Amanda Delwiche D.D.S.

Picking Out the Right Floss

March 7, 2019
Posted By: Amanda Delwiche, DDS

In one of our more recent posts, we talked about picking out a toothpaste. What is even more important is, what kind of floss to use.  So, how do you know which one to get?

There are many options available at the store and it can be overwhelming. Glide, which is a very slippery kind of floss that is made by Oral-B, is a very popular brand that is all over the shelves at the stores and comes in many variations. Unfortunately, this floss is not very effective. It is so slippery that it glides right in between the teeth, like the name implies, and doesn't take much plaque or debris with it. Using Glide is more effective than not flossing at all, however if you are going to take the time to floss, you should be getting more benefit from it.  Many patients feel their teeth are too tight together, so they think Glide is the only kind they can use. More often that not, their teeth are not in fact that close but they are using the wrong kind of floss or the wrong technique. (You actually want your teeth to be somewhat close because people with larger spaces tend to get a lot of food caught between their teeth, which is not only an annoyance for them but also leaves them at greater risk of getting cavities and gum disease).

Waxed floss is a good "happy medium" floss in terms of ease of use and efficacy.  The wax helps get it in between the teeth with minimal to no shredding, but is also tacky so it grabs onto plaque and food particles. Reach by Johnson and Johnson is a good brand to try. I sometimes find that generic brands tend to shred more.

Unwaxed floss, or woven floss, is even more effective than waxed floss. This is a great floss to use if you have larger spaces between your teeth because it is fluffier and catches particles more effectively.  Some may find it difficult to use if their teeth are tighter together (we call this having tight contacts) because it can shred more easily. If that is the case for you, stick with waxed floss.

Another good option if you have larger spaces between your teeth is dentotape. It is like waxed floss but thicker, so it removes more.  Some people refer the Glide floss as "tape" because it is wide and thin like a piece of tape, but this is not the kind we are referring to. Again, this type of floss may be too difficult to use for people who have tighter contacts.

There are also floss picks or floss holders. Floss picks are a piece of floss that is attached to a disposable handle so you can floss one-handed and the other end has a plastic toothpick. The type of floss that comes on it differs from brand to brand, therefore so does the efficacy. In general though, they are not as effective as regular string floss because it is challenging to make the proper “C” shape with the floss. Most people tend to use the same floss pick for their whole mouth so they are using the same very small piece of floss over and over again, which means it gets very slippery with saliva after a few teeth and grabs less plaque and food from between the teeth. Floss holders are similar to floss picks, except that the handle is reusable and the floss is replaced after each use.  They also do not have the toothpick feature. Some come with pre-threaded plastic attachments that can pop on and off, while others you have to put regular string floss onto it yourself. These have similar disadvantages to floss picks.

If any of this information leave you with any questions, feel free to ask at your next appointment. This is also a general blog about floss specifically, however there are many interdental cleaning aids that are alternatives to flossing, which may be more appropriate for your individual mouth. Some of the other interdental cleaners, such as water flossers, interdental brushes, perio aids, etc, can actually be more effective than floss in keeping the gums clean and healthy (depending on your specific mouth), however floss is always the most superior choice when it comes to prevent cavities in between the teeth because it is the only thing small enough to really get in between the contact. For some people a combination of multiple interdental cleaners is the best option.

Written by: Anna Hautzenrader, Registered Dental Hygienist

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