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Choosing the right dental floss

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Choosing a dental floss is as individual as choosing any other personal hygiene product. If you have trouble sliding floss through your teeth, you may prefer waxed floss. But if you have more space between your teeth, or if you don’t care for the feel of waxed floss, then opt for unwaxed floss. Either waxed or unwaxed floss will do the job of removing plaque buildup from your teeth. For best results, be sure to use a fresh section of floss as you move from one tooth to the next. Otherwise, you may redeposit bacteria-carrying particles that you removed from one tooth onto the neighboring tooth!

Although the array of flosses and flossing products can seem daunting, choosing dental floss does not have to be difficult. You may be new to flossing or you may want to recommit to making daily flossing a part of your regular oral care routine.

If you’re uncertain about which type of floss is best for you or a member of your family, ask your dentist or dental hygienist for advice. Here are some points that might be helpful:

  • 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 wear dental appliances, especially if you have a floss threader.

Just remember that when it comes to dental floss, flossing every day is the most important choice you and your family can make.

Try different flosses to find your perfect fit

As with any other product, finding the right dental floss for your oral care needs might take some trial and error. There are so many types of floss and flossing products to choose from that the choices can seem overwhelming. No matter what product you choose, the most important thing is to floss daily.

Types of dental floss

There is no one “right” floss for everyone. In fact, there’s no reason why you can’t have several types of floss and flossing products on hand. A small container of nylon dental floss or dental tape is great for a purse, pocket or carry-on travel bag. A mint-flavoured floss can be a great choice to use when you’re traveling so you don’t have to carry a bottle of mouthwash. And when you’re at home, you can treat yourself to your electric flosser.

Each type of floss has pros and cons. Here are a few points to keep in mind about your flossing options:

  • Unwaxed floss is thin nylon floss made of about 35 strands twisted together. It fits into tight spaces if your teeth are close together, but it can be prone to shredding or breaking.

  • Waxed floss is a standard nylon floss with a light wax coating. It is less likely to break, but the wax coating may make it harder to use in tight spots.

  • Dental tape is broader and flatter than standard floss and comes in waxed or unwaxed versions. People with more space between their teeth often find dental tape more comfortable to use than standard floss.

  • Polytetrafluorethylene floss (PTFE) is the same material used in high-tech Gore-Tex fabric. The material slides between the teeth easily and is less likely to shred compared to standard floss.

  • Super flosses are made from yarn-like material that has stiffer sections on each end that can be used to clean around braces or dental bridges.

The benefits of flavoured floss

If your children aren’t enthusiastic about flossing, remind them that floss with a mint flavour can not only enhance their smiles by removing potentially embarrassing food pieces, but it can also help promote fresh breath, which might get them motivated to do their flossing before school.

Adults can appreciate flavoured floss, too. If you see students, clients or patients throughout the day with little time for oral care until you get home at night, a flavoured floss may be just what you need after lunch. And if you don’t want the mint in your floss to clash with the mint in your toothpaste, keep mint flavour floss in your desk for midday dental care and use an unflavoured floss with your toothpaste of choice as part of your evening oral care routine.

Benefits of waxed floss

Some waxed flosses claim to have additional beneficial properties, such as essential oils or enzymes, meant to make the floss even more effective at removing plaque; but any floss will do, as long as you use it daily. Some feature a polymer coating to help prevent shredding and make plaque removal effortless.

Pick the right products for pain-free flossing

One of the most common reasons people give for not flossing their teeth daily is that they find flossing uncomfortable and even painful. Some people experience bleeding gums after flossing, and this discourages them from continuing with this healthy habit and important element of dental hygiene.

The truth is, even if you have sensitive gums, you can enjoy pain-free interdental cleaning. Instead of the thin, string-like flosses, try a soft floss or try a dental tape which is wider than standard floss. Many people with sensitive gums find that the dental tape is more comfortable, enabling them to make flossing part of their daily oral care routine.

Also, be sure that you’re using a soft-bristle brush, so your teeth and gums aren’t irritated when it's time to floss. Use a soft touch with both brushing and flossing—you don’t need to scrub hard with your toothbrush or use a lot of force when you floss to get the benefits, just be sure to brush thoroughly and floss between each tooth.

Helpful tips

For office-based oral hygiene, try stocking your desk drawer with a pack of disposable floss picks, or a floss with pre-measured strands. Either option is perfect for quick and easy use. If keeping any type of floss in the office helps you remember to floss every day, that’s the right choice.

Why use floss?

The bottom line is that tooth brushing cleans about three-quarters of the surface area of each of your teeth. You need to use floss, waxed or unwaxed, or some other type of flossing product, to take care of that fourth quarter of space. Any surface area on a tooth is vulnerable to the plaque that forms when bacteria aren’t removed by brushing and flossing.