Flossing and inter-dental brushes

To keep your teeth and gums healthy, you need to remove plaque effectively every day.

Photo of a young woman about to floss her teeth. She has the floss wrapped around her forefingers and supported on her thumbs, with about 10 cm of floss free between her fingers.
Photo of someone about to floss between two teeth. They have the floss drawn taut.
Photo of someone flossing between two teeth, with the floss curved around one tooth to clean along the gumline.

Brushing and flossing are the two most important ways of removing plaque.

Dental floss or inter-dental brushes are used to clean between teeth.

How to floss

  • Take about 45 cm floss, wind it around both middle fingers, and support it across your thumbs and index fingers.
  • Insert the floss gently between the teeth with a side-to-side motion, taking care not to snap it into place.
  • Curve the floss around the tooth at the gum line, and move it up and down the tooth to clean the space between teeth.
  • Unwind a clean segment of floss from your middle fingers and use the clean segment to repeat the same procedure on the rest of your teeth.

A woman using an inter-dental brush between two of her teeth. Inter-dental brushes

Inter-dental brushes are very small ‘bottle-brushes’ that look like Christmas trees or are cylinder-shaped. They’re available from your pharmacist or dentist.

These brushes can be used to clean between teeth if there are larger gaps between teeth. They’re also useful for cleaning under braces.

Use the brush by pushing the brush portion through the gap between teeth 5–6 times to remove food and plaque.

Reproduced with the permission of the New Zealand Dental Association, based on the ‘Keeping Your Teeth for a Lifetime ... Easy As’ resource.

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