Cleaning In-between your Teeth

There are numerous gadgets and gismos for cleaning in-between your teeth; the most important are our beloved friends – dental floss, dental tape and their partner- fighting crime in-between the teeth- the interdental brush. I am not really a fan of tooth picks and wooden sticks apart from dislodging chunks of food stuck in between teeth- their use in plaque removal is limited and they need to be used carefully to avoid damaging your gums.


Flossing flossing flossing… the pain of my life!

How many times has your dentist told you- you need to floss more and yet somehow you just don’t find the time or the inclination.

Why does it need me saying to a patient, “Now you have 8 teeth with early dental decay (just in the enamel layer) and these are all going to need filling if something doesn’t change. I mean flossing- YES every single day and getting some extra fluoride in there”.

The fear of the cost and multiple dental visits; time, inconvenience, injections- is usually enough to make patients floss as routinely as they should have done in the first place (but not always). Some people are simply too lazy or just don’t care enough to do it. I have a written a chapter on changing oral habits for these people and crazy as it sounds, the dedication of flossing every night is an amazing metaphor for life.

If you had come in a year or two down the line, it may have been a very different story with those 8 teeth and too late to adopt a ‘watch and wait’ approach… The dental caries may have progressed to dentine in 7 of the teeth, meaning 7 fillings were needed and one could have gone even further into the nerve and now needs a root canal treatment. Not what you want to hear is it? Ask yourself, is it worth the risk?

In addition to flossing, extra fluoride and reducing the amount of sugar in the diet would be needed to turn this around. But without regular dental visits and screening X-rays at appropriate intervals, it wouldn’t have been picked up until even later and this would have meant further problems and more complex work.

If you floss occasionally, you never really reap the benefits i.e. once a week or less. By this I mean you never get good enough at it, so that it’s fast, painless, without bleeding. The effect at reducing interproximal caries, (decay in between your teeth) is very minimal unless you floss virtually every day.

So here’s the deal… the seven day flossing challenge. (dramatic music playing…)

Are you man (or woman) enough to commit for the sake of your teeth, bank balance and general health to Flossing EVERY night for one whole week.

Honestly, as pathetically easy as this sounds, I would guarantee that only 1 in 5 of you who attempt it, will actually do it… Try it, prove me wrong 🙂

By the end of the flossing challenge you will:

  • Have much sweeter smelling floss after you have flossed
  • The bleeding will have stopped
  • It will no longer be painful
  • You will be able to do your whole mouth in ¼ of the time it took you to begin with- I reckon it takes me no more than a minute to do my whole mouth.

These are the biggest obstacles to overcome with flossing and successfully completing ‘the challenge’ allows you conquer them in a single week. If you gums could speak they would crying out ‘Thank You Master…. THANK YOU!’

How do I Floss?

To floss:

  • Take a good length of dental floss or dental tape and wrap it around your fingers so there is just a small space of floss exposed- this means you have good control.
  • Pass the floss gently through the teeth- don’t push too hard and try not to saw too much- just enough until you feel it start to go past the point where the two teeth contact- you should hear a little click (assuming the teeth contact). This will remove the plaque from directly in between the teeth and also dislodge any food you may have trapped there.
  • Now gently wipe the floss down the one side of the tooth and then move over the triangle of gum to the opposite tooth and do the same thing- taking it just a little below the gum each time.
  • Remove the floss, wrap on to a fresh bit (so you don’t go and put the rubbish straight back in between the next teeth) and repeat, working your way around the mouth.
  • Then get a new piece of floss and do all the teeth in the other jaw.

Why does it Bleed when I Floss?

The first few days you spit out, expect to see blood in your saliva. This should stop after one week of flossing.

The reason for this is you have gingivitis in between your teeth– your gums are swollen and inflamed there.

The treatment for generalized gingivitis is, as you may recall, to remove the plaque through better brushing. The only difference here, is that because the toothbrush doesn’t get in between the teeth, your weapon of choice is different i.e. it’s all about the flossing.

Floss -> remove the plaque -> gingitivis in between the teeth clears up-> bleeding stops.


The Do’s and Don’ts of Flossing


  • Do start in one position and end in one position- i.e. your flossing must be systematic.
  • Do floss all your teeth.
  • Do move along the floss to use a fresh bit for in-between each contact.
  • Do floss once every evening so you are going to sleep without food and plaque in-between your teeth. Saliva, (your natural protection) dries up when you go to sleep, so any sugar, plaque and food stuck in-between your teeth is much more damaging at this time. Flossing in the morning isn’t necessary (unless you want to.


  • Don’t just floss your front teeth because they are easier to do- you need to floss in-between all of your teeth. It is important to do all of the teeth, not just the front ones and the more tricky (i.e. the very back teeth) the floss is to get in, the more plaque that is likely to have collected there and the more beneficial it will be. Persevere, you will get there and if the angle or way you are doing it doesn’t seem to be working, just change it a bit, until it does.
  • Don’t saw into your gums you will only hurt them- gently wipe down the side of the teeth either side. If you are too hard when you floss and saw into your gums, you will cause soreness and more bleeding.

Top 6 Reasons why People don’t Floss

Top 6 Reasons why people don’t floss:

  1. It hurts – (only to begin with)
  2. It bleeds – (only for the first few days)
  3. It’s too tight – (generally they are just not quite in the right position- get your dentist to check)
  4. Don’t know how – (…well they do now)
  5. They don’t have time- (oh come on!)
  6. THEY ARE LAZY OR FORGET (make it a habit guys- put the floss next to your toothbrush)