To floss effectively, you need to know two things.
- What are you trying to do?
- How to hold the floss.
If you understand that you are attempting to disrupt plaque colonies off the surfaces of teeth, you are more likely not to injure yourself when flossing. Plaque is soft and for the most part invisible to the eye. Unlike stains and heavy deposits called calculus (formed over time when dead plaque hardens using the minerals in saliva) plaque is easily disrupted by direct light contact. Between teeth where tooth brush bristles cannot reach, floss works extremely well. If you floss between the contacts of two teeth you will eliminate the risk for new decay to develop. If you carry the floss down the surface of the tooth to where the plaque is closer to the gum tissue, you can essentially reverse gingivitis.
The cleaning of a surface by running a small string up and down is usually not the problem when people attempt to floss for the first time. The real problem is in how they try to hold the floss. If you wrap the floss around your pointing or first fingers, you will have a very difficult time cleaning back teeth. However, if you wrap the floss around the third fingers on both hands and then use your pointing fingers and thumbs to manipulate the floss, you will likely discover that flossing is not that difficult.
Having just stated that flossing, for the most part, is not difficult to do, there are exceptions. A few people only have one hand, for example. Also there are people with muscle and nerve disorders that result in making flossing extremely difficult. write me and let me know if you have physical limitations that keep you from effective flossing. In time, I will have information on these flossing topics as well.
Alternatives to Flossing
Normally flossing is best accomplished when you have two adjacent teeth touching with a fairly tight contact. If the contact is too tight and you are tearing floss, let your dentist know. This is a problem and over time may result in decay forming in this area.
Where the teeth are wider apart flossing becomes a little trickier because as you move the floss up and down there is not a natural stop created by the contact point. When this is the case, consider using small strips of gauze. Another option is to use yarn. Try to find undyed cotton yarn rather than synthetics.
Floss holders can be very helpful. If you use one, a good idea is to take it to your next cleaning appointment and have your dentist or dental hygienist work with you on how to use it most effectively.
Toothpicks are very popular in Europe. The risk in using a toothpick is accidentally poking your gums. I have actually done this to myself and so can speak from experience. A day or so after I poked myself a small abscess formed. The reason was because the toothpick carried bacteria into my tissues. If this happens and you discover a small gum boil, or if you break off a toothpick between your teeth, do see your dentist as soon as possible.