Andra Mahoney BS RDH
What type of floss is right for you?
Several months ago, Wendy wrote a great article on the necessity of flossing ( https://dentistrydonedifferently.com/2014/05/19/flossing-do-i-have-to/). Now that you have accepted that flossing is an integral part of your oral health, let’s pick out the right floss for you! There are a plethora of different types of floss, so you are bound to find the one that fits your wants and needs.
Let’s first examine your basic floss:
There are two main types of floss: String and Tape.
String is the most common type of floss, and what everyone thinks of when they think floss.
String floss comes in nylon or polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). Nylon floss is the most common string floss. It comes in all different types of flavors and thicknesses. It even comes waxed and un-waxed. The wax is added to the floss to help fit through teeth with tight contacts.
PTFE floss is a lot like a plastic string. It is a monofilament, which means it’s not made from multiple fibers so it will not rip, shread, or tear. PTFE floss is newer and people seem to like it because it is strong! It also comes in many thicknesses and flavors, though it is not waxed because it is made to glide between teeth. Because of its strength, I recommend not snapping the floss between your teeth. It can very easily hurt the gum tissue if it is pulled too hard.
Dental Tape is becoming more and more common nowadays. It is very similar to, but wider than, string floss. Many people with sensitive gums like tape floss because they find it more comfortable when flossing below the gum line. It is also a great “starter” floss because it is thinner than regular nylon floss.
Advanced Types of Floss:
Spongy or Super Floss is ideal for cleaning braces, bridges, and wide gaps between teeth. Super Floss has three unique components—a stiffened-end dental floss threader, spongy floss, and regular floss—all work together for maximum benefits. It allows you to floss under appliances, cleans around appliances, between wide spaces, and removes plaque under the gumline.
Floss Threaders come in two different types. One looks like a large, thin, sewing needle. The plus side of this type of threader is that you can thread any type of floss and pull it through. It makes it easy to use whatever floss you have lying around the house. The down side is you have to thread the floss each time you use it.
A little bit easier is the floss threader that is kind of like a shoe string. It has a built in threader tip attached to the floss, so there is one less step than the other floss threader. Both threaders are great for any appliance: bridges, braces, lingual bars, etc.
Floss Picks are great for flossing hard to reach spaces or when you’re on the go. You don’t have to be in a bathroom to floss! A few tips to remember, never reuse a floss pick. The plaque bacteria that is removed by the flosser isn’t always seen. You do not want that bacteria to be reintroduced into your mouth. Which brings us to tip two, use four flossers in one flossing session. One for the upper right, upper left, lower left, and lower right (each side is measured from the last molar to the midline between your front teeth). When using standard floss, you use about 18 inches. A flosser has about one inch of floss. You do not want to transfer the bacteria from one side of the mouth to the other. So after you have used one, toss it, and grab another. Flossers are very inexpensive and come in multipacks.
Powered Flossers are very useful for older people who find it hard to manipulate string floss into their mouth. A disposable tip is placed on the end of the powered flosser and when the button is depressed, the floss gently vibrates back and forth. Just place it between your teeth and floss away! As with the floss picks, please do not reuse the disposable ends of the flosser.
Interproximal brushes are helpful to those who have wider spaces between their teeth. Two options are soft picks, which are like rubber toothpicks.
And the other interdental brushes are like small pipe cleaners.
The difference between the two comes down to preference and how wide the space is between your teeth. Both options come in various sizes. These are also one time use items that come in a pack.
Rubber Tip Simulators are not a type of floss, but they are handy in plaque removal. They are mainly used for cleaning under operculums. An operculum is a small flap of gum tissue. It is usually found in the back of the mouth by the last tooth. It can occur naturally or come about from a tooth that has not fully erupted into the mouth.
As seen in the picture, the right side is a normal tooth, and the left has an operculum. Plaque can get under this flap of tissue so it will need to be cleaned. Just take the rubber tip stimulated and swipe gently under the tissue.
WaterPiks work wonderfully in addition to your floss! Please remember, do not substitute waterpicks for brushing and flossing. Unlike flossing, waterpicks do not remove plaque. They are effective for people who have orthodontic braces, which may retain food in areas a toothbrush cannot reach, people who catch food between their teeth, or people who are looking for extra help with their gums.
Large gaps between your teeth? Try dental tape or Super Floss.
Not much space between your teeth? You may find that a waxed floss is easier to slide into those tight spaces.
Want less mess? Look for disposable flossers or floss in pre-measured strands.
Braces or bridges? A spongy floss is a good option, but any floss can be used if you have a floss threader.
As you can see there are a lot of options out there! But do not fear! A study from the University of Buffalo stated, “Believe it or not, researchers have compared different types of dental floss to determine whether some are more effective than others to clean teeth. The bottom line is that they are not. Any type of floss will help promote clean teeth by removing food particles and bacteria.”
Just remember that when it comes to dental floss, flossing every day is the most important choice you and your family can make.
(microscopic image of used dental floss)
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