The Finer Points of Flossing

When is the best time to floss? Find out.

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Ready for a quick quiz? Let’s go!

  • 1) Who should floss?
  • 2) Where should we floss?
  • 3) How should we floss?
  • 4) What time should we floss?


  • 1) Anyone who has two teeth that touch each other. Which means even young children should have their teeth flossed.1
  • 2) Between our teeth, and around our gum lines, including behind our back teeth.2
  • 3) Gently and on a daily basis.3
  • 4) Read on! We’ll help you brush up on your flossing know-how.

Flossing 101

All dentists agree: for a healthy mouth, flossing your teeth is just as important as brushing. Floss can reach the places a toothbrush can’t, clearing out tiny bits of food that get trapped in our gums or between our teeth.

And getting rid of those bits is vital. Trapped food grows bacteria, and bacteria leads to gum disease.

Furthermore, gum disease can lead to other health problems. New studies show that bacteria in a less-than-healthy mouth can spread to other parts of your body.4

Many floss options (and more)

There are different kinds of floss. You may have to try a few to see what works for you.

  • People whose teeth are close together may prefer waxed or Teflon-coated floss. This floss is designed to slide between teeth a little more easily. Other people are happy with unwaxed floss.
  • “Comfort floss” is an option for sensitive gums.
  • Sometimes you can find floss in several thicknesses. See what works best for you.
  • “Dental tape” is another option for people who have wider spaces between their teeth.
  • Flavored floss – mint is a favorite – can reward you with a fresher feeling.
  • “Flossers” are small dental picks that are pre-threaded with floss, making it easy to floss with one hand. These are very handy to keep at your desk, your night table, or your car. They make it easy to floss often, even after each meal if you wish.
  • If you have trouble handling dental floss, don’t give up! There are other options. Try a dental pick – basically a sterile toothpick. You can also use a wooden “plaque remover.”
  • Keep it clean – don’t re-use your floss. Start with fresh floss every time.
  • Finally, some sources say you should rinse your mouth with water after every flossing.5 offers a simple illustrated fact sheet on how to floss your own teeth or your children’s.

Now let's talk timing

The American Dental Association (ADA) says it really doesn’t really matter if you floss before or after you brush. But some say that, when you clean the spaces between your teeth before you brush, you help the fluoride in your toothpaste work better by giving it more tooth surface to cover.6

However, others say that brushing first will remove some plaque, which makes flossing go faster.7

Some sources say it’s best to floss before bedtime. It’s believed that our mouths produce less saliva at night, and saliva helps keep bacteria from growing. Thus, it’s important to go to bed with your teeth as clean as they can be.

Bottom line: when do you have two minutes?

The American Dental Association says a good flossing takes about two minutes. If you’re too tired at bedtime, maybe first thing in the morning would work better. Or you could floss after lunch.

One tip from experts: find something else you can do while flossing. Watch TV, listen to some music, whatever helps you be consistent. At the end of the day – or the beginning, or middle, depending on when you choose to do it – the American Dental Association says it’s just important that you floss, period.

Here’s another source for flossing tips and pointers.

So find the floss that works best for you, find two minutes every day, and start a healthy habit that can help your teeth last a lifetime.


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