Flossing is an eight letter word that manages to make most people cringe and wince at the very thought of what the word implies.
There may well have been reports that flossing makes no difference and is not effective (BBC 2016), but these reports have misinterpreted the findings and comments of the European Federation of Periodontology.
Brushing your teeth only cleans 60% of the tooth surface.
40% goes uncleaned unless you partake in interdental cleaning.
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.
Interdental cleaning is the use of a specialised appliance – e.g. floss, toothpick, or interdental 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.
A necessary evil, interdental cleaning takes time, it can be awkward and it can be painful for many.
As many of us rather not complete the task, many of us do a poor job of it.
But, I am sure you would rather not have bleeding gums, nor put yourself at a greater risk of diabetes or a stroke. As a result investing your time in a good interdental cleaning routine is the answer.
There are some excellent tools that make flossing easier and more bearable, and most importantly contribute to better oral health.
See some of my quick picks in the table below, or keep reading for a more detailed look at each one.
TePe Interdental Brushes
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Oral-B Satin Tape
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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 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||3,094 Reviews||£4.00 £3.68||View on Amazon|
You need to find the right sized interdental brushes for you. You may need several different sized brushes to suitably fit the different gaps in your mouth. Once you know what you need, you are all good to go.
It is just as time consuming as regular string floss and will likely work out a little more expensive. The process is though a lot less awkward and easier once you have the right brush(s) selected.
This added convenience and thorough cleaning will pay dividends.
Swedish firm TePe are one of the market leaders — I rate their products as the best interdental brushes.
Their original range comes in 9 different sizes, but there is an extra soft range available in 6 sizes. There is also 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.
I have put together a guide for all you need to know about interdental brushes, which explores these in more depth, if you would like to know more.
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.
|Oral-B Satin Tape||673 Reviews||£9.99 £7.30||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. 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.
Floss now comes in varying thicknesses with wider ‘tape’ floss available. This is more comfortable for some as it has a larger surface area and does not feel like it cuts in quite the same way.
However even a better grade floss is not all great.
Where floss really wins is getting into the very tightest of gaps.
There are some modern solutions such as dental floss holders. These take a piece of floss and fix it firmly between two plastic arms so you have to hold onto the flosser rather than the floss itself.
I explain these holders, floss picks and harps in more detail in our best dental floss article.
My favourite, the Wisdom Flosser is much like a toothbrush with a long handle, but rather than a brush head it has a floss head.
The long handle makes it easy to reach into the mouth, even right at the back and move the flosser around. You can do it one handed.
|Wisdom Easy Flosser||26 Reviews||£5.39||View on Amazon|
The design of the head means you can also bite on the plastic to help the floss on its way.
You change the floss head each time it has been used, and throw this away. Replace the head and you are ready for the next flossing session.
Each flosser comes with a handle and 25 replacement floss heads in the pack.
Dentek floss picks
Available from many different brands, my favourite have to be the DenTek Comfort Clean Floss Picks.
|DenTek Comfort Clean Floss Picks||636 Reviews||£8.60 £8.29||View on Amazon|
A good value option these most certainly are a use it and throw it away design.
The floss is strong enough to survive a flossing session, but the plastic construction is much thinner and cheaper than the likes of the Wisdom Flosser. The floss head is at one end and at the other is a plastic pick, for helping get larger food debris out from the teeth and mouth.
These can be purchased on Amazon.
With 150 in the pack, it should last you a couple of months at least.
Whilst these glorified floss solutions make the process easier, there is an overriding environmental concern. Such products with a one time or limited life do not help the problem of plastic waste that plights the world we live in today.
Some statistics that we came across when writing about the ban on microbeads:
- By 2050 oceans are expected to contain more plastics than fish (by weight)
- About 8 million tonnes of plastic enter the oceans every year
- 8 billion plastic water bottles are used and thrown away every year
- 90% of birds have plastics in their stomachs
Now the problem is much much bigger than a few flossers, but plastic waste is an issue that should not be ignored.
Similar to floss picks they hold a length of floss for you.
Unlike floss picks that are designed to be used once, a floss holder is reusable.
You normally cut a piece of floss to length and thread it on the floss holder.
In some instances replaceable or one time use floss heads are available for a more convenient and faster use.
Despite being reusable they also give the benefit of allowing you to reach more effectively to gaps and areas of the mouth.
They cost just a few pounds and can last many years.
|Dental Floss Holder / Grip Handle||72 Reviews||View on Amazon|
As the name implies they are designed to make the process of positioning floss in the mouth more easily.
Ideally suited to brace wearers, floss is looped through the threader, much like you would put thread through the eye of a needle.
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 the following video:
A popular thread flosser is that manufactured by GUM. 25 are included in the pack and is the recommendation of many dentists.
Another option is the Oral-B Super floss. It is floss with a threader built in. Pre-cut and ready to go it is extremely convenient and particularly popular with those who wear braces.
|GUM Eez-Thru Floss Threaders x 1 Pack||105 Reviews||£5.99||View on Amazon|
|Oral B 50 Pieces Pre-Cut Super Floss - Pack of 3||1,218 Reviews||£7.50 £5.24||View on Amazon|
A high tech approach to flossing, this makes use of a motor powered by a battery to move a piece of floss or floss pick in between the teeth.
Oral-B manufactured the Hummingbird, which offered both these options.
Sadly no longer available, Waterpiks Power Flosser is the best example of such a product today.
Such tools are particularly appealing to those who have trouble using regular floss but want to pay attention to their interdental spaces.
The floss/pick is a piece of soft rubber that essentially wiggles between the interdental pace. Moving thousands of times per minute, the rubber flosser makes regular contact with the teeth and gum surfaces to remove debris and lift plaque.
|Waterpik Power Flosser||1,726 Reviews||£18.99||View on Amazon|
Water flossers/Oral Irrigator – Effortless simplicity
Dare I suggest this is for the lazy flosser?!
This includes me!
Whilst these can be purchased relatively cheaply, a decent water flosser will set you back a fair chunk of money. However, their ease is unrivalled in my opinion.
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.
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.
Waterpik have the largest range of water flossers and are perhaps best known with products that offer the most versatility.
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.
Why not check out our recommendations for the best electric water flosser to find out more.
Waterpik WP-660UK Ultra Professional Water Flosser
For those with the space Waterpik’s Ultra Professional Water Flosser offers the best all round value and performance.
For a start the much larger water tank means that you do not necessarily need to refill as often as you do with the handheld options.
You have more control over the power of the water jet and nozzle position as well as having different nozzles available.
For those with braces, a Water Flosser like this is excellent as you can direct powerful streams of water into the hardest to reach places.
|Waterpik WP-660 Ultra Professional Water Flosser||1,153 Reviews||£79.99 £65.72||View on Amazon|
You can buy it on Amazon.
There are arguments for and against all of these different products.
Some will argue floss is best, whilst others will argue water flossers are nonsense.
Philips Sonicare AirFloss
It could be argued this is not a true water flosser, but in my mind the one of the best flossers as it makes flossing effortless.
Using a combination of air and water a high pressure jet is sent in between the teeth and gums to clean out the plaque.
Handheld and cordless, there is a built in water tank and a good battery life to this unit.
Simple and easy to use, it is lightweight and well constructed and you can floss your whole mouth in just 30 seconds!
If you really don’t want to floss, but know you should and you want the least hassle, this is it!
|Philips Sonicare Airfloss||2,189 Reviews||£74.90||View on Amazon|
You can view and buy it on Amazon.
Waterpik do have their own equivalent, the Cordless Plus WP-450 or 350 (view on Amazon) which technically are better for your oral health, but Sonicare has the edge here when considering convenience.
However both have small tanks and less control than a worktop seated flosser.
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 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.