How to floss

Comment / Dr Ros Davis

Many of you would have read the recent article in The Guardian - we know because we've been asked lots of questions about it! To put it simply, the article basically says that there is no good evidence that flossing is beneficial, and that the US government has dropped its recommendation that people floss their teeth.

As dentists we were blown away by this article because we see the effects of flossing (or not flossing) in our patients' mouths every day! Those who floss have fewer cavities, fillings that last longer, lower rates of gum disease and visibly healthy gums. It seemed ludicrous to us that something so effective was being discounted by major organisations.

After some thought, we realised perhaps the issue highlighted here is that many people don't floss properly, thus making it hard to prove that it is an effective tool for keeping the mouth healthy. If you spend 20 seconds flicking the floss up and down between a few teeth, you're not going to improve your oral health.

How to Floss Properly?


Think of a tooth as having 5 sides - you've got the biting surface, the side closest to your tongue, the side closest to your cheek, the side touching the tooth in front and the side touching the tooth behind. Your toothbrush can only get to 3 sides of the tooth - do you want to leave the other 2 surfaces untouched? Wouldn't that be like washing your body in the shower but forgetting to do your underarms? Here are some pictures to help you understand how to floss properly to reach those extra two sides.

How to floss properly guide

If you're thinking that looks like a lot of effort, you're not alone. That is what the US government knows people are thinking, and that's why they are changing their recommendations; if people aren't cleaning between their teeth properly with floss, they want to encourage people to do something easier that is just as effective. Use an interdental brush! These devices which look like a small bottlebrush or pipe cleaner are designed to be poked through the gaps between teeth to dislodge the plaque hiding in there. You can use the same brush for a couple of days before you have to chuck it out and start with a new one. Unlike floss which requires a fair bit of dexterity or effort, interdental brushes are so easy to use you could do it with your eyes shut.

So What's the Take-Home Message?


If you're going to take the time to do it properly, flossing is a fantastic way for keeping your mouth healthy. If you don't have the time, try an interdental brush to make sure you're cleaning all 5 surfaces of each tooth!

To book an appointment at Sailors Bay Dentistry please call (02) 9958 0400.