First, don't skimp on the floss. Take a good length - at least 12". Now, wrap it around your middle fingers, not your index fingers. If the length is correct you should be able to wind it around your middle fingers at least twice. If done correctly, you should be able to pull it tight with your middle fingers alone! Now you can use your thumbs and index fingers solely to manipulate it.
Start with a couple of upper front teeth. It's easier. With gentle pressure towards the gumline, use a slight sawing motion just to get it past the tight contact point between your teeth. If done correctly, you'll get past the tight spot without snapping it into your gum.
Now that you're up at the gumline, slide the floss up and down to clean the teeth. You're between two teeth now, and you want to clean both of them. While going up and down, pull gently on the floss to clean the curved surface of one (we'll call it the front) tooth. Next, push the floss in the opposite direction to clean the surface of the other (the back) tooth.
Flossing Fun Fact # 1
You're tooth is like a cylinder, or tube. It has a nice, curved surface. Picture the floss as a piece of string that you're using to scrape clean the curved surface of the tube. You'll have to press the "string" up against the "tube" and go up and down, so that the "string" follows the curve of the "tube" to clean it effectively!
As you're going up and down with the floss, it's okay to slip the floss in, between the tooth and the triangle of gum (the papilla). Actually, it's preferable, because this is where the bacteria that cause gum disease hide. To get the floss out from between your teeth, use a gentle sawing motion while pulling it out from between your teeth, to get it out without snapping it.
After you've got the front teeth done, move towards the back teeth. It may be a little trickier here, but you can do it. Use the same method as above to get between your back teeth to clean them.
Flossing Fun Fact # 2
If you find that the floss shreds when trying to remove it from between your teeth, in the future, just let go of one end and pull it through the space between the teeth!
Flossing Fun Fact # 3
If the floss shreds and gets stuck between your teeth, the easiest way to get it out is with another piece of floss! And this time, slip it out by letting go of one end.
If you have any fixed bridges in your mouth, you won't be able to slip the floss between these teeth because they are connected together. In this case, you'll need to use a floss threader (which kind of looks like a big sewing needle threader), to get the floss between your teeth. Then, it's pretty much the same technique. Your hygienist should be able to instruct you as necessary.
Flossing Fun Fact # 4
THIS FUN FACT INTENTIONALLY LEFT BLANK
Flossing Fun Fact # 5
Floss is made of silk. Unwaxed floss is more effective than waxed floss because the fibers spread out like a broom to clean better, but if the floss is shredding like crazy, by all means use a waxed floss. The wax helps it slide better between the teeth.
In our office we give samples of a floss made of GoreTex (R), not silk. It's the stuff they make parachutes out of. It is super-strong, doesn't shred, and "glides" super-smoothly between the teeth!
Stop in and we'll give you a sample of it!