If you're looking to do everything you can to prevent cavities from popping up, perfecting your flossing technique should be a priority. But for some, getting in between those back molars with floss isn't always as breezy of a process as those front teeth. So, we reached out to dentists for their best tips on how to floss your back teeth.
"Flossing back teeth can be difficult, as it's harder to see what you are doing and to reach those areas," Dr. Sophya Morghem DMD, MS, explained. "Not flossing makes you susceptible to bad bacteria living in these areas that the brush and floss don't reach, leading to cavities and gum disease."
What's more, Dr. Michaela Tozzi, DMD, said the back corners of the back molars are the most commonly missed areas of brushing and flossing. She added that targeting this area with floss, specifically, is challenging for patients, but can be especially difficult for those with limited dexterity.
Since you probably don't want to end up with any dental pain or cavities, it might be time to reassess your flossing technique. "A lot of us didn't grow up learning how to properly floss," Dr. Morghem said.
First, take 18 to 24 inches of floss and wrap it around your middle fingers, with two to three inches of floss left in between your fingers. "It's common that people wrap the floss on their index fingers and then have difficulty moving the floss in between the teeth."
Then, Dr. Morghem said to use your thumb and index finger on the shorter piece, "like little crab claws." This is the maneuverable piece to use when flossing in between your teeth, she added.
But how you place the floss in between your teeth matters, too. Dr. Morghem said to make a C shape with the floss by curving it and sliding it up and down each side of the tooth.
"Avoid snapping the floss between the teeth as this can bruise the gums. As you go from tooth to tooth, you can slide the floss down to use a fresh section of floss. It helps to do this in a mirror. Just like anything new, it gets easier and easier to do as you do it."
When flossing the top back teeth, Dr. Tozzi said that moving your lower jaw toward the side you're trying to floss could help give you more space.
As for what type of floss to use, Dr. Tozzi said she prefers unwaxed floss, "as it grabs the sticky plaque more effectively than waxed floss," and mentioned floss with coconut oil or xylitol can help fight cavities.
Dr. Morghem recommended avoiding thin "tape-like" floss and opting for woven floss that gets larger — "more loofa-like" — when wet, instead. A water flosser might also be a helpful tool, however, both dentists agreed that it does not take the place of traditional floss.