Why should I use dental floss?

You're advised to use interdental brushes in addition to brushing as part of your daily oral health routine from the age of 12.

Some people may not have large enough spaces in between their teeth to use an interdental brush, so flossing can be a useful alternative.

Your dental team can show you how best to clean between your teeth.

How to use dental floss

Dental floss is a thin, soft thread. If you find floss hard to use, you can try dental tape, which is thicker.

Don't be too aggressive with the floss: you risk harming your gums. The main action of flossing is a firm but gentle scraping of the tooth from the top down.

Your dental team can advise you about using dental floss.

Flossing tips

  • Break off about 45cm (18in) of floss, and wind some around one finger of each hand.
  • Hold the floss tightly between your thumbs and forefingers, with about an inch of floss between them, leaving no slack.
  • Use a gentle "rocking" motion to guide the floss between your teeth. Don't snap the floss into the gums.
  • When the floss reaches your gumline, curve it into a C-shape against one tooth until you feel resistance.
  • Hold the floss against the tooth. Gently scrape the side of the tooth, moving the floss away from the gum. Repeat on the other side of the gap, along the side of the next tooth.
  • Don't forget the back of your last tooth.
  • When flossing, keep to a regular pattern. Start at the top and work from left to right, then move to the bottom and again work from the left to right. This way you're less likely to miss any teeth. 

What if my gums bleed?

When you first start flossing, your gums may be tender and bleed a little. Carry on flossing your teeth as directed by your dental team and the bleeding should stop as your gums become healthier.

If you're still getting regular bleeding after a few days, see your dental team. They can check if you're flossing correctly.

What if I find flossing difficult?

If you find flossing difficult, your dental team can give you advice about other ways of cleaning between your teeth.   

Further information

Page last reviewed: 26/01/2017

Next review due: 26/01/2020