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Dental Floss


All Americans know the importance of brushing and flossing. And just about all Americans report that they brush at least once a day. However, studies show that only 10-40% of Americans report flossing on a daily basis.

The Johnson & Johnson Corporation was the first company to receive a patent for dental floss in 1898, however there were other versions dating back to the early 1800’s. Back then dental floss was made of silk, but it eventually transformed into a nylon floss material. Today, it’s generally made from thin nylon filaments, or a plastic (Teflon or polyethylene) ribbon.

Dental floss still serves the same purpose it did centuries ago, removing leftover food debris and dental plaque from the teeth and surrounding tissues. There has always been some debate on whether or not people should floss before or after brushing their teeth. The American Dental Association does not believe one way is better than the other. Dentists leave it up to the patient on the way they want to do it, as long as they do it.

Types of Dental Floss

Almost all dental floss is supplied in plastic dispensers that are 10-50 meters in length. After pulling out your desired amount of floss, you pull the floss against a small protected blade within the dispenser to sever the string. There are different thicknesses to different types and brands of dental floss. If the string is too thick it can be difficult to remove the floss after it’s been inserted between your teeth. However, if the string is too thin, it can be too weak to get the job done. Different floss works for different mouths.

Other factors that differentiate floss are:

  • Flavored
  • Unflavored
  • Waxed
  • Unwaxed

Manufacturers are also listening to people who complain about forgetting to floss or not having enough time. Dental floss picks or dental wands are toothbrush-looking devices that have floss attached at the end instead of brush bristles. They come in a variety of sizes, flavors and colors and are perfect for leaving in your purse, car, truck, locker or bathroom. There are also mechanical flossers, which are more expensive but are ideal for people who may have arthritis.

How to Floss Your Teeth

The American Dental Association recommends that individuals floss at least one or more times per day, and they also recommend a certain technique to be used for it to be considered correct flossing:

Step 1: Always wash your hands before removing the floss and sticking your fingers in your mouth

Step 2: Pull out a good amount of floss, at least 18 inches.

Step 3: Wrap one end of floss around your middle or index finger, and the other end wrapped on the same finger, opposite hand.

Step 4: Slide the floss in between your teeth

Step 5: Form a “C” shape as your wrap the floss around each tooth

Step 6: While C-shaped, pull the floss upward from the gum line to the top of the tooth

Step 7: Use a fresh section of the floss for each tooth

As you get good at the correct technique of flossing, you’ll be able to choose which type of floss is best for you. Not all floss works well for people. Either way, the correct technique will encourage you to continue flossing daily and improve your overall oral health.

Flossing Tips

  • Here are a few tips to keep in mind while flossing:
  • Always apply the same amount of pressure against the sides of your teeth
  • Never draw the floss into your gum tissue
  • If your gums bleed for more than a week after practicing proper flossing techniques, you may want to consider calling the dentist for a check-up
  • Daily flossing minimizes plaque and tartar
  • The best floss for you is the one you use daily
  • Dentists provide fun flossers for kids to promote oral health

Page updated February 2011



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