Some of us are guilty of not flossing our teeth properly or frequently enough. But we all should know that interdental cleaning is crucial to maintaining healthy oral hygiene. Dental floss is effective at removing hard-to-reach food particles from between your teeth, which serve as a breeding ground for bacteria if not removed. Traditional floss, however, may not be suitable for everyone. Read on to learn why interdental cleaning is so significant and what alternatives to flossing you could consider instead.
The Importance of Cleaning Between Your Teeth
After eating, tiny pieces of food are left all over your mouth. Even though saliva does a good job of washing away most food debris, some residue remains on your teeth and gums and must be brushed and flossed away.
There are natural bacteria in your mouth that help break down food buildup, but the bacteria leave a sticky film on your teeth called plaque that must be removed. Without interdental cleaning, food buildup and plaque can quickly turn into more serious problems that cause tooth decay, gum disease, and inflammation in your mouth.
The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends brushing teeth twice a day and flossing (or using alternatives to flossing) once a day. The most effective time to floss is simply at a time that works well for an individual's schedule. For instance, some people prefer to clean their teeth right before they head to bed so that their mouths are clean at night. Others prefer to floss in the morning before they head out the door.
Alternatives to Flossing
When considering alternatives to flossing, you may find it helpful to know that the ADA puts its Seal of Acceptance on products that meet their standards. By looking for the ADA seal when you purchase a flossing alternative, you may feel more assured that the product has been objectively evaluated for safety and efficacy. This may reduce plaque and gingivitis.
Other interdental cleaners besides floss include dental picks, pre-threaded flossers, small brushes that reach between the teeth, powered air or water flossers, and wooden or plastic picks.
- Dental picks: These tiny sticks, made of plastic or wood, can help remove plaque from your teeth and gums. If you use a wooden pick, the ADA suggests wetting it first to soften it. Picks aren't as effective as floss, and you risk spreading bacteria in your mouth if you don't use a new pick for each tooth.
- Pre-threaded Flossers: Using a floss pick instead of regular floss may seem more convenient, but floss picks are not as effective as regular floss. This is because floss picks do not allow you to reach all of the angles that regular floss requires to effectively clean your teeth. Regular floss is probably better for a thorough clean, but floss picks are a convenient alternative to flossing on occasion.
- Interdental brushes: If you wear braces or are looking for an exceptional cleaning solution, interdental brushes may prove better than other alternatives to flossing. They are small-headed toothbrushes that come in a variety of sizes to fit the gap between teeth. They can be cone-shaped or cylinder-shaped. They have small, bristled heads that aid in the prevention of gum disease by removing food particles and plaque from between your teeth.
- Water flossers: Approved by the ADA as a floss substitute, water flossing is exactly what it sounds like. Water flossing, instead of thread flossing, uses a steady stream of water between the teeth to remove plaque. Water flossing is performed with a small, hand-held device that may be more physically comfortable for you.
- GUM® Soft-Picks: A favorite among many dental professionals, Soft-Picks are a cross between an interdental brush and a dental pick. Soft-Picks are small, disposable plastic picks with a soft tip and rubbery bristles that fit comfortably between teeth while causing minimal gum tissue damage.
What Is the Best Alternative to Flossing?
Interdental brushes have received favorable research as one of the most effective alternatives to flossing.
According to one study, cleaning with interdental brushes is the most effective method for removing interproximal plaque. Two additional reviews discovered that using interdental brushes improved plaque scores, bleeding scores, and probing depth significantly more than brushing alone.
According to the findings of this study, interdental brushes may outperform dental floss on more than one count while also providing patient acceptance and comfort.
However, the researchers noted that no single floss substitute works best for all patients. Ease of use, size of the interdental space, acceptability, dexterity, and motivation of the individual all influence the selection of an appropriate interdental cleaning aid.
If you decide to try an interdental brush, selecting the right material, size, and geometry for you will better support these findings. Consider the following factors:
- Some people may be allergic to metal wire, so rubber may be preferable.
- Straight interdental brushes are thought to be more effective than angled
- Size varies with the distance between teeth and has a significant impact on effectiveness.
These factors should help you decide if, out of all the alternatives to flossing, interdental brushes are the right choice for you.
Brushing and interdental cleaning daily are the foundation of proper oral hygiene and health. If traditional flossing isn't for you, try some of these alternatives to flossing to find something that works for you. Remember to visit your dentist twice a year for a professional cleaning with a dentist or hygienist who can remove heavy plaque buildup.
Sources and Further Reading
- 10 Natural Remedies as an Alternative to Toothpaste
If you run out of toothpaste, are allergic, or are looking for a natural homemade solution, try an alternative to toothpaste like the ten suggested here.
- Interdental Cleaning - Wikipedia
Interdental cleaning or interproximal cleaning is part of oral hygiene where the aim is to clean the areas in between the teeth, otherwise known as the proximal surfaces of teeth.
- American Dental Association | Floss/Interdental Cleaners
Dental floss and other interdental cleaners remove food trapped between the teeth in a way toothbrush bristles alone cannot.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Louise Fiolek