In this article I provide recommendations for the best dental floss, based on my own hands-on testing and experience as a dentist.
Floss is an interdental cleaning aid. It is long and thin, like string, and is designed to be pulled down between two teeth.
Interdental cleaning is important to keep your mouth clean, prevent dental diseases, and protect any dental work you have.
The most effective tool for interdental cleaning is an interdental brush.
If you have gum disease, it is recommended that you use interdental brushes rather than other flossing tools.
Otherwise, when it comes to flossing, it’s best to find a tool that you like using, and use it regularly.
You can find a full explanation about the right interdental cleaning tools for your personal situation in our water flossing vs dental floss vs interdental brushes article.
Throughout this article I explain the factors you need to consider if you are shopping for dental floss and make recommendations within several categories.
All our recommendations at a glance
How we chose
Our team is made up of dental professionals and experienced product testers. We specialise in oral health and abide by a strong code of ethics.
Together, we ensure our recommendations include only the very best choices. We regularly review our recommendations based on newly released products and clinical evidence.
To choose the best floss options is very subjective. Most products are similar. There is little difference in cleaning quality between the different options available.
What you choose is down to personal preference.
I have chosen products which I have personally tested, unless stated otherwise. I have assessed floss types based on my personal experience wherever possible, and feedback from other users too.
In some cases Electric Teeth might also have a more detailed review for the product.
On the surface, there is little to be able to recommend one type of floss as better than another. Floss itself is fairly standard. The biggest differences are:
- The packaging used – the floss dispensers.
- The material of the floss and whether it is single muliament or multifilament.
- Whether or not the floss is waxed.
- The flavours and aromas used on the floss.
Doing hands-on testing does allow me to assess cleaning performance. But, there is little evidence to support one type of floss over any other. Technique is more important.
I have tried to choose products that have some amount of data to support any specific claims they make or independent safety testing.
My recommendations also consider feedback from consumers and industry leaders.
Other criteria include how environmentally friendly the floss or brand is. The recommendations aim to balance between the cost of the floss and the environmental impact.
Best dental floss
Oral-B Essential Floss Mint Waxed
*Prices correct at time of writing.
This floss works out at about 4p per metre.
A standard floss, which is the best of the bunch when it comes to traditional nylon flosses. It is widely available and easy to find.
The Oral-B Essential floss is made up of about 35 strands of nylon. It is waxed (although an unwaxed option is available) and is available with mint flavouring or unflavoured.
It comes as 50m spools in a plastic container with a built in metal floss cutter. This plastic container is pp (polypropylene, plastic number 5) so should be recyclable when you are finished with it.
This is a basic floss, and is widely available in shops and online. There are no major concerns with this floss. Although it appears cheap, there isn’t much difference between this and the more comfortable tape options.
I found the floss to have a strong minty flavour, and generally comfortable to use. It has a thin, circular profile and is strong even in very tight gaps. During use, it didn’t shred at all, which is impressive for such a cheap option.
Best dental tape
Oral-B Pro Expert Premium Floss
*Prices correct at time of writing.
Approximate cost 5p per metre.
The best quality tape that I have tried, it fits well in the tightest of gaps and doesn’t shred.
Although this is called floss, it is more of a tape. It comes waxed and with a strong mint flavouring (although an original version is available, it is not as common).
It seems to be made of single filament PTFE (Oral-B did not respond to my request for more information about the material used). It is 40m long, which is longer than the Satin tape (which is 25m).
That is why I have selected it over the Satin Tape for best dental tape. I have selected it over the Oral-B Glide Pro Health Original floss as it has a wider profile and feels more comfortable to use.
It comes in a single use plastic container with built-in floss cutter. Packaging wise, it comes in a card and plastic casing.
This tape is comfortable to use and very shred resistant. It’s thin enough to also be used in the tightest of gaps. It works exactly as you think it should.
It is very affordable and widely available both in shops and online.
The only real downside with Oral-B Pro Expert Premium Floss is the environmental considerations — the use of plastic in packaging and the floss.
Many people have called for Oral-B to make refillable options, as the casing can easily be taken apart at home, and this would be a great improvement.
That said, Oral-B has recently released a refill option for the Glide Pro Health floss in the US. Hopefully it will soon become more widely available. But note that the Oral-B Glide Pro Health Original floss is not the same as Oral-B Pro Expert Premium Floss.
Best bio-based plastic floss
Georganics PLA Floss
*Prices correct at time of writing.
Approximate cost per metre for this floss is 10p including the container, or 7p per metre for the refills.
A more environmentally friendly alternative to traditional nylon floss as it is made from bio-based plastic. It is prone to shredding so not the best option for very crowded teeth.
Georganics floss is my pick for one of the best eco-friendly flosses. Picking an eco-friendly floss is difficult because the only truly plastic free option is silk, which is not necessarily the best option for the environment due to the energy used to produce it. That is why I am picking a PLA option and a silk option. No PLA option performs particularly well compared to traditional flosses, as I find it more prone to shredding.
That said, Georganics made it to the top of the list as it is reasonably affordable and widely available. It is a bio-based plastic, made from corn based PLA and coated in “vegetable wax”. There is the option for orange flavoured or spearmint flavouring.
The oil used is COSMOS certified organic. All Georganics products are certified vegan (Vegan Society) and cruelty free (Cruelty Free International Leaping Bunny). It is one of the few manufacturers to have these claims independently verified.
They have recently changed their product, and it now comes in a 50m spool in a refillable glass jar with an aluminium lid. The jar comes in a recyclable kraft paper box. The refills come as a pack of 2 x 50m in a kraft box. Note that these spools are 20m longer than the previous style so if you have an existing Georganics jar, the refill will not fit.
They have deliberately increased the length of the floss spools to reduce the environmental impact as shipping a new product is required less often.
As a company, Georganics obviously strive to be ethical as they pay a living wage to their workers, and also have charitable connections with 1% for the planet.
Best silk floss
Bambaw Silk Floss
*Prices correct at time of writing.
This floss works out at about 13p per metre including the container, and 8p per metre for the refills.
A true plastic free option for floss, although this does come with higher energy demands in production. Comfortable to use and less prone to shredding than nylon flosses.
Silk is the only truly plastic free option for floss, however I am reluctant to recommend it as most eco-friendly as making it is just so energy intensive. Some people will also want to avoid silk flosses as they are made from animal products, which is why I have also recommended a PLA version (above). Generally, silk is less prone to shredding than PLA options.
Bambaw is my pick of the different silk flosses available.It is so-called “peace silk” or “ahimsa silk”, so the company is at least trying to work around some of the ethical problems.
It has a candelilla wax coating and is mint flavoured. The refills come as a pack of 2 in plastic free paper packaging.
It is mint scented, which you can smell as soon as you open the package, but this is not overpowering and it does not taste particularly minty.
The floss itself is thin, with only a light waxing. It glides well between the teeth, but there is a bit of resistance, which just feels like it is doing a more thorough job. There is no shredding when using the floss, even in tighter spaces.
It comes in a reusable stainless steel dispenser, with one spare reel. Refills can be purchased as a pack of 2 x 50m. All packaging is plastic free.
Bambaw is a Belgian company that is striving to be carbon neutral, as well as supporting a number of charitable causes. Their supply chain and transport are carbon-neutral, certified by the CO2 Logic label.
Best floss for bridges and implants
TePe Bridge and Implant floss
*Prices correct at time of writing.
The best quality option for spongy floss to clean around bridges, implants, braces, and retainers.
I have selected TePe Bridge and Implant floss as the best option for the spongy type flosses recommended for bridges, implants and other fixed appliances in the mouth (like braces and retainers).
This comes in a pack of 30 pre-cut pieces of about 29.5cm. This is made up of two reinforced plastic ends (which can be used to thread through the gaps), with about 14cm of spongy floss in the middle.
The reason this comes top is because of the quality of the spongy part of the floss. It is thicker than other options available, giving a good clean.
This isn’t the cheapest or most widely available option, but you do get what you pay for, and this is worth investing in if you have already paid for a bridge or implant!
Notes and reviews from Dr. Wheeler’s testing
To be able to recommend the best products, I have completed hands-on testing with many different flosses and tapes. I have broken these down below so you can see why a particular product is recommended over another. Note that in some countries, the product may be more difficult to find, but I have left them in this section for comparison’s sake.
I have had hands on testing with Oral-B Pro Expert Premium Floss, Oral-B Glide Pro Health Original Floss, Oral-B Satin Floss and Oral-B-Satin Tape. The Expert Premium Floss is a tape with a wide, flat profile. The Glide Pro Health is very similar to the Premium Floss, but it is not as wide and is a little less refined. Both come in 50m spools.
The Satin Floss and Satin Tape are also tape shaped, with the floss version being less wide. They come in 25m spools.
I found the Premium Floss to be the least prone to shredding, and it feels like a more comfortable dental tape to use, by a long way.
Traditional dental floss
I compared a number of different traditional “flosses” — these are the multifilament type with a round profile. This includes Wisdom Waxed Dental Floss, Colgate Total Pro Gum Health Floss, Johnson and Johnson Reach Waxed Floss and Oral-B Essential Floss.
The Wisdom floss performed the worst, shredding very easily. I found the Oral-B Essential floss to be the least prone to shredding, whilst the Colgate and Reach were in the middle. Given the longer spool length and affordable price, The Oral-B Essential Floss just pipped the Colgate option.
Eco-friendly dental floss
Choosing a more environmentally friendly floss was a challenge. I write about these sorts of flosses in more detail in my article on the best eco-friendly floss.
Generally, bio-based plastic seems to have the lowest environmental impact in terms of material and energy consumption. But it still doesn’t get around what to do with the floss when you are finished with it. Manufacturers talk about PLA being biodegradable, and there is evidence that PLA does break down in industrial composting facilities, but floss itself has not actually been tested.
The other problem is that these bio-based flosses aren’t all that good — they shred easily and so aren’t much good for people with crowded teeth. Overall, they are about the same as the budget flosses, but do not compare to dental tape in terms of comfort during use. What these flosses do offer is a better alternative to the mainstream brands in terms of ethics. It’s difficult to pick out a stand out winner in usage, so my choice is based on the company’s policies and availability of the product.
If you want a totally plastic free floss, silk is the only option. However it is energy intensive to make, and so not actually the most environmentally friendly product overall. It is also not suitable for vegans or people wishing to avoid animal products. The only benefit of silk floss is that it will fully break down on a home composting pile. It is also generally more comfortable to use than PLA, and less likely to shred (although still not as good as the PTFE tapes in my opinion).
Bridge and implant floss
Bridge and implant flosses don’t have as many options on the market. Although I call them bridge and implant flosses, these are sold as floss for fixed braces and floss for bonded permanent retainers and splints.
I tested Oral-B Superfloss (the most widely known option), as well as TePe Bridge and Implant floss, ProxySoft Bridge & Implant cleaners, and iDontix X-Floss Lite. I tested them by cleaning around my own bonded retainer.
These are all pre-cut options with some sort of threader and a length of spongy floss. Unlike other flosses, there is a lot of difference between the products.
Oral-B Superfloss is the cheapest and most widely known floss of this design, and is often the only option available in a shop (if any!). This is made up of 10cm of stiffened plastic threader, 13 cm of spongy floss in the middle, and 37.5cm of regular floss. In my opinion, this is too long and makes the floss much more fiddly than it needs to be. This is why Oral-B Superfloss did not make my top recommendation for bridge and implant floss.
iDontix is not as widely known as the other brands. One bonus is that it is available in a number of different thicknesses. It has a firm plastic threader with 19cm of very spongy thread. The spongy thread is actually two threads wrapped around each other, and gives a very good cleaning action. This will be good for particularly large gaps and around brackets, but will be a struggle to use between teeth that are close together. It also has the tendency to unravel during use.
The ProxySoft and TePe are very similar. Both come in packs of 30. Both ends have stiffened plastic (in blue) and there is a central spongy part. The only noticeable difference is the length. The TePe is about 29.5cm (this is longer than the 24.5cm stated on the packaging), the ProxySoft is longer at 37.5cm. The length of spongy floss in the middle is about the same for both brands at 14cm. These were my favourite to use, and picking the best just comes down to cost in your local area.
Dental floss buyer’s guide
In the following sections I have included some useful pre-purchase information about the different types of floss.
I also run through some do’s and don’ts and answer common questions.
We also have a separate page with step-by-step instructions on how to floss.
If you’re looking for some information that I haven’t covered, please leave a comment below.
What is flossing?
Flossing is a method of interdental cleaning.
Interdental cleaning is the process of cleaning between the teeth. It is completed in addition to traditional toothbrushing.
Flossing is the act of removing plaque using a type of tape or string, known as floss.
This additional cleaning between your teeth is very important. Not only does it keep your teeth and gums healthy, but there are also some surprising benefits to your general health too.
Flossing doesn’t just benefit your teeth
Did you know that toothbrushing alone removes only 60% of plaque from your teeth?
Even though advances in science, clinical testing and our understanding of oral health have improved over the decades, even the best electric toothbrushes, including those with so called ‘floss action’ brush heads are limited in how much of the tooth surface they can actually clean.
Interdental cleaning is needed to remove the plaque left behind after brushing.
Removing plaque build up is important to keep your mouth clean, and interdental cleaning removes more plaque than only using a brush.
- Flossing stops your gums bleeding.
- Flossing prevents gum disease.
- Flossing slows down advanced gum disease.
- Flossing prevents tooth decay.
Another advantage in keeping your mouth clean is that flossing prevents tartar build up. Without tartar build up, you are less likely to suffer from staining on your teeth.
Flossing is also known to prevent tooth loss. Studies show that people who use interdental cleaning aids have more natural teeth than those who rely on brushing alone.
Bad breath, or halitosis, is caused by poor oral hygiene and untreated gum disease.
Flossing prevents bad breath by:
- Removing plaque and food debris which cause bad smells in the mouth.
- Removing the food for the bacteria which release compounds that cause bad breath.
- Managing the gum disease and dental decay that contribute bad breath.
But it’s not just good for your mouth, flossing also has surprising benefits for your overall health.
Pros of flossing
- Cheap – Very cost effective as one reel will last months.
- Travel friendly – Compact packaging and can be completed anywhere. Whilst a mirror and a bathroom might be handy, it is not essential to enable you to floss.
- Availability – Easy to source from grocery stores and pharmacies.
- Hygienic – Disposing of the floss after use ensures the bacteria is removed. No rinsing or cleaning of floss involved.
- Quick and easy to do – Relatively speaking, it is not the most difficult task to complete and can be learnt quickly.
- Good option for small gaps and crowded teeth, where interdental brushes cannot reach.
- Threaded floss can be used for bridges and braces.
- Some plastic free options available.
Cons of flossing
- Difficult technique– Getting the floss in between the teeth and cleaning effectively can be very awkward, particularly for rear teeth and those with limited dexterity.
- Painful – Can cut into the gums and be unpleasant to use.
- It takes a good few minutes – To do it properly, takes time.
- You need the right technique to be effective – Simply putting the floss in between teeth is not enough. You need to cup around each tooth and move the floss for it to work.
- Not effective in larger gaps.
- Difficult to complete if you have restricted dexterity.
- Traditional floss not suitable for bridges and braces due to obstruction at contact point.
- Smallest evidence base for use (versus interdental brushes and water flossers).
- Single use plastic is an environmental concern.
How to choose the best floss for you
As I said earlier in the article, there is no one floss or flossing product that is right for everyone. We are all unique in the shape and profile of the mouth.
You need to find the tools that work best for you. Questions to ask yourself:
- Do I need a flossing tool or will plain floss be okay?
- Do I want regular floss of something more environmentally friendly?
- What flavour do I like?
- Do I want waxed or unwaxed floss?
- Do I want floss or dental tape?
If you are not sure what tools are right for you, then ask your dentist or hygienist, they will more than happily give their professional opinion on what type of product you should be using and why.
If you don’t see your dentist for their advice on what is right for you, then it will likely be a process of trial and error until you find what works best for you.
Note that if you have gum disease (early stage such as gingivitis or more advanced disease, periodontitis) you will most likely need something which provides a better clean. I would recommend interdental brushes if you are at high risk of dental diseases (see our FAQ below for more advice on this).
How to start flossing (and stick to it)
If you are new to interdental cleaning, it can seem like a daunting task.
This video gives a quick overview of the important things to know:
We also have an entire hub page dedicated to how to floss.
To get started, I recommend doing the following:
- Prepare yourself for success by reading up my article on Common Flossing Mistakes.
- Prepare yourself by picking the right tool for the job. You can read about the differences between floss, water flossers and interdental brushes here.
- Read my guide on creating a good flossing habit.
A look at the different types of floss
Most flosses appear very similar. The main differences are:
- Whether it is single filament or multifilament.
- The exact material used to make the filaments.
- Wax coating (or lack of).
- Added flavours.
Floss might be called floss string or tape. Dental tape is normally wide and flat, whereas string floss is thin and round.
In the sections below I’ll explain in a bit more detail about each type of floss.
Single vs multifilament
Each piece of floss you cut off can be made up of either one single strand, or of multiple strands woven together.
Multifilament floss is made when multiple strands are woven together. This creates a strong rounded strand that can be comfortable for most to use. Most flosses are multifilament flosses.
Monofilament floss is made from just one stand of a stronger material such as teflon, or polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE, the same material used in Gore-Tex fabric). This type of floss typically glides better over the teeth surfaces, but can be harder to use in tight gaps as it is thicker.
Some multifilament flosses are made to be very spongy. These are marketed to people with implants, bridges, and braces.
Spongy floss is normally pre-cut and made up of 3 parts; there is a stiff waxed section, a spongy section and a regular floss section to it. The stiff section acts a little like a guide wire around appliances. It does not bend or flex in the same way as the floss does, meaning it can be fed through gaps or spaces with more ease and accuracy.
The spongy part of the floss is meant to expand. The large surface area cleans bigger gaps and in theory removes more plaque than regular floss.
These flosses are normally more expensive than regular floss.
Flavouring itself does not affect the cleaning ability of a floss.
Some people do prefer a flavoured floss, and say that it helps promote a clean sensation.
Mint is the most common flavouring, probably because it has an association to cleanliness and freshness. But in reality we don’t need to have a flavour for our mouths to be clean.
Alternative flavours are available from the likes of Cocofloss (think coconut, strawberry and orange), Georganics (orange), or plain unflavoured floss is a popular option with many of the more “natural” brands.
Reusable dental floss
There are some “reusable” dental floss options now available. These are made from silicone and are designed to be used multiple times.
After each use, simply rinse and allow it to air dry.
The “floss” is made up of two rings, which are designed to place your fingers into, joined together by a string. The string can also have indentations on it, which manufacturers say helps to “massage” the gums and improve cleaning.
In my testing Simplyfloss was easy to use. I found you needed to stretch it quite far to fit between the teeth, but this was easy enough to do.
I could see that the floss removed debris from between the teeth so it does have some effectiveness too. It didn’t irritate the gums in the same way that string floss can do when used incorrectly.
That said, I am cautious about recommending reusable dental floss as an eco-friendly alternative for cleaning between the teeth. That is because the material is made from fossil-fuel based silicone, and is difficult to recycle.
Waxed vs unwaxed floss
Your basic dental floss is often available with or without a wax coating.
The benefit of the wax coating is that it helps the floss glide over the tooth surface and can make the process more comfortable. Waxed floss tends to be stronger than the unwaxed, and less likely to shred between the teeth.
Adding this wax coating does increase the thickness of the floss which may make it unusable for people with very tight gaps between their teeth.
Unwaxed floss is better for use in the tightest of spaces in the mouth. It is also normally cheaper than waxed floss.
In terms of materials used, the options are:
- petroleum based – microcrystalline wax.
- plant based – carnauba wax, candelilla wax.
Most floss sold by mainstream brands is made from oil-based plastic. This includes nylon and PTFE. These are the cheapest materials and most researched types of floss.
The dental industry is catching up with concerns about the environment, and some alternative options are now available.
Bio-based plastic is one option, and includes corn based PLA and corn based nylon. Although the final material is the same as traditional plastic, the petroleum based oil has been switched for plants instead. These are seen as more environmentally friendly alternatives to conventional floss.
Some brands are also using recycled plastics to produce dental floss.
A natural alternative to plastic for floss is using silk threads. The greatest benefit of this is that it is compostable and so is a zero-waste option.
For a full explanation of the different materials, as well as find out about all the options available, see our guide to the best eco-friendly floss.
A look at the different types of flossing tools
Whilst this article is focused on the best dental floss, there are a number of different tools that can help you with flossing.
The floss you use can also be attached to a device to hold the floss. These are most commonly called floss picks, but there are different options:
- Floss holder/floss harp – pre cut floss is held between two arms. Helps position the floss.
- Floss picks/flossette – floss holder with a pick on the other end. Helps position the floss.
- Floss threader – a handle in the shape of a small plastic needle, with an eye for fitting floss through. Good for getting around devices like braces or bridges.
They make it easier to get the right technique, help you to reach the back teeth, and help create a regular flossing habit.
Generally I would recommend against single use options due to the impact on the environment. But there are an increasing number of reusable versions available.
Those who get the greatest benefit from these types of products are those with limited dexterity and those who simply find the normal flossing process difficult.
Below is a brief guide, but see our guide to the best flossing tools for more information.
Flossettes / floss picks
These are devices to hold the floss. The floss is pre-cut and pulled between plastic. You can grip the handle to pull the floss between the teeth.
Common names include flossettes, floss picks, and floss harps. These are all pretty much the same thing!
Often the other end of the floss pick’s handle has a pointed end to it, to act as a toothpick, hence the ‘pick’ part of the name.
These are normally made from plastic and are sold typically in larger packets containing tens, if not hundreds of them, because they are designed for one-time use.
Examples of flossettes and floss picks include: Oral-B Glide Floss Picks
Other materials used for single use flossettes are bio-based plastics, recycled plastics and bamboo. These still aren’t great seeing as they are single use, but they are less harmful that petroleum-based products. See our list here for more information.
Reusable floss holders
With a similar design to the floss picks mentioned above, the key difference is that rather than being pre-fitted out of the packet with floss, you place a piece of floss into the holder.
They consist of a handle and two “arms”.
You stretch some floss between the two arms. Sometimes the floss is provided with your original purchase, but you can use any floss. Once you are finished, you remove the floss and dispose of it.
The handle itself can be made of a range of different materials, with common options including durable plastic, or metal.
Examples include Durapik and the Quip Flosser.
Out of the two, we would recommend the Quip reusable flosser. There are other, cheaper, options available, but we are yet to test these and they have mixed reviews online.
You can buy Quip here (it ships from USA).
These tools are used by threading a piece of floss (of your choice) through the small piece of plastic. It is much like a piece of thread being fed through the eye of a needle.
They help place and move the dental floss into certain positions in the mouth. They are especially helpful for people with dental bridges and braces, when floss can’t simply be pulled down between the teeth.
They are an alternative to using specific implant and bridge floss with a waxed end.
The threader is stiffer than the floss, but has enough flex to allow floss to be passed in between and through brace wires etc.
You can see how they work in this video.
Other interdental cleaning options
Other alternatives to dental floss are available. These include:
Interdental brushes are the gold standard for cleaning between the teeth, with lots of evidence to show that they are more effective at plaque removal than floss. Water flossers have a mixed evidence base, but they are definitely an option if you struggle with floss.
For information on the differences between them, see our interdental brushes, and water flossers, as well as the evidence behind each of them, check out our water flossing vs dental floss vs interdental brushes article.
Addressing the drawbacks – stopping pain and bleeding
I have heard many reasons why people struggle using dental floss.
- “It is too awkward and I can’t reach the back”
- “I don’t have enough time”
- ” I don’t think it makes a difference – brushing cleans well enough!”
- “My gums bleed when I floss”
- “It hurts to floss”
- “There is too much to think about – brushing and flossing and interdental brushes”
Whilst some of these excuses are indeed valid, a good dentist or hygienist will take the time to explain what you can do to avoid them.
The most important thing is to make sure you are using the best flossing technique!
It’s normal to find the flossing technique difficult. This is because it requires some skill. Keep practising and you will get there.
Avoid these common flossing mistakes and become a pro.
That said, there are some problems that happen during and after flossing. I have written about these in more detail:
There is not much evidence to support one specific type of floss as being better at cleaning than another.
This means the best floss is largely personal choice.
Key to the success of flossing is the right technique and daily repetition.
To achieve all of this takes a little time and effort, but long term this is all worth it when you can have pink, healthy, blood free gums along with the confidence in knowing you are reducing your risk of other dental health issues.
This article has provided a lot of information and will help you on your journey to better flossing and oral health.
Is dental floss vegan?
Dental floss is not necessarily vegan. It depends on the material used for the thread, and the wax used. Some companies may also complete animal testing of products and ingredients.
Specific ingredients used in floss which are not vegan include:
- Ahimsa silk
- Mulberry silk
Does dental floss expire?
Yes, floss can have an expiry date.
It is often several years away, but this depends on the brand and type of floss, so check the container/packaging. If you like to bulk buy, in many instances you can do this without fear of it being out of date, but do double check.
If the product does expire, avoid using it after this time.
Biodegradable products, in particular, are more likely to have an expiration date as after this time the strength, taste and general use may be compromised.
Waxed v unwaxed floss – which is best?
There is no evidence to support using one type over the other.
Unwaxed floss can often reach or fit in tighter gaps, is cheaper and just as effective.
Waxed floss is normally more comfortable to use and glides easily between the teeth.
What is better – a water flosser vs dental floss?
There are pros and cons for each. The most important factor is for you to choose a method you will use regularly.
The opinion of many dental professionals is that the act of flossing with string or tape is more effective because the tape is making physical contact, whereas water flossers rely on pressure and flow to dislodge and remove bacteria.
However, studies have shown water flossing to be effective. In some cases more so than dental floss (see here for a full discussion). Water flossers can be particularly helpful for those with limited dexterity.
If you have active gum disease you should use interdental brushes. These are the gold standard for cleaning.
It’s best to speak to your dentist or dental professional for advice based on your circumstances.
How to dispose of dental floss
Dental floss is not recyclable, no matter what the manufacturer says! It is contaminated waste. On top of that the material is almost impossible to recycle due to the small amounts.
There is no way to recycle nylon floss at present.
Silk floss can be added to home compost units or sent to industrial compost facilities.
Corn based PLA is a bio-based plastic that has been certified industrially compostable, although individual floss products have not been tested. You can send it to industrial composting facilities. If added to home composting piles it may not fully break down, or will be slow to do so.
Other bio-based plastics may not be biodegradable or compostable, depending on the final structure. This includes bio-based nylon.
If you don’t have access to composting facilities, or if the floss is not made of a material to send to composting facilities, dispose of your floss in with your general waste.
For floss picks/flossettes, remove the floss part and dispose as above. The handle can be recycled separately, depending on the material.
Do not flush floss down the toilet or wash it down the sink! It can clog the system and cause blockages in the pipes.
Is dental floss bad for the environment?
The short answer is yes.
Conventional dental floss, floss picks and interdental brushes are heavily reliant on plastic when making them.
This has a negative impact on the environment because of the resources needed to make the plastic, the difficulty with recycling it, and the potential for harm to the environment if it is not disposed of correctly.
So much plastic is used, for something which is only once, or up to a couple of weeks in the case of interdental brushes. Fossil fuel based plastics use up a finite resource.
See our guide to environmentally friendly floss for more details. And see our guide on how to make your dental health more environmentally friendly for more genral advice.
How often should I floss?
Once a day, in the evening, before brushing is the gold standard for interdental cleaning. We have more information about this on our page how often you should floss.
Can I reuse dental floss?
No, do not reuse your dental floss.
It can fray, causing damage to the gums and more likely to harbour bacteria.
It will also lose its effectiveness as it is used.
Finally, reusing floss is not recommended as it can deposit bacteria in the mouth.
Should I try DIY dental floss?
You may be tempted to use a DIY floss from another thread such as cotton.
As a dentist, I do not recommend making your own floss from second hand threads and materials found around the house.
There is a risk of bringing bacteria into your mouth and underneath your gums. This could cause infections and abscesses in your gums.
Secondly, materials which are not designed for flossing may break and become dislodged in the gum. I have picked many pieces of debris out of the gum (normally pieces of food) and know that they can cause quite a lot of pain before they are removed.
How do I know if I am high risk/clinically vulnerable?
Whilst at the dentist, they will be doing a risk assessment for you. This will help them develop a plan and tailor any advice they give to you. These risk assessments include tooth decay and gum disease risk.
If you are at low risk for tooth decay and gum disease, you could consider dental floss. With correct use, this is sufficient for cleaning.
If you are at higher risk for tooth decay and gum disease, you should focus on optimum cleaning. This includes using an electric toothbrush and interdental brushes. These are more effective at plaque removal, which is key to preventing dental diseases.
You can discuss this with your dental professional and ask them where you fall in terms of risk for dental diseases.
For more information about this see our post about it here.