How To Floss Your Teeth

This series of videos goes through the 3 must-have tools to do the best job of cleaning your teeth!

Tool 2: Floss

Part 2 Video 1: Why is it good to floss?

Part 2 Video 2: How to floss!

Dentista Dental Centre Morley presents: How to Floss your teeth series

Descriptions and Transcripts

How to floss - how to floss teeth

Tools for Teeth Cleaning Series Video 2 Part 1

How to Floss

Tools for Teeth Cleaning Series by Doctor Carla

Part 2 Floss - how to floss


Hi guys, Welcome to part 2 of the how to keep your teeth clean series. This one is on floss and how to floss.



So if you haven't check out the first one, go and check it out, its about the toothbrush. So you might be thinking, what's the big deal.. why do I need to bother flossing? I brush my teeth, everything is fine but I'm still getting hounded by the dentist to floss. So, the reason, and the same with brushing, why we want to floss our teeth is to remove that plaque. Plaque is very sneaky.. it gets in absolutely everywhere. It doesn't just get on the fronts and the biting surfaces of the teeth, it gets between the teeth and actually under the gums as well.


Unfortunately, the toothbrush bristles, can not get into that little tiny narrow space between your teeth, and it definitely can't get into the gum space between your teeth either. So that is where dental floss comes in. It's very thin, and that's why it can get between your teeth and it can get under the gum.


Now what does plaque do? Why is it so bad? Why do we try and get rid of it? The two things that plaque can do is that it can give you cavities. Flossing between your teeth helps you prevent getting cavities between your teeth. So if you are someone who's had fillings that have gone between your teeth, then flossing can actually help those fillings that you have last longer and it can help protect your teeth from getting new cavities. So that's one thing that the plaque does.


The other main thing that plaque does between your teeth is cause gum disease or bleeding gums. The same is when if you are brushing between your teeth or if you are brushing and the bristles can't get between the teeth unfortunately. What you can have is some inflammation or swelling between the gums. That may present as bleeding. If you do try and floss and you go 'oh my god, gosh there is blood everywhere', that is because the gums are a bit inflamed.


The other thing that plaque does, is that... plaque is soft. When it is in it's soft state you can clean it off easily. Once the plaque has been there for some time on your teeth.. it actually mineralises and turns into something called tartar or you may know it as scale or calculus.


Once it forms that hard tartar, scale or calculus... you can't clean it off at home anymore with your brush or your floss okay. The idea is that you want to clean as much plaque off as you can before it turns into that hard tartar.


What's so bad about tartar?


The tartar is very irritating to your gums and it can make them quite inflamed. If you get gum disease, this tartar is one of the main culprits of the gum disease not improving.

Tools for Teeth Cleaning Series Video 2 Part 2


Tools for Teeth Cleaning Series by Doctor Carla

Part 2 Floss Part 2 How to Floss


How do we floss? 

First of all, you want to get a sufficiently long piece of floss, probably about 30cm is enough. 

So once you have your approximately 30cm long piece of floss, you want to secure it around your 2 pointer fingers. So everybody is going to find the best way for them to hold it. The way that I find is the easiest is just to wrap it around one finger a couple of times, and hold it in the other finger... like this (Dr Carla demonstrates the position with her fingers as described). Im holding the rest of the string with my other fingers. The reason you want it on the tips of your pointer fingers, is because this gives you the most control. If you were to hold the floss like this (Dr Carla holds the piece of floss much further apart than was described), it's very hard to put it exactly where it needs to go and it's almost impossible to get it right to the back.

So the shorter the distance between the 2 pointed fingers, the more control you have.. and if you've just got it on the tips of the fingers, you can get the floss right to the back of your mouth. 

So the action that you want to do is very deliberate. When you floss you do one tooth and you go up and down, up and down. You are really curving the floss around the tooth. (Text displayed on screen: up and down 2-3 times, push against one tooth and pull against the other tooth). Up and down, up and down and push against that tooth, and then you come across and go onto the tooth on the other side. So if you are pushing on one tooth then you are pulling on the other tooth... and you go up and down up and down. You only need to go up and down a couple of times.

Going forwards and backwards doesn't really do much toward cleaning the plaque off. 

This is the surface between my 2 front teeth (Dr Carla puts her hands together but exposing a little gap between them to represent the gaps between 2 teeth). This is the side that we want to clean (Dr Carla shows her hands again together with a gap. She shows that the part which  needs to be cleaned is the total surface of the tooth, ie the total surface area between the two teeth). Going up and down is going to be good... if we go backwards and forwards, see we are not really cleaning much of the surface at all, so we want to go up and down (Dr Carla displays one of the 2 hands representing the tooth, and a finger of the other hand representing the floss. We can see the first instance where the finger/floss going up and down on the hand, representing an up and down motion. Here it can be seen that the whole hand/tooth is getting covered. Next the back and forth technique is displayed. Here the finger/floss goes back and forward on the hand/tooth. It can be seen that only a fraction of the hand/tooth is covered. This demonstrates that the up and down technique is superior). We also really want to push the floss against the tooth. 

So I'm holding the floss between my 2 fingers... between my front teeth I'm pushing up against this tooth on my left. Pushing up down up down. (Dr Carla demonstrates correct flossing). As you can see, I'm going right up to the gum. Now I'm doing the other tooth (right side).. so I'm pulling against the other teeth, up down up down. So that action you can do for all of your teeth. 

Pushing up down up down...  pulling up down up down.

As we were talking about in part 1, the teeth have this real curve, so if we are really doing a solid push, the floss is actually covering the curve on the front and the inside of the tooth. So the idea is that if your toothbrushes misses a bit, then the floss can get to it. 

I'm going to floss all my teeth, it's not something that needs to take a long time... so you can see how quick it can really be. 

(Dr Carla flosses her whole mouth as described)

So thats all my teeth flossed (time taken: 45 seconds)

Now if you are someone who is just new to flossing, the best way to do it is in front of a mirror.. so you can see exactly what you're doing. It is definitely a skill that you will improve with time, and it's important that you give yourself some time to learn how to do it. If you're  in a rush or if you're feeling frustrated, just give it a rest and you can come back to it another day. Leave your floss with your toothbrush so that you see it and you're reminded to floss. Some people like to chill out in the shower and floss while in the shower, there's no rules about where and when you can floss. Some of my patients like to do it when they are watching TV, you do it whenever suits you and is ok with your family. 

Certainly if you have tried flossing and it's just not for you because you can't get your fingers in there or you just can't get the movements down, then that's totally fine, you can try something like this, this is called a flossette. So the floss is held in by a little fork. I will show you how to use the flossette. It's very similar in action. What you do is push it up between the teeth. Generally the floss in the flossette is a little bit thicker than string floss.. so if you can't push it up between the teeth you can you can gently press on the little bow (Text displayed: gently bite on bow to move floss up toward gum, push, pull and twist against the tooth). Then same thing, I'm going to push against my tooth on the left, and go up and down a couple of times and then I'm going to pull on my other tooth and go up and down a few times as well... and that's it, as easy as that. It's exactly the same for the back teeth.. pushing up and down, then pulling up and down. Then the side ones. You can also really do an exaggerated twist so you can right into those front curves and curves on the inside.. just like that.