Dental Education Lecture: When to Floss

In this lecture, we are going to discuss the sequence of flossing and then discuss when to floss.

Fig.1 is a biting view of lower teeth, numbering from 1 to 8.  #1 represents the central incisor, whereas 8 wisdom tooth (3rd molar). To floss between two central incisors, we need to pass between them twice.  The first time bend the floss (thick line) slightly toward left, slide against the corresponding surface, up and down five times (Fig.2) and the second time bend the floss slightly toward right, slide against the corresponding surface the neighboring tooth, also up and down five times (Fig.3).

For completeness, we need to floss from one side of the jaw, starting from the back surface of the last tooth (Fig.4), then the front surface of the last tooth (Fig.5), next the back surface of the last second tooth (Fig.6).  Keep doing it on and on until we reach the last tooth on the other side of the mouth (Fig.6 arrows).  Then we floss the teeth in the opposite jaw.

When to floss?  It is necessary to floss once a day, preferably in the evening before bedtime.  We need to floss whether food is trapped between our teeth or not.  What floss removes is plaque that we cannot see or feel.  It is plaque that causes our cavities and gum disease.  Plaque and its germs are our invisible and deadly enemy in term of oral health.  We should floss and brush daily no matter whether we are sick or not.  Developing good oral hygiene habit is the only way to prevent oral diseases.

Xin Wei, DDS, PhD, MS 1st edition 02/11/2009 , last revision 03/20/2010