How to Floss

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We’re taught from a very young age that we need to floss our teeth on a daily basis in order to keep them healthy; however, only a small percentage of the populations does so, and out of that small percentage even fewer of them do the job properly. It seems as though we are given the materials without being given the directions, and improper flossing is just as bad as not flossing at all.

The purpose of flossing is to manually remove food and bacteria that could cause the tooth to rot. If it is not done properly some will remain behind, and anyone that has ever had the privilege of watching bacteria grow on a culture plate in a high school or college science class knows that they do so at an incredible rate of speed. This is nothing compared to the rate at which they can grow inside the human mouth, an environment that seems to be custom ordered for their growth and development. These bacteria can quickly cause gingivitis, cavities and bad breath if they are not dealt with properly.

Fortunately, flossing is a simple process. First, brush your teeth. A toothbrush cannot get down into the crevices between your teeth; however, flossing before you brush could simply result in the toothbrush pushing the loosened particles back into their original position.

Take a piece of floss (the choice of which is entirely up to you-there are hundreds of flosses available on the market, but the proper type is that which you are comfortable using) approximately six to eight inches long and wrap the ends around your forefingers. Put the floss in your mouth, starting with the back teeth on one side or the other. Which side you start from does not matter; however, going through your mouth in a methodical manner ensures that no teeth are forgotten.

Slip the floss into the space between your two back teeth. Wrap the floss into a “C” shape around one tooth and slide it upwards to clean off the edge of the tooth. Wiggle or vibrate the floss gently to loosen any material that may be sticking to the side of the tooth; however, resist the urge to “saw” at your tooth. If you feel the floss stick along the edge of the tooth repeat this process until the tooth is clean. Then do the same on the other side, wrapping the floss in a “C” around the tooth and gently wiggling upwards.

Proceed to do this throughout the whole of your mouth. Make sure that you have thoroughly cleaned each tooth; the temptation to rush on the back teeth, which are not nearly as accessible as those located near the front, will be great; however, it is here that most cavities form, and you will feel those cavities more acutely as you attempt to chew. Once you have finished flossing, take a mouthwash (Listerine and Plax have proven to be especially effective in a bactericidal capacity) and rinse your mouth thoroughly to rid it of any loose particles that may be floating around.

Repeating this process once a day, particularly before bed (the eight to ten hours that you are asleep present a prime opportunity for bacteria to settle in) will give your teeth the best chance possible at a happy, healthy life.

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