I am sure that many will nod their head in agreement, when I say that each time they go to see their dentist, they are ‘reminded’ to floss.
Most of us know deep down that we should be flossing, but figures show that only 50.5% of American adults are doing so on a daily basis.
Compared to tooth brushing, it is not as simple or effortless and many of us probably don’t recall getting shown and nagged by our parents to floss, like we did brushing.
Brushing your teeth only cleans 60% of the tooth surface, some 40% goes uncleaned unless you partake in interdental cleaning whether that is flossing or using interdental brushes.
Interdental cleaning is the use of a specialized appliance – e.g. floss, toothpick, or TePe brush – to clean the gaps between the teeth. The act of interdental cleaning aims to clean the side of teeth, including that hidden under the gumline to remove plaque and bacteria, along with food particles that build up on these surfaces.
Failing to effectively clean, plaque, bacteria and food debris from in between the teeth can lead to gingivitis, otherwise known as gum disease.
Over time, if the teeth and gums are not properly cleaned, the plaque is not removed. The plaque builds up and the bacteria in it produce acids which irritates your gums. This can lead to redness with bleeding, swelling and tenderness. This is the early stages of a condition called gingivitis, or as it might more commonly known, gum disease.
So it is perhaps no surprise that findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that 47.2% of the population have periodontal disease, a condition that is strongly influenced by the lack of interdental cleaning.
As adults we perhaps need to take a little more responsibility for our actions or lack of, should I say.
So, the solution I believe is to ensure we are using the best tools for the job.
There are differences of opinion amongst professionals on what are ultimately the best tools. This is in part because there is evidence for and against most types of products on the market today and one professional will generally have a preference over another.
Interdental brushes are considered to be the gold standard, followed by dental floss.
Most professionals will tell you that you need a combination of these to do the best job.
However, you might not get on with floss or interdental brushes, but get on well with a water flosser. Thankfully, most dentists will generally agree they would rather you use some sort of flossing tool that you use regularly, even if it is not ‘clinically’ the very best, than use nothing at all.
A 2017 survey by the American Dental Association (ADA) found that some people will use fingernails, folded paper, card, cutlery and even pins to floss in between teeth, but no such suggestions will be made here.
Cleaning these spaces between teeth, removing the plaque and food debris can help stop bleeding gums and reduce the risk of diabetes or a stroke.
Whilst these ‘tools’ may have served a purpose they are not safe or ideally suited to cleaning in between the teeth.
Thankfully there are some excellent tools that make flossing easier and more bearable, but most importantly contributes to better oral health.
In this article I will be sharing some of these more specialized options available, to allow you to find the perfect tool for you.
TePe Interdental Brushes
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Oral-B Glide Pro-Health Comfort Plus
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Listerine UltraClean Access Flosser
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Waterpik WP-660 Aquarius
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Our Best Flossers & Flossing Tools
In the sections below you can read a little more about each product and the reason we have chosen it as the best in its category.
Interdental Brushes – The best flossing tool
Brushing the teeth alone leaves up to 40% of the tooth surface untouched, this is where interdental brushes and dental floss come in.
Each work best for different people and different scenarios, but interdental brushes are now the gold standard.
They are more expensive, but most people find them considerably more convenient and much easier to use than dental floss.
To understand why this is and how they benefit you, take a few minutes to read our guide to the best interdental brushes, it will tell you all you need to know.
Interdental brushes come in various different sizes and styles; but the fundamental principle behind them is that they reach deep between the teeth and use bristles to sweep away plaque and bacteria from the sides of the teeth and the gum surfaces.
|TePe Interdental Brushes||598 Reviews||$7.99||View on Amazon|
The large surface area of the bristles allows for each pass with the brush to reach and clean more effectively than dental floss.
The size of gaps between teeth, or to give the more technical name, interdental spaces, vary from one person to another. In fact, in your own mouth, any gaps between your teeth might be different in size.
As such, manufacturers of these brushes make them in a number of different sizes to accommodate our needs.
There are too differing handle types and lengths to make the process of reaching all the spaces in our mouths simpler, giving less excuses not to floss those molars, right at the back of the mouth.
You need to find the right sized interdental brushes for you. One way you can do this is through trial and error, testing the different sized brushes yourself, or you can speak to your dentist, who can measure the gaps and tell you exactly what size brush you need.
Once you know what you need, you are all good to go.
I should say to make things easier, manufacturers tend to color the handles of their brushes based on the size. So you need not remember it is a 3 or 4.5mm gap, just remember the handle color. Most find this the easiest way to recall which brush to use.
Using an interdental brush can be just as time consuming as regular string floss and will likely work out a little more expensive, but normally the process is a lot less awkward and easier once you have the right brush selected. This added convenience and thorough cleaning will pay dividends.
TePe are a Swedish company and can are really considered the market leaders for this type of tool.
Their original range comes in 9 different sizes, but there is an extra soft range available in 6 sizes and an angle range which may be more useful for reaching back teeth.
If you want to get going quickly, check out this original multipack available to buy on Amazon, which includes a variety of interdental brushes.
For more detailed information on interdental brushes, you will get lots of value from our guide available here.
Dental floss – Simple, effective, but often frustrating
We have all had that satisfying feeling of getting that bit of food out from between our teeth, just imagine the consequences or feeling if you did not remove it.
Flossing is a type of interdental cleaning.
Flossing is the act of cleaning between the teeth using a type tape or string known as floss.
Floss is one of the most common and perhaps more traditional products used to clean these spaces, and the sides of the teeth.
We’ve looked at a range of floss options (and include a guide to flossing) in our post on the best dental floss, but below you can find an abbreviated version.
|Oral-B Glide Pro-Health Comfort Dental Floss||485 Reviews||$17.49||View on Amazon|
The problem with regular floss is that is is more awkward as it involves inserting the bit of floss in between the teeth using our hands and it can be a fight to position your hands, the floss and see what you are doing let alone making sure you have the right technique.
Patience and practice will allow for you to achieve the right technique and the best results from flossing.
Oral-B’s Glide Pro-Health comfort floss is a strong, easy to use and good value option. It is not the thinnest dental floss, but you can get dental tapes, which are wider still and more suitable for large interdental spaces. You can buy it here on Amazon.
This is more comfortable for some as it has a larger surface area and does not feel like it cuts into the gum in quite the same way.
|Reach Dentotape Waxed Dental Floss with Extra Wide Cleaning Surface for Large Spaces between Teeth,...||404 Reviews||$16.97||View on Amazon|
|Oral B Satin Tape Mint 25M (Pack of 6)||432 Reviews||$14.35 $12.43||View on Amazon|
Floss is best for the very tightest of gaps, where interdental brushes cannot reach.
Listerine UltraClean Access Flosser
This is, in my opinion, a fantastic tool and is like a bit of a cross between and interdental brush and dental floss.
A piece of dental floss is fixed between two plastic arms, a bit like it would be on a floss pick. This section of the flosser is detachable and fits into the handle/main part of the flosser.
For me, such a product gives the benefit of thin dental floss, while the extended arm (often found on many interdental brushes) gives the extra reach and it is not a case of being all fingers and thumbs as is often the case with dental floss.
|Listerine UltraClean Access Flosser||956 Reviews||$9.09||View on Amazon|
Listerine make the UltraClean Access flosser (view on Amazon) which allows you to complete the interdental cleaning with much more ease.
Each floss head if you like is used once then disposed of, with replacements being cost effective to buy. You reuse the handle, just replace the floss head each time you use it.
I personally believe it is a much more convenient product and can for some some revolutionize the way they floss.
The shape of the floss head also means, that if required you can use the teeth to add a little pressure to help move the floss into the tightest of gaps.
DenTek Floss Picks
These use once, throw away style products are extremely practical and versatile.
As the name kind of implies they are both flosser and tooth pick.
|DenTek Fresh Clean Floss Picks||2,293 Reviews||$3.19||View on Amazon|
At one end is a piece of dental floss, held firmly in place by 2 plastic arms, whilst the other end of the pick acts as a handle and pick, with a thin pointed end.
Made by lots of different brands, it is DenTek who are the best known and most popular. My favorites are the DenTek Fresh Clean Floss Picks with Long Lasting Mint.
A pack of 75, they are great for keeping in the car, in a drawer of your office desk or in a bag.
Small and compact, you can take a few with you when traveling too if you like.
The dental floss is a thin tape style design and is coated with fluoride to give the best oral hygiene benefits.
The floss is strong enough to survive a flossing session, but I do think there are better floss tapes out there, if you are happy to use a tape over a pick.
Doubling up as a handle, the pick is as you might expect pointed and will help remove the most stubborn of stuck food.
A series of ridges on the floss pick allows it to double up as a tongue scraper should you want to refresh the tongue.
These can be purchased on Amazon.
Convenient they certainly are, they are not the most environment friendly. A tiny amount of plastic is used, but the design means this plastic is redundant after just 1 use, not helping the plastic waste that plights the world we live in today.
It is, of course, your choice and whilst I think they are a great option in certain circumstances, I encourage you, if you can, to think sensibly about how often you opt for these over other reusable or less polluting products.
Water flossers/Oral Irrigator – Effortless simplicity
Water flossers or as many refer to them as Waterpik’s are a fantastic solution and involve no fiddly tape or brushes to be pushed between the teeth.
A water flosser is another type of tool to help with interdental cleaning.
The use of a water flosser can reduce the existence of bleeding of gums by up to 93%!
A water flosser is a more gentle, comfortable and convenient way than the traditional flossing that your dentist always goes on about. In fact, water flossers reach areas of the mouth normal flossing can’t.
Waterpik is a brand of water flosser, but as the market leader, their name has become integral to the industry and this is why many call a water flosser a Waterpik, even-though the manufacturer might not be Waterpik!
Essentially a water flosser provides a jet of water into the mouth to use force and motion of the liquid (sometimes combined with air) to remove the harmful plaque and bacteria.
It might be a little unfair of me to say that the most lazy of flossers benefit most from this type of tool, but I will include myself within this category.
Just because I write about this stuff, does not mean I ‘enjoy’ keeping my teeth clean!
There are lots of different choices at varying prices and with different features.
Compared to the old fashioned floss, they are much more expensive, but there is a price to be paid for convenience.
The downside to these products is that due to their on board water tanks, they tend to be bulkier.
There are the corded flossers that require constant power and there are the cordless options, better suited to the likes of travellers.
Our guide to the best water flosser looks in detail at the options you have and lists out the top options available
Waterpik WP-660 Aquarius Water Flosser
|Waterpik WP-660 Aquarius Water Flosser||45,723 Reviews||$69.99||View on Amazon|
Whilst some lesser known brands do offer some exceptionally good value water flossers, there is for me only really 1 choice and that is Waterpik.
Backed by clinical research, there is an extra confidence and quality in their products.
The WP-660 is my current favorite.
An American Dental Association approved product, it has a number of different pressure settings, a large water tank, rotatable nozzle and is available in a number of color options too.
A good box contents with the provision of additional tips is welcomed too.
Brace wearers will be impressed with how effortlessly it can remove debris around brackets and arch wires.
Make no mistakes, it does take a bit of time to practice and get the technique right, without drenching the countertop of your bathroom, but once you master it, the benefits are clear.
Philips Sonicare AirFloss
|Philips Sonicare Airfloss||1,831 Reviews||View on Amazon|
This is not a true water flosser, it is an innovative adaptation of such in my opinion.
Where a water flosser requires you to be lent over a sink to let the water escape (because there is a lot of it), the Airfloss uses a much smaller volume of water, mixed with air at pressure to achieve similar results.
After a flossing session with the Airfloss, you have just a tiny amount of waste water to spit out.
Made by Philips Sonicare, the Aifloss is a more compact cordless unit that fits comfortably in the hand.
Simple and easy to use, it is lightweight and well constructed and you can floss your whole mouth in just 30 seconds!
Short sharp bursts of air and water reach into the interdental space blasting away bacteria and debris.
If you really don’t want to floss, but know you should and you want the least hassle, this is it!
I personally like to use this when I am short of time and to get an extra flossing session in, normally first thing in the morning.
Waterpik do make cordless water flossers, which can be convenient for those away from mains power or those who travel. But, you can’t deny the added convenience of the Airfloss when so little waste water is created. That said, Waterpik have been keen to show how their water flossers are more effective (see the studies).
There are and always will be differing points of views and studies that reveal one thing or another. The options we present will not be suitable for all, we have personal preferences.
What is consistent though is that any effort to carry out interdental cleaning is better than making no effort at all. Those that do clean in between their teeth be that with fancy interdental brushes or with good old fashioned floss are at a lower risk of gum disease than those who take no action.