How to Floss Your Teeth Correctly

Cleaning between your teeth each day is an important part of maintaining good oral health. Flossing is one effective method of making sure debris is removed from in between your teeth. Here's a step-by-step guide to flossing the right way.


Choose Your Floss

closeup of toothbrush and dental floss

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Many types of floss are available, either from your dentist or a local retailer. Choose one that will meet your needs. For example, some people have difficulty with floss snagging and breaking because their teeth are in tight contact. There is floss designed for that purpose.

If you have limited dexterity, try using a flossing aid designed to eliminate the need to use both hands. You can discuss your needs with your dentist and get a recommendation.

Look for the ADA Seal of Acceptance on any products you use as an assurance that they have been evaluated for safety and effectiveness. These products currently include dental floss, a wooden plaque remover, and a water flosser.


Dispense the Floss

woman's hands holding dental floss

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Before brushing your teeth, take approximately 18 inches of floss and wind each end around your middle fingers. Grasp 1 to 2 inches of the floss with your index (pointer) finger and thumb.


Begin Flossing

Photo Courtesy of Shawn Marie Watson

Gently glide the floss in between the teeth in a sawing motion. Use care not to snap the floss between the teeth as this may cause trauma to the tissue or the tooth itself.


Angle the Floss Correctly

Man flossing his teeth
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Angle the floss so it hugs the tooth in a “c” shape. Gently slide the floss up and down the surface of the tooth making sure it goes slightly below the gum line.

When complete, angle the floss to hug the tooth in the opposite direction and repeat this step.


Floss Between All of Your Teeth

man flossing teeth

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Continue flossing all of the upper and lower teeth. Try working in a clockwise direction, beginning with your upper molars on your left side and then ending with your lower molars on your left side. As you move on to each set teeth, unwind the floss from your fingers, and rewind it so there is a clean section of floss to use.

When you have completed flossing, toss the used floss and don't save it to reuse. If you use it again, you reintroduce bacteria and debris that you just worked so hard to remove.


Be Sure to Brush Your Teeth

woman running toothbrush under water

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When you have finished flossing, follow with brushing and rinse with either water or mouthwash. You don't necessarily have to brush your teeth after flossing, so don't skip flossing if you don't have a toothbrush and sink handy.

The American Dental Association doesn't take a stand on whether flossing before or after brushing is preferable, and there aren't good studies that say one way is better than the other. What matters is that you clean between your teeth well every day and that you brush your teeth twice a day.

Floss or use another method to clean between your teeth at least once a day and make it part of your routine. If you don't have time for flossing in the morning, always floss in the evening before your final brush of the day.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Dental Association. Floss/interdental cleaners.

  2. Colgate. Flossing teeth properly, how to floss.

  3. Hunt I, Ryatt S. Aggressive flossing. Br Dent J. 2013;214(11):539. doi:10.1038/sj.bdj.2013.536

  4. Anoka Dental. Why you should not reuse dental floss.

Additional Reading

By Shawn Watson
Shawn Watson is an orthodontic dental assistant and writer with over 10 years of experience working in the field of dentistry.