Cleaning between your teeth with floss is a necessary and often overlooked way to clean deep in between teeth and in the crevices where teeth contact each other. The bristles of a toothbrush often cannot reach these areas, making flossing an essential part of preventing decay and infected, swollen gum tissue. You may find our Flossing Video useful in illustrating the techniques described below.
With braces, it is difficult to floss normally because the archwire and other orthodontic appliances can get in the way. The best way to work around the braces is to thread the floss underneath the wire so that the line of floss can then be fit between the teeth. Depending on the types of appliances you have, or the anatomical shape of your gum tissue, you may need to use an orthodontic floss threader to help. This is a small plastic device that helps guide the end of floss accurately. Additionally, you may wish to try “superfloss" which are separate strands of thick floss with much stiffer ends to help with threading under the wire. Your orthodontist will usually provide you with a floss threader or a type of superfloss as you start treatment.
To floss, gently push the floss through the contact point of two teeth. Then, wrap the floss around one tooth in the shape of the letter C and gently move the floss up and down. Make sure to clean under the gums because this is a common place where bacteria and food particles can become trapped, especially with braces on. When you are finished with the side of one tooth, clean the side of the tooth next to it the same way. Then, remove the floss from under the arch wire and continue to the next two teeth. Work your way around your mouth until the sides of all your teeth have been cleaned.
At first, flossing may take a long time, but as you practice every day, you will get better and faster at flossing your teeth. You may also be surprised as to how much cleaner your teeth look and feel, and how much healthier your gums appear with regular flossing. Make it a habit to floss at least once a day – and certainly at each appointment with your orthodontist when the wires are removed. As you begin, you may notice some minor bleeding around your gums. This is OK – it is a result of tissue swelling and irritation from food debris, and an indication that flossing is needed! As you continue to floss regularly, you should notice a decrease in bleeding and tissue redness.
Many patients underestimate the importance of flossing. Remember that flossing cleans areas of the teeth and gums that brushing alone cannot. With proper brushing and flossing habits, your teeth and gums will be clean and healthy, and you will be on your way to having your new beautiful smile!
Back to Braces Care>>
Dr. Charchut is a Board Certified Orthodontist practicing in both Lansing and St. Johns, Michigan. Read more about Dr. Charchut.