How to Floss With Braces in 6 Easy Steps

Every dentist will tell you how important good brushing and flossing is to the maintenance of healthy gums and teeth. When you’re wearing braces, they will repeat this and drill into your head that this must be done no matter how long it takes. What they don’t tell you is how hard it is to floss and they probably don’t even show you how to floss with braces using the correct technique.

It’s a challenge to floss the areas around the brackets and wires of the braces when using string floss. When you do get in there, how do you know if what you’re doing is right?

How to Floss With Braces Properly

To make it easier, we’ve put together a step-by-step guide on the right method to flossing with braces that will prove to be effective…

  1. Use waxed floss: This will make it easier to slide the floss in between your teeth and thread through wires without getting caught and shredded.
  2. Cut off 50 to 60 cm of string floss: There needs to be enough clean sections of thread when moving from tooth to tooth. Wind a small amount of floss around the middle finger of one hand and a bigger amount around the middle finger on your other hand.
  3. Floss around the wire of the braces: There’s no excuse to skip flossing around the wires. Simply thread the string floss through the wire and then pull on the other end to floss behind the wire and around the bracket. Do this gently in a scrubbing side to side motion to avoid pulling the wire.
  4. Getting the floss in between the teeth: Unwind the floss string to reveal a clean section and adjust this over the section of your teeth that you will be flossing. With one index finger, push the floss in between your teeth on both sides slowly until it reaches your gumline and form a ‘C’ with it around the tooth. In a sawing motion, rub the floss up and down your teeth to remove plaque, bacteria and food bits.
  5. Pull the floss out: Once you’re done, gently pull the string floss downwards and out of your teeth. Go slowly to avoid catching it on your braces. Now move on to the next tooth until every tooth has been flossed!
  6. Rinse your mouth out: After flossing is complete, it’s a good idea to rinse your mouth out with mouthwash to fully remove dislodged bits of plaque and food debris.

Just brushing alone will not be enough to clean and keep braces clean no matter how good the brushing is. If you experience discomfort or bleeding gums upon flossing after getting your braces in, this is common as your gums would be inflamed at first but it should calm down after a few days.

How Often Should You Floss?

In general, non-brace wearers should be flossing at least once a day. Dentists recommend the same for brace wearers but realistically, it should be done after every meal. More dentists are suggesting brace wearers to do this now.

Having braces means bits of food are more likely to get stuck in between the teeth and braces and linger there longer. As a result, plaque will build up more quickly leading to horrible gum overgrowth and an increased chance of decalcification.

Decalcification is accumulated plaque causing a loss of calcium in your teeth which appears as white spots on the teeth. If it’s left untreated, it leads to tooth decay and cavities but luckily the process can be reversed if it’s done early enough. This is more likely to happen to brace wearers which is why they should be flossing more often.

Disadvantages For Using String Dental Floss For Braces

Flossing with braces is already a challenge but using string dental floss to do this can make it even harder. Though this method is most popular, there are many disadvantages to using string dental floss to floss teeth:

  • It can be time consuming as it can take up to 15 minutes longer than the normal flossing time because you have to keep threading the string floss through the wires.
  • It can be hard to use as it requires a bit of patience and skill to get around the wires.
  • Braces are delicate structures so you need to use gentle pressure when pushing string floss through otherwise too much force can break the wires.
  • Although using waxed dental floss makes it easier to slide it in between teeth and less likely to break, it’s hard to get it into tight gaps especially if the teeth are overlapping which is often the case for brace wearers.

Better Alternative Flossers For Braces

Despite the difficulty of using dental string floss, brace wearers don’t need to despair as there are alternative types of flossers that are easier to use.

Floss Threader

A looped floss threader.

Floss Threader

Although technically you’re still using dental string floss, it’s made easier with this flossing aid. It’s a thin piece of flexible plastic with a big loop on one end. As it can often be hard to thread the floss through, a floss threader can be used which acts like a sewing needle and is thin enough to be pushed through with the floss to be used as usual.

Dental Tape

This is similar to string dental floss but the difference with this is that it’s wider and flatter which is better suited to teeth that have a larger surface area. Its flatness makes it thin enough to slip through the gaps in between teeth and they’re more comfortable to use when you have painful or swollen gums which can often be the case for brace wearers.

Floss Sticks

Shaped in a ‘Y’ or ‘F’ shape with a single length of string floss firmly attached between 2 prongs, this enables the user to get in between teeth easily without the need to use both hands. It’s ideal for anyone with a strong gag reflex or limited dexterity. With the end of the floss stick, it sharpens to a pick that can be used to clean under the wire and around the brackets.

Interdental TePe Brushes

These look like a miniature version of a brush which come in various colour coded sizes from 0.4 to 1.5 mm. If you want to know how to floss with braces using an interdental brush properly, you will need the correct size for the gaps in between your teeth and braces.

Tepe Interdental Brushes

If you’re unsure, your dentist will be able to advise you otherwise it may be a case of trial and error. You may find that you need a different size for each area of your teeth.

Interdental brushes can get through wires easily to get in between teeth for flossing. It can also be used to clean against the brackets and underneath the wire. Using a bit of toothpaste on the brush can give an even better clean.

It’s important to avoid using brushes that are too big to fit through and never force them through the wire in your braces otherwise it can damage your teeth and gums.

Power Air Flosser

Using just compressed air and water droplets, an airflosser is electrically powered to effectively remove plaque and food particles from the teeth and gumline in a minute. It can get under brace wires quite easily and push out food debris that’s stuck and get in between teeth as well. You barely need to do any floss work as it’s all done for you.

Electric Water Flosser

One of the most effective ways to flossing teeth with braces is with a water flosser. Like an airflosser, it’s also electrically powered but with a water flosser it’s a lot more effective in getting in between teeth, in gum pockets and dislodging food debris from your braces especially large bits.

Water Flossing With Braces

It works by spraying a small stream of water directly onto the braces and along the gumline.

Clinical studies have shown that water flossers are more effective at preventing gum disease, which brace wearers are more at risk of due to the buildup of plaque from the braces if it isn’t cleaned properly.

It’s best to use an Orthodontic Tip with a water flosser as the tiny brush on the tip can be used to ‘scrub’ each bracket of your brace as you go along.

Barely any effort is needed to use this, you just have to move the flosser along. It’s straightforward to use as it just requires water to get it going. For extra antibacterial protection for your teeth and gums, mouthwash can be added to the water as well.

Final Advice

It’s important to learn how to floss with braces properly if you want to avoid unsightly teeth discolouration from plaque buildup and gum overgrowth which would be more noticeable when your braces come off.

You may need to use more than one method of flossing but whichever one you choose, make sure it’s correctly done and don’t ever skip it.