Criss-Cross Let’s Floss

posted by Dr. James G. Hood
Friday, January 6, 2012

Most people would do well to floss more frequently. Brushing should be done twice daily as a minimum. Flossing however, if done well, is sufficient once daily and preferably done before bed or whenever your clean teeth will go the longest before being exposed to food or drink. I would bet that a simple technique will help the average flosser feel better about flossing, I’ll call if Criss-Cross let’s floss.

Before I describe this technique let me review a few flossing basics:

  1. The best floss is the one you use most frequently.
  1. It is estimated that 30-40% of the surfaces of teeth are between teeth where only flossing not brushing can reach.
  1. The closer you hold your hands together when flossing the tighter the floss, and the better the floss removes plaque (bacteria and the waste products it produces).
  1. The bigger the spaces between teeth the thicker the floss which should be used (embroidery thread (as floss), can be specifically gauged, for individuals with periodontal disease).
  1. Never floss haphazardly. As with brushing develop a pattern to insure that all tooth surfaces are thoroughly flossed daily.
  1. Toothpaste when smeared on teeth before flossing can add an abrasive that supplements the action of the floss as well as increasing the exposure of fluoride on the tooth surfaces between teeth.

A few areas of the mouth are difficult to clean and more prone to calculus build-up. To explain why let me first give a marine biology analogy.

Having taught marine biology for two years before attending dental school I had first-hand experience exploring coral reefs. Coral are tiny multi-cellular marine organisms which live in coastal waters and attach to rocks, shells, even sunken boats. During the life of coral they extract calcium from sea water and incorporate the calcium in to their system which remains when they die. Then all their coral relatives live and die on their back and they also incorporate and deposit calcium. After hundreds, even thousands, of coral generations a coral reef remains. The Great Barrier Reef, a large structure of coral skeletons off the east coast of Australia, can even be seen from the surface of the moon. Wow! But I digress.

In a similar fashion, in the human mouth bacteria live on our teeth, certain salivary glands have more calcium salts dissolved in them. These glands have ducts which empty on the teeth in certain areas. The submandibular salivary gland empties under the tongue (you may have gleeked someone with this gland). Single-celled bacteria on the tongue surface of the lower front teeth incorporate the calcium found in the saliva from these salivary glands much like coral in the ocean. Voila! This is the most common area of the mouth for calculus to form. Calculus forms as generations of bacteria die and leave their skeletons of calcium on the teeth. The parotid glands in each cheek empty next to the outside surface of upper molars. This is the second most common area in the mouth for calculus to build up.

Finally, we arrive at our criss-cross, let’s floss technique. When using floss on the lower front teeth, wrap the floss from the front side of one incisor around the tongue side to the back side of the same tooth. With the floss drawn taut around the tooth now one can shoe-shine back and forth with hands in front of the mouth to polish the tongue side of the tooth. Additionally, when you now criss-cross the floss in front of the tooth you may use the hand with the strip of floss on the top to guide the floss down into the gum. Likewise, the hand with the floss below being shoe-shined back up on the tooth until the tongue side and the front of the tooth is polished. As the flosser gets proficient with this criss-cross technique the tongue can be coordinated to keep the floss from popping off the top of the tooth when shoe-shining up on the tooth.

Now with this criss-cross technique one may not remove reefs of calculus, but once your teeth are professionally cleaned this will keep your teeth clean and slick.

Criss-cross, let’s floss.

Thanks for reading and blogging!

Dr. James G. Hood

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Dental Care Associates of Spokane Valley, P.S.
Family and Cosmetic Dentistry Welcomes Patients
from Age 2 to 102!

James G. Hood, D.D.S., M.A.
507 North Sullivan Road, Suite A-1
Spokane Valley, WA 99037-8576  USA
Phone: (509) 928-9100  |  Fax: (509) 928-0414



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