How to Floss With Braces

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on February 21, 2023
4 min read

Dental braces provide many health benefits for the 4 million Americans who wear them. They can also make it more difficult to care for your teeth. These challenges can be blamed on the wire that runs through and connects the braces.

Flossing with braces isn’t easy. But it’s important for oral health. Regular flossing can prevent tooth decay. It also can make your smile look better.

Flossing is a key part of oral health. Most dentists recommend flossing at least once per day. Flossing may also be required when you eat certain types of food or notice particles stuck between your teeth.

Flossing with braces is especially important. They tend to trap food between your teeth. They also make it more difficult to remove food particles with brushing alone. 

If you don’t floss while wearing braces, it can make cavities more likely. Research has shown a 40% risk reduction for cavities for school-age children who flossed on weekdays for nearly 2 years.

Gum disease is an inflammatory disorder that can lead to big problems in your body. Recent studies suggest links between advanced gum disease and diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer's, and stomach cancer, though more research is needed.

If you practiced ideal dental hygiene, you'd be flossing after every meal. But experts know it's not practical for most people. So it's good to aim for once a day. Bedtime, rather than morning, is the better choice for once-a-day flossers.

Your salivary flow is low when you're asleep. For the hours that you're in bed, bacteria will sit in your mouth. Because of this, scientists recommend spending 2 minutes brushing your teeth. 

With practice, flossing will take 1 minute. Begin on the upper right, go all the way around to the upper left, and then go from the lower left to the lower right.

If you're so tired at the end of your day that you can devote only 60 seconds to dental hygiene, choose to floss. While you shouldn't skip brushing, it's crucial to floss every day.

A variety of tools and techniques can make flossing with braces easier. 

Stay away from certain foods. Many types of food can damage the brackets and wires on braces. They can also cause long-term damage that’s harder to spot. Eating and drinking sweet foods or beverages can lead to plaque. This tooth-based residue can be tough to clear away with floss while wearing braces.

You should also steer clear of foods that can easily get stuck in your teeth and braces. These include:

  • Popcorn
  • Chewing gum
  • Chewy candy
  • Nuts
  • Pretzels
  • Hard crackers

Try an electric toothbrush. An electric toothbrush can help remove bacteria from your teeth, gums, and tongue. They can remove enough plaque to reduce some of the damage from not using floss often enough.

Use waxed floss or dental tape. Flossing with unwaxed products can be difficult. Metal braces shred certain types of floss. Waxed floss has a thin coating that keeps it from breaking when it comes into contact with your braces.

Some people find it easier and more comfortable to use dental tape. This thin version of floss is smoother than traditional products. It has a wide ribbon-like shape that allows it to glide smoothly between your teeth. This is a great solution if you have sensitive gums that bleed after flossing.

Flavored wax. It won't add calories, so if you like how dental floss flavored with mint or cinnamon leaves your mouth feeling fresher, that's a great choice for you.

Ribbon or tape vs. fine floss. Opt for wider floss. Ribbon and tape floss will cover a larger amount of your tooth. It does a better job of cleaning. It'll also feel more comfortable in your hand and isn't as likely to cut your gums.

Floss picks. These disposable, pre-threaded floss-holders can help you reach into the back corners of your mouth. They're also great for flossing on the go.

Try a floss threader. A floss threader forms a loop through which floss can pass. This makes it easier to access difficult-to-reach places such as the molars.

Add a water pick to your routine. A water pick is sometimes referred to as an oral pulsating irrigator. It shoots a tiny pressurized stream of water at your teeth to remove bacteria missed while brushing. 

This tool may help to get rid of bacteria below the gumline. You shouldn’t use one on its own instead of traditional floss. But it can make brushing and flossing more effective.

Flossing is recommended as soon as children have two teeth that touch. In most cases, teeth will touch by 2 or 3 years of age. Most children need help flossing until they’re at least 8 years old.

Children with braces may need help for even longer. Sometimes even teens and adults struggle to floss with braces. The process can take a while. Have your child sit in a comfortable and well-lit area while you help. Young children who struggle to sit still can watch TV or listen to music to reduce fidgeting. 

You should have regular dental cleanings as long as you have braces. Your dentist can help you address any problems with brushing and flossing due to your braces.

Most dentists recommend that you have a cleaning at least once every 6 months. But you may need to have one every 3 or 4 months in some cases.