Breaking Down What’s Best: The Various Methods of Brushing and Flossing

Breaking Down What’s Best: The Various Methods of Brushing and Flossing

Brushing and flossing are important for the health of your child’s mouth, but did you know there are several different ways of accomplishing these important tasks? In fact, there are at least 8 different methods for brushing one’s teeth, and 3 different methods for cleaning between the teeth. Pretty mind blowing, right?

In this article, I’m going to break down some of the more popular and most effective toothbrushing techniques, as well as the best methods for flossing your child’s teeth. Let’s dive in!


But first, a little background:

Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria which collects on all the surfaces of the teeth – it’s found on the tops, front-backs, and sides of each tooth. To ensure proper removal of this bacteria for prevention of dental decay, you’ll need to use a multi-step approach which includes brushing and flossing. Why both? Well, toothbrushing is only capable of cleaning the front-backs and tops of the teeth; flossing is necessary to clean the sides of teeth that touch together.


Floss First!

Breaking Down What’s Best: The Various Methods of Brushing and Flossing

Ideally, floss before you brush. Why first? When you remove plaque between the teeth first, it allows the protective active ingredients in the toothpaste to foam up into these sites to strengthen the enamel there and prevent decay.

I like using Grin Kids biodegradable flossers in my house for their convenience and ease of use. I also love that they’re biodegradable, and strong; when my 5-year-old son practices the skill of flossing on his own he tends to snap the floss in between his teeth which has broken other brands of flossers in the past – not with Grin! I really like this because it reduces waste.

Once your child is older, about age 7 and up, they can start using string floss to clean their teeth. Because holding string floss properly requires a lot of manual dexterity, it’s not something a young child is capable of practicing on their own before this time. To make the floss easier to hold while first starting out, tie the ends of the floss together to form one large circle – this is helpful until a child learns to wrap the floss around their fingers.


How Do I Floss Properly?

The American Dental Association has really helpful videos, as well as diagrams, to demonstrate the proper technique. Essentially, you want to hug the floss around the curved part of each tooth’s side, extending the floss under the gums into the sulcus (it’s a space between the tooth and the gum). A word of note here: if you do not typically extend the floss under the gums, you may notice bleeding the first few times you do it! This will subside after about 7 days of daily flossing as the bacteria causing the bleeding is cleared out.

Pro Tip: after you floss in a spot, check the floss! If there is visible plaque or food debris on it, wipe it off using a paper towel or move to a new piece of floss (if using string floss); then floss that same area again until the floss comes out clean. This helps to ensure you’re actually removing bacteria and not just moving it around to a new site.


Brushing Methods

The most popular method of toothbrushing is by far the Bass method, also known as sulcular brushing, for its ability to clean down in the sulcus to remove plaque.

The technique involves:

  • Holding the toothbrush so the bristles are angled 45 degrees down towards the gum line.
  • Using gentle pressure and slight vibratory motions to wiggle the bristles slightly below the gum line to clean in the sulcus.
  • To modify the technique for even more plaque removal, flick the toothbrush away from the gum line in a sweeping motion – this is called the Modified Bass technique.


Another popular method, which is frequently recommended for children learning to brush independently due to its simplicity, is the Fones or Circular Brushing technique.

This technique involves:

  • Holding the toothbrush perpendicular to the tooth surface so the bristles are angled 90 degrees.
  • Moving the toothbrush in small, gentle circles on the tooth surface.


Watching the video demonstrations linked above will give you the most concise overview of exactly how to hold the toothbrush and move the bristles to aid in plaque removal.

Regardless of which method you use, when cleaning the chewing surfaces of the teeth, it’s advised to use a vibrating wiggle motion to clean down in the nooks and crannies of the tooth grooves to remove debris and prevent decay.


Which Method Is Right for My Child?

 Grin Kids toothbrushes are adept at either method of plaque removal due to their compact brush heads and super soft bristles, which are more tolerable in smaller mouths. If you’re wondering which method is best to use for your little one, consider their age. If you’re still helping, Bass is best since it provides the most effective degree of plaque removal; if you’re trying to teach your older child how to brush independently, the circular method is a good start.

Grin Natural Kids Biodegradable Toothbrush

Remember that this is a journey because tooth care is for a lifetime. If your current toothbrush or flossing method isn’t working for you or your child, it’s okay to switch it up!

Happy brushing and flossing, my friends!

About the Author

Katie Steger, BSDH, is a dental hygienist and mom and the founder of @healthyteeth.fortots, an Instagram platform designed to provide early childhood oral health education and support to parents with dental anxiety. Katie is passionate about oral health education, the impact of nutrition on the developing dentition, and educating parents and families on strategies to make oral hygiene more accessible. Resources can be found on her website: