How to Floss

Daily, dentist-approved ways to clean between your teeth

Food stuck in your teeth? Bad breath? Dentist asked the last time you flossed? No matter what brought you here, flossing your teeth is the perfect way to keep your gums healthy, and it’s such an easy addition to your daily routine. Even if you’ve never flossed before, we have you covered! We’ll walk you through the best way to floss as well as some tricks and alternatives you can try so your teeth look and feel great.

[Edit]Things You Should Know

  • Use a piece of dental floss and wrap it around your fingers. Pull a section taut.
  • Work the floss between your teeth with a gentle back-and-forth motion. Guide the floss up to your gum line.
  • Pull the floss tight against the side of your tooth. Rub between your gums and your tooth with floss using 8–10 strokes.
  • ​​Floss your teeth once daily before you brush your teeth to remove the most plaque.


[Edit]How to Use Dental Floss

  1. Wrap of floss around your middle fingers. Tear off a long strand of floss so it’s easier to grip. Wind the ends of the floss around your middle fingers, but not so tightly that it digs into your skin or cuts off circulation. Leave a few inches of the floss unwrapped between your fingers.[1]
    Floss Step 1 Version 6.jpg
    • Look for the American Dental Association (ADA) logo on the packaging when you’re choosing dental floss to ensure it’s safe to use.
    • It’s okay if you accidentally use a shorter piece of floss, but it may be a little tougher to hold onto when you floss your back teeth.
    • Wash your hands before you start flossing so germs and bacteria don’t get in your mouth.
  2. Hold a section taut with your index fingers and thumbs. Pinch the floss with your fingers and pull it tight so there isn’t any slack. That way, you’ll have a lot easier time getting it between your teeth.[2]
    Floss Step 2 Version 6.jpg
    • Use a length of floss that’s easy for you to maneuver in your mouth. If you have a hard time flossing with a section, then try pulling of floss taut instead.
  3. Slide the floss between your teeth with back-and-forth motions. Start with your top front teeth since they’re the easiest to reach. Use a gentle rocking motion to guide the floss into the gap between your teeth, and slowly move the floss up towards your gums.[3]
    Floss Step 3 Version 6.jpg
    • Be careful not to forcefully push the floss up since you could hurt your gums or make them bleed.
  4. Curve the floss into a C-shape around the base of your tooth. Pull the floss so it presses tightly against the side of your tooth. This helps you scrape the most plaque and buildup stuck to your tooth so you can get them clean.[4] Gently move the floss up further toward your gum line as far as you comfortably can go.[5]
    Floss Step 4 Version 6.jpg
    • Avoid pushing the floss into your gums so far that it hurts.
  5. Rub the dental floss between your tooth and your gums. Floss the tooth on one side before you clean the tooth on the other side.[6] Work the floss gently between your gums and your tooth to break apart the buildup. Use 8–10 back-and-forth strokes to completely scrape off the plaque. Rub the floss against the side of your tooth as well. When you’re finished cleaning the sides of both teeth, slowly pull the floss out from between them.[7]
    Floss Step 5 Version 6.jpg
    • If you haven’t flossed in a while, it’s completely normal for your gums to bleed a little bit. After a few days of consistent flossing, the bleeding will go away.[8] If you’re still bleeding after 3–5 days of flossing, talk to a dentist to see if you’re dealing with any other gum issues.[9]
    • If you can still feel food or debris stuck between your teeth, switch to a fresh section of floss and clean that area again.
  6. Use a new section of floss between each of your teeth. Wrap the section of floss you just used around your middle finger and pinch a clean section between your fingers. Floss between all of your top teeth before moving onto your bottom teeth. Make sure you loop the floss around the backs of your rear molars to clean them too.[10]
    Floss Step 6 Version 6.jpg
    • If you have trouble reaching the teeth in the back of your mouth, secure your floss into a floss holder. Hold onto the handle so you can reach your molars.
    • Follow the same pattern each time you floss your teeth to make sure you don’t miss any spots.
    • When you finish flossing, ball it up and toss it in the trash.

[Edit]Flossing with Braces

  1. Use waxed floss to prevent it from breaking or tangling. Waxed floss has a coating that makes it easier to slide between the tight spaces between your braces and teeth. It also doesn’t shred as easily against the metal brackets or bands, so it won’t fray when you’re flossing between your braces.[11]
    Floss Step 7 Version 6.jpg
  2. Thread the floss behind the wires of your braces. Stand in front of a mirror so it’s easier to see what you’re doing. Guide the end of your floss under your brace’s wire between your 2 front teeth. Once you pull the floss through, gently guide it between your teeth and rub it back and forth to remove plaque or leftover food debris.[12]
    Floss Step 8 Version 6.jpg
    • If you have trouble slipping the floss between the wire and your teeth, loop it through a floss threader first. Then, feed the floss threader under the wire and pull it through with the floss.
    • If you can’t get standard floss between your teeth, try using an orthodontic flosser that has a narrow tip on the end. Guide the tip under your braces wire to remove plaque and food debris.
    • After you finish flossing, brush your teeth to clean off any plaque you loosened up.

[Edit]Alternative Flossing Tools

  1. Floss pick{endbold} Floss picks are single-use pieces of floss attached to plastic handles so you can easily reach the back of your mouth. Simply hold onto the handle and gently work the piece of floss in between your teeth down to your gum line. Then, rub the floss against the sides of your teeth like you normally would to floss.[13]
    Floss Step 9 Version 6.jpg
    • Floss picks usually have a pointed end at the bottom of the handle that you can use to pick out food stuck between your teeth.
  2. Interdental brush{endbold} An interdental brush has a single bristle head attached to a handle, and it works best to clean between larger gaps in your teeth. Gently push the bristles in between the gaps of your teeth so it has a snug fit. Guide the the brush up and down the sides of your teeth to scrape off all the plaque and buildup.[14]
    Floss Step 10 Version 5.jpg
    • Avoid forcing the brush between your teeth since it could be painful.
  3. Water flosser{endbold} A water flosser sprays a steady stream that helps rinse out any food debris or loose buildup between your teeth. To use a water flosser, fill the tank with water, position the sprayer's tip between your teeth, and turn it on. Spray the water along your gum line to get rid of the plaque and buildup.[15]
    Floss Step 11 Version 2.jpg
    • Many experts say that you can’t use water flossers in place of brushing and flossing since they remove all the plaque and buildup. Try using them in addition to your regular flossing routine or in a pinch if you don’t have floss available.[16]

[Edit]When to Floss

  1. Floss before you brush your teeth to remove more plaque. After you remove buildup with your floss, your toothpaste is more effective since it can reach your enamel better. Brushing is also a great way to get rid of any plaque or food scraps that you loosened up with your floss.[17]
    Floss Step 12 Version 2.jpg
  2. Try to floss at least once a day. It doesn’t matter if you floss in the morning, after lunch, or at night right before you go to bed. As long as you’re flossing daily, you’ll improve your oral hygiene and keep your gums healthy.[18]
    Floss Step 13 Version 2.jpg
    • If you ever get food caught in your teeth, floss right afterward to remove it.



  • Use mouthwash after you finish flossing to help clean out any residual plaque or food scraps that you removed.[19]
  • Try flavored dental floss if you want to have minty fresh breath when you’re finished cleaning your teeth.


  • It’s okay if your gums bleed a little when you first start flossing. However, contact your dentist if your gums still bleed after you floss for 3–5 days since it may be a sign you have an oral infection that requires medication.[20]

[Edit]Related wikiHows


[Edit]Quick Summary

  5. Tu Anh Vu, DMD. Dentist. Personal interview. 7 May 2020.
  6. Tu Anh Vu, DMD. Dentist. Personal interview. 7 May 2020.
  8. Tu Anh Vu, DMD. Dentist. Personal interview. 7 May 2020.