While brushing twice a day is critically important for your ongoing dental hygiene, the real secret of a cavity-free mouth is in flossing. If you’re flossing correctly, you’ll be able to keep that beautiful smile longer and avoid a lot of the problems that come from tooth decay.

So here’s the big secret of fantastic flossing: not only does it save your teeth, but it saves you time and money. Not flossing leads to cavities, gum disease, and infections, and treating those conditions takes time and money, especially if you end up needing implants or other major corrections.

When you floss, you remove plaque, strengthen your gums, and prevent cavities in places where brushes just can’t reach. But of course, this all depends on whether or not you’re doing it correctly.

When Should Someone Start Flossing?

Flossing should be a lifelong routine. While children probably won’t have the manual dexterity to floss properly on their own until their about 10 or 11 years old, flossing needs to be a part of their routine as soon as they have two teeth touching each other.

Floss Before or After Brushing?

Many people have an opinion on when it’s better to floss – either before or after brushing. And there is a best time to floss. That time is: whenever you will floss.

If you can do that much, the before or after brushing isn’t quite as important. Still, some people prefer to brush and use mouth rinse after flossing to ensure that the spaces between the teeth are open to receive more fluoride. There isn’t anything wrong with that plan, but again, the consistency is more important than the timing.

What If Flossing Hurts?

Flossing shouldn’t hurt, though you may feel some discomfort and notice some bleeding if you’ve been slacking off for a while. After a couple weeks, your gums should start getting healthier and the discomfort should end. If it continues to hurt, this could be one of two things.

First, you might be flossing too hard. While it’s important to be thorough, you do need to be gentle at the same time. Second, if the discomfort doesn’t ease up after a couple a weeks, or if the excessive bleeding continues, that means there’s something else going on and we need to get to work on it.

The Secret Is the Simple Technique

The real secret to healthier teeth and comes is in using the standard, simple flossing technique every day.

Just doing this once every day can make a big difference, and twice will do even more. Imagine what would happen if you did this after every meal.

To get the most out of your flossing time, follow these simple steps:

  1. Break off about 18 inches of floss.
  2. Wind most of it around one of your middle fingers, with a little around the other.
  3. Hold the floss tightly between the thumbs and forefingers of both hands.
  4. Use a gentle rubbing motion to guide the floss between the teeth.
  5. Be gentle, and don’t snap it against the gums.
  6. Curve the floss into a C shape against one tooth and against the gums.
  7. Gently slide it into the space between gum and tooth.
  8. Gently rub the side of the tooth with up and down motions, moving the floss up and away from the gums.
  9. Make sure you get every space where two teeth tough and behind your last molars.

For a great visual guide on the process, check out this video by the ADA: http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/f/flossing/

Always remember that the big secret of fantastic flossing is that there is no real secret. It’s just a matter of doing it every day and doing it right.