Flossing. If the word sends shivers up your spine, you’re not alone. A recent survey from the American Academy of Periodontology found that 36 percent of people would rather wash the dishes, clean the toilet or do a number of other unpleasant activities rather than floss. Another survey, this one from American Dental Association, found that people often resort to using non-floss items such as their fingernails, strands of hair or safety pins to remove particles from between the teeth.
While few dentists would recommend using a safety pin or a piece of hair to clean between your teeth, there are suitable alternatives to the traditional string method of flossing. If you avoid flossing because you find it uncomfortable or difficult to do, here are a few dentist-approved, safe ways to clean between your teeth.
Sometimes called floss picks, pre-threaded flossers have a small plastic handle with a short length of floss stretched across the end. Since you don’t have to wind and unwind the thread around your fingers, floss picks can be easier to manipulate and to use. Some people prefer them to traditional string floss because the short handle on the pick means that you don’t have to put your fingers in your mouth while flossing.
Floss picks are particularly useful for people who have trouble flossing because they have limited use of their hands or for people who have smaller mouths and struggle to reach the back molars with traditional string floss.
Another flossing alternative replaces the traditional string with a stream of water. A water flosser produces a steady stream of water. It has a tip at the end that directs the stream of water between your teeth, removing pieces of food as well as dental plaque. Along with keeping the spaces between your teeth clean, water flossers can to reduce your risk of gum disease by stimulating the gums and improving gum health.
Water flossers come in a few different varieties. Some are battery powered and portable while others connect to a large water tank and need to be plugged into an electrical outlet.
Like pre-threaded flossers, water flossers can be a good option for people who avoid flossing because they have difficulty doing so. It’s easier to direct a stream of water between the teeth than it is to wrap a piece of string around your fingers and slide it between the teeth. Some people also prefer the feeling of water between the teeth compared to the feeling of string.
You might think of an interdental brush as a miniature toothbrush. Except, instead of being meant for use on the surface of your teeth, the tiny brush is meant for use between the teeth. One benefit of interdental brushes is that they come in a range of sizes. You can choose a very narrow brush or a wider one, based on how much space is between your teeth. You can also use different sized brushes in different areas of your mouth if the spacing between your teeth varies.
Interdental brushes are also a good flossing alternative for people who have braces. Along with getting rid of food trapped between the teeth, the little brushes can also help to remove food that is trapped between the teeth and the brackets of the braces.
Like a toothbrush, you can get several uses out of an interdental brush, as long as you take care of it after each use. Rinse the brush with water to remove any food particles and let it dry thoroughly. Replace the brush when the bristles start to look worn and frayed.
With so many alternatives to traditional string flossing, there’s no reason to skip cleaning between your teeth. If you are interested in learning more about your floss alternatives, your dentist can help you choose the method that’s best for you.
Dr. John Paul Gallardo is a periodontal specialist in the Miami area who also offers dental exams and cleanings. He can recommend options that are right for your needs. To schedule an appointment in Miami, FL, call 305-547-8687 today.