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Flossing — A Different Approach

Flossing is important but challenging for some — This approach may make your life easier

A Consultation with Karen Cabrestante Markopoulos, RDH

Dear Doctor,
Flossing I have struggled with flossing for years, strangling my fingers and not really getting all the plaque off from between my teeth. Is there an easier way?

Dear Mary,
Thanks for your question — you are not alone in your frustration and I would like to suggest an alternative and simpler technique that I teach to many people. It takes a little practice, but I can virtually guarantee that once you get it down your attitude will be a lot more positive.

Research suggests that while most people will habitually brush their teeth, developing a flossing habit is still a bit more difficult. Flossing however, remains the best method for most effectively removing plaque from between the teeth where the brush won't reach.

Flossing remains the best method for most effectively removing plaque from between the teeth where the brush won't reach.

There are also a couple of other obstacles that we need to overcome to make flossing easier. In addition to the problems you have encountered, in my clinical experience, I find that the floss technique itself is frustrating for too many people. There is also a tendency for people to tighten their cheeks making it even more difficult to get their fingers into their mouths to floss effectively. The techniques used should be easier and more relaxing; you shouldn't need to be tense therefore “getting in your own way.”

I would like to introduce you to another technique that has helped many people floss more comfortably and efficiently. So remember to keep your facial muscles relaxed and try this new method that I like to call the “ring of floss” where the hardest part is just like life itself for some people — tying the knot! You'll see what I mean.

Below is a variation on flossing technique; it still requires a degree of dexterity and importantly practice and perseverance to become comfortable and efficient.

A step by step look at this approach to flossing:
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Step 1: Take a length of your favorite type of floss (waxed, un-waxed, tape, etc) about 10 – 12 inches. Make the floss into a circle that will allow all your fingers to just fit within it, excluding your thumbs. Step 2: Double knot the floss in a circle — this is the hardest part of the exercise — the double knot is to stop the knot from slipping. The knots must be in the same place — an old seamstress technique. Step 3: Now you're ready — the difficult part is over and this technique makes flossing much easier — no more fingers turning blue.
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Step 4: To floss your upper teeth — place all fingers in the ring, with floss over the left thumb and right index finger — floss upper left teeth. For the upper right teeth, use the right thumb and left index finger. Step 5: Keep the floss taut at all times, no more than 1/2 – 1 inch between the thumb and index fingers, (or index fingers only for the lower teeth). Step 6: “C” wrap the floss to curve around the shape of each tooth. Move the floss vertically, curving it gently up and down 3 – 6 times until the tooth feels “squeaky” clean, being careful that the floss goes just below the gum tissue without hurting or damaging the gums.
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Step 7: Move around the floss circle using a clean area of it for each tooth or few teeth. Step 8: Using both index fingers — floss all lower teeth. If you are too quick and/or vigorous the floss can cut into the gum tissue — this technique should not cause the slightest discomfort. Step 9: Flossing thoroughly once a day before or after brushing should be enough to keep your gums healthy. Practice makes perfect — this technique requires a degree of dexterity and importantly practice and perseverance to master it.

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