surfaces.

T
Tartar - A hardened substance (also called calculus) that sticks to the tooth's surface.
Tooth decay –   Tooth decay occurs when the acids found in plaque erode the natural enamel found on the teeth.  This phenomenon can easily be prevented by using proper home hygiene methods. Tooth decay is one of the leading causes of tooth loss, and its treatment often requires complex dental procedures.Teeth polishing: Removal of  stain and plaque that is not otherwise removed during tooth brushing and scaling.
TMD - Temporomandibular joint disorder. Health problems related to the jaw joint just in front of the ear.

V
Veneer - A laminate applied or bonded to the tooth.

W
Whitening - A process that employs special bleaching agents for restoring the color of teeth.
Wisdom tooth - Third set of molars that erupt last in adolescence.
 

You always brush twice a day, avoid sugary snacks between meals, and go to the dentist regularly. Do you still have to floss your teeth?

Flossing  teeth.The short answer: Yes, at least once a day. Flossing is probably your single most important weapon against plaque, the clingy bacterial biofilm that sticks to the surfaces of your teeth. Plaque is the principal cause of tooth decay; but it is also the cause of periodontitis (gum disease), bad breath, and other maladies. Brushing is a good start — but flossing removes plaque in places a brush can't reach, like the small gaps between teeth and under the gums. It also polishes tooth surfaces and decreases the risk of gum disease.

Some people may think they don't have time to floss, but once you get the hang of it, flossing only takes few minutes. If you are going to floss only once a day, it's best to do it at night just before going to sleep. That's because there is less saliva present in your mouth when you are sleeping, so plaque is more concentrated and potentially more harmful. Just in case you never really learned proper flossing techniques, here's a step by step approach including some easy tips for doing a great job.

Proper Flossing Technique

  • Cut off a piece of floss about 18 inches long. Wind it around the middle finger of both hands leaving a gap of around three or four inches. You will now be able to use different combinations of your thumbs and index fingers to correctly position the floss between your teeth for all areas of your mouth.

    TIP: The most common mistake people make while flossing is that they tighten their lips and cheeks making it impossible to get their fingers into the mouth. Relax your lips and cheeks.

  • Now, guide the floss gently into the space between your teeth.

    TIP: Even if the gap is tight, try not to snap the floss into your gums as you're inserting it. A side-to-side sawing motion is good to use here, but only when slipping the floss gently between the teeth.

  • How to floss your teeth.There are two sides to each space between your teeth and you must floss each side separately so as not to injure the triangle of gum tissue between your teeth. Run the floss up and down the surface of the tooth, making sure you are going down to the gum line and then up to the highest contact point between the teeth. Apply pressure with your fingers away from the gum triangle, letting it curve around the side of the tooth forming the letter “C” with the floss.

    TIP: You want your fingers as close to the front and back of the tooth as possible so both fingers move in harmony up and down until you hear a squeaky clean sound. This is easier with unwaxed floss. The smaller the amount of floss between your fingers, the more control you have flossing.

  • Next, move your fingers to the top contact area between the teeth and slide across to the other side of the space. Apply pressure with your fingers in the opposite direction and repeat.
  • Slide the floss out from between the teeth. If it's frayed or brownish, that's good: you're removing plaque! Unwind a little new floss from the “dispenser” finger, and take up the used floss on the other finger.
  • Repeat the process on the next space between teeth. Work all around the mouth — and don't forget back sides of the last molars.

Variations for Comfort

If you're having trouble with the two-finger method, here's another way to try flossing: Just tie the same amount of floss into a big loop, place all your fingers (but not thumbs) inside the loop, and work it around your teeth with index fingers and thumbs. All the other steps remain the same.

Once you've got the basics down, there are a few different types of flosses you can try, including flavored, waxed, and wider width. Some people find waxed floss slides more easily into tighter gaps between teeth or restorations — but it may not make that satisfying “squeak” as it's cleaning. Others prefer wide floss for cleaning around bridgework. But whichever way works best for you, the important thing is to keep it up!

Related Articles

Oral Hygiene - Dear Doctor Magazine

Oral Hygiene Behavior — Dental Health for Life The best tools for maintaining your oral health and minimizing dental problems are a quality toothbrush, toothpaste, a roll of dental floss, approved mouthwash and good diet. This article details a winning game plan for oral health... Read Article

Dental Hygiene Visit - Dear Doctor Magazine

Dental Hygiene Visit There's a lot more going on at your regular dental hygiene visit than a feel-good polishing! Dental hygienists collaborate with dentists to provide optimum personalized oral health care to prevent oral disease and to promote your health... Read Article