If you are going to do these things, you might as well do them right. If you do them well, you’ll remedy bad breath and you’ll improve the health of your gums and teeth.
Just in case you’re rusty on your technique, here’s a quick primer on how to do it.
First the Floss
Take a length of dental floss that will easily wrap around the index finger on one or both of your hands. You can hold it between your thumb and index finger on one hand, but because it gets wet and slippery, it’s best to have it wrapped around at least one finger. About a foot and a half is a good length. My mother always used tiny pieces about 6 sinches long – what was she thinking? – , but you can’t really hang onto something that short, nor can you keep using a clean section as you move from tooth to tooth.
How and Why of Flossing
The object is to remove any pieces of food that are stuck between your teeth and also, more importantly, to clean off the plaque and bacteria that have stuck themselves onto the surfaces of your teeth.
Slide the floss gently between your teeth. Wrap it in a “C shape” around the base of your tooth slightly below the gumline so you cover as much tooth area as possible. Then pull move the floss upwards if you are doing your bottom teeth, scraping or “wiping” the side of the tooth and repeat it two or three times. Do the front of the back tooth and the back of the front tooth. Then move to the next set of teeth.
Notice that you don’t need to saw back and forth. The idea is to pull the plaque and bacteria off of your teeth from under the gum line all the way to the biting surfaces. You don’t want to damage you gums, leaving them open to infection.
Oh, Oh – Bleeding Gums
If your gums bleed, there are probably one of two things going on.
- The first is that you haven’t been flossing your teeth regularly, so you have some gingivitis going on – an inflammation of the gum tissue.
- The second is that you are flossing too vigorously.
Don’t be scared off. Keep on flossing every day and your gums should get healthier and stop bleeding. Gentle and regular will do the trick. Of course, if you have more than a little bleeding, check with your dentist.
You should floss at the very least, once a day. Be sure do it correctly and gently. Your gums and your friends will appreciate it.