Brushing your teeth only cleans about 60 per cent of the surface of your teeth, which is why dentists recommend that ‘flossing’ become an essential part of your oral care routine. Using dental tape is however more effective than floss and can be easier to use as it is flat and often coated to slide more easily between the teeth.
Flossing (using dental tape) helps to remove the plaque and bacteria from between the teeth and under the gum line, helping to prevent decay and gum disease.
It can be an uncomfortable feeling at first but with regular flossing your gums will get used to the sensation.
The British Dental Association recommends using about 45 cm (18 inches) of floss or tape and wrapping the ends around the middle fingers of both hands. Pinch the floss between the thumb and index finger leaving about 2.5 to 5 cm (1-2 inches) of floss in between your two fingers, giving you control.
Pull the floss tight and slide it up and down against the tooth surface and under the gum line. DON’T use a sawing action, this will cut into your gum, an unpleasant sensation. Floss in a slight circular movement, this will help you to get under the gum line without any problems.
Wind the floss through your fingers to a fresh section before moving on to the next tooth. Continue until you have flossed both upper and lower teeth.
If you have difficulty holding the floss, or find it uncomfortable, use a ‘flosser’. This piece of apparatus holds the floss in place for you while you floss, allowing you to concentrate on moving the floss around your mouth.
You may experience slight bleeding in your gums when you start to floss but persevere, this will soon reduce as your gums become healthier. Your dentist or hygienist can provide you with further advice on how to floss, or also show you how to use other cleaning aids such a tiny ‘interspace’ brushes which can also be very effective at cleaning between the teeth.