The importance of flossing: tips for flossing properly

Oral health is critical to overall well-being. While brushing is a crucial part of maintaining healthy teeth and gums, flossing is just as important. However, many people overlook the importance of flossing, leading to serious dental problems down the line.

For many people, flossing is not their favourite part of a daily dental hygiene routine. It can be tricky, sometimes painful, and it takes extra time in the bathroom, however, we’re here to let you know how important flossing is and why you need to stick with it to protect your overall oral health.

In this blog post, we will discuss the importance of flossing, the benefits it provides, and provide tips on how to floss properly.

What is flossing?

Flossing is the process of removing plaque and food particles from between teeth with the use of dental floss or other flossing tools and techniques.

Dental floss is a thin, waxed thread that is inserted between the teeth and then moved up and down to scrape away any build-up. Alternative flossing methods include water flossers, air flossers and, interdental brushes as well as flossing sticks.

Woman using a water flosser

Any of these methods is an acceptable way to floss your teeth so choose the one that best suits you or speak to your dentist or hygienist who will be more than happy to provide you with further advice as to the best flossing method for you.

Why is flossing important?

Flossing is important because it removes plaque and food particles from between teeth and below the gum line, where a toothbrush cannot reach. If left unchecked, this build-up can lead to cavities, gum disease, and even tooth loss. Regular flossing can also help prevent bad breath by removing food particles that can cause odour.

Flossing is essentially cleaning between your teeth and it is important not to lose sight of what you are trying to achieve when you floss. No matter what tool you use – whether it’s traditional floss or something else, it’s crucial to clean the spaces between your teeth every day to ensure you remove the daily build-up of food debris and plaque.

What happens if I don’t floss my teeth?

Failing to clean between your teeth every day using a method of flossing can lead to a number of dental problems including:

  • Tartar – it is essential to remove the daily build-up of plaque that can form on and between your teeth. If left unchecked, plaque will harden into tartar and once this occurs, you will not be able to clean it on your own and will instead require a trip to the dentist or hygienist.
  • Gum disease – perhaps one of the most common issues found with people that don’t floss is gum disease. This is because the build-up of plaque and tartar can lead to sensitive and inflamed gums: the symptoms of gum disease. It’s important to tackle this as early as possible. Early-stage gum disease (gingivitis) is treatable, however, later-stage gum disease (periodontitis) is irreversible.
  • Cavities – if left unchecked, the build-up of plaque can lead to tooth decay, creating holes in your teeth harder layer (enamel). This can be extremely painful and infection can develop if left untreated.

Whilst brushing can help with the prevention of some of these issues, it doesn’t remove all of the plaque on its own. That’s why flossing is such an important part of your daily oral hygiene routine.

Benefits of flossing

We have already talked about the importance of flossing and the potential risks of not flossing every day and here are some of the key benefits of flossing:

  1. Helps to prevent gum disease: Flossing helps to remove plaque and food particles from between the teeth and along the gumline. This build-up can lead to gum disease, which can cause redness, swelling, and bleeding. If early-stage gum disease is not treated, this can lead to a more serious infection known as periodontitis which can cause your gums to recede or pull away from your teeth. As well as flossing every day, regular professional cleaning can help to keep your teeth and gums healthy.
  2. Reduces the risk of cavities: Tooth decay can results in the formation of cavities – tiny holes or openings in the enamel of your teeth. If plaque and other debris are allowed to build up between your teeth, you run a much higher risk of developing cavities. Brushing your teeth twice a day along with regular flossing can prevent cavities and keep your teeth healthy.
  3. Reduces bad breath: Bad breath, also known as halitosis, is a common problem that can be tackled with regular flossing. One of the main causes of halitosis is the build-up of food debris between your teeth that slowly starts to decay. If this is not removed, it can lead to bad-smelling breath. Cavities and gum disease can also lead to bad breath so flossing is an essential way of keeping your breath smelling fresh.
  4. Gets rid of plaque: we have already talked about the benefits of getting rid of plaque, however, it is one of the main benefits of flossing. Plaque is not something that is easy to see which is why it often goes unchecked. It is a colourless, sticky film that forms over and around your teeth and whilst brushing will help to remove the plaque build-up from the tooth surface, it’s important to remove the build-up of plaque from between your teeth. That’s where flossing comes in.
  5. Improves overall health: Poor oral health can lead to other health problems, such as heart disease and diabetes. According to a large 2019 study, participants who adhered to a high standard of oral hygiene had a decreased risk of atrial fibrillation and heart failure. Flossing can improve your oral health and prevent these health problems from occurring.

Tips for flossing properly

Use enough floss

If you are new to flossing or simply want a refresher on the best way to floss your teeth, here are some tips for proper flossing:

  1. Use the right floss: There are many types of dental floss on the market, so it’s important to find one that works best for you. Some people prefer waxed floss, while others prefer unwaxed floss. There are also floss picks available, which can be easier to use for some people. If you don’t enjoy the feeling of floss between your teeth, you may want to try an air flosser or water flosser which rely on pressure to clean out the plaque and debris between your teeth.
  2. Use enough floss: Use about 18 inches of floss and wind most of it around one of your middle fingers. Wind the remaining floss around the same finger on the other hand. This will give you enough floss to work with.
  3. Slide the floss between your teeth: Gently slide the floss between your teeth, using a back-and-forth motion. Be careful not to snap the floss into your gums, as this can be painful.
  4. Curve the floss: Curve the floss around the base of each tooth, making a C-shape. Slide the floss up and down along the sides of each tooth.
  5. Use a clean section of floss: As you move from tooth to tooth, use a clean section of floss. This will ensure that you are not transferring bacteria from one tooth to another.
  6. Be gentle: Flossing should not be painful. If you experience pain or bleeding, it could be a sign of gum disease. Speak to your dentist if you experience these symptoms.
  7. Floss daily: Flossing should be done once a day, ideally before bed. This will remove any build-up that has accumulated throughout the day.

Flossing FAQs

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions we get at Hamilton Dental Centre when it comes to flossing:

Is it important to floss every day?

Absolutely. Plaque and food debris can build up every day and if left unchecked, this can lead to all sorts of dental problems. Most dental associations recommend flossing at least once a day to remove plaque and debris that can lead to cavities and gum disease. Some people prefer to floss as part of their morning routine whilst others prefer to floss the last thing before they go to bed, making sure their teeth are clean before going to sleep.

What would happen if you don’t floss?

If you don’t floss at all, plaque quickly builds up between your teeth and gums. This then starts to harden and forms plaque on your teeth which is extremely difficult to remove without professional help from a dentist or hygienist. If you don’t floss, this build-up of plaque and tartar can lead to gingivitis, leading to red and swollen gums which are easily irritated and can bleed when you brush. In the long term, not flossing can lead to gum disease and cavities.

Is it too late to start flossing?

It’s never too late to start flossing! Depending on how regularly you visit your dentist, along with your other dental hygiene practices such as brushing, mouth washing, and even chewing sugar-free gum, you will hopefully be in a position where you have not already got a build-up of tartar on your teeth. Adding flossing into your daily oral hygiene routine at any stage of life will help to keep plaque under control and reduce your reliance on your dentist or hygienist to remove plaque and tartar build-up.

How long does it take before flossing makes a difference?

If you have never flossed before, it can be quite daunting (and painful) when you first start. Your teeth and gums will not be used to the cleaning process of getting in between your teeth and below your gum line with a flossing product. This can lead to some irritation in the first 2-3 days of starting flossing, however, after a week to ten days, you should be used to the process and your gum tissue will start to toughen. Even after one day, flossing will start to make a difference as you will instantly start to remove the build-up of plaque between your teeth and gums.

Why does it smell when I floss?

The most common cause of a bad smell when you floss is decaying food debris caught between your teeth. If food is caught between your teeth for more than 24 hours, it starts to rot and this is the smell that can then be transferred to your flossing string as you floss. If you notice a smell every time you floss, this could be a sign of a deeper lying issue and you should look to book an appointment with your dentist if the smell is more persistent when you floss.

Should I floss or brush first?

Most dentists will recommend that you floss before you brush your teeth. This is because flossing can dislodge both food debris and plaque which can be left behind on your teeth if you have already brushed. Flossing before brushing can also help with greater fluoride retention between your teeth. If you like to use mouthwash, it is recommended that you rinse your mouth first to remove any debris, then floss, then brush.

How often should I floss?

Dental associations and dentists all recommend flossing at least once a day.

What happens if you don’t floss for two weeks?

If you don’t floss for a couple of weeks, plaque will start to build up between your teeth and around your gums. When you start to floss again after a couple of weeks, you might already start to notice some swelling of your gums and it might be painful to floss for a few days. As you start to floss again on a regular build-up, you will start to remove the plaque that has built up, however, if any has already hardened into tartar, you will need a dental professional to remove this on your next visit.

Is it best to floss in the morning or at night?

Whilst the time of the day at which you floss boils down to personal preference, there are some advantages to flossing at night rather than in the morning. Flossing at night will remove any food debris or plaque that might have built up over the course of the day, meaning you go to bed with your teeth feeling super clean and fresh. This also means you wake up with teeth feeling cleaner than if you just brush them at night. Whether you floss in the morning or evening, making sure you floss at least once a day is the most important thing.


Flossing is an important part of maintaining healthy teeth and gums. Regular flossing can prevent gum disease, and cavities, and save you money on dental procedures in the long run. By following the tips listed above, you can ensure that you are flossing properly and reaping all the benefits of this important oral hygiene practice.

It’s also important to note that flossing should not replace regular dental visits. Even with proper flossing, it’s still important to see your dentist regularly for cleanings and checkups. Your dentist can identify any dental problems early on and provide treatment before they become more serious.

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