The following video gives great visuals for you to understand and follow.
How you use an interdental brush does vary slightly depending on what area of the mouth you are cleaning. The front teeth are easier to clean in between than those at the back of the mouth.
To use an interdental brush you should follow these steps.
Front of the mouth
- Use a straight interdental brush
- Gently insert the appropriately sized brush into the space between the teeth, at gum level. Twist the brush slightly in a clockwise direction to help the brush access and fit into the gap. This can also help prolong the life of the brush.
- When inserted, gently move the brush in a backwards and forwards motion, the full length of the brush. Bring it gently down each side of the triangle of gum between the teeth. Repeat this several times to remove plaque and debris.
Back of the mouth
You can use the same technique for teeth at the back of the mouth, however, their position and the ability to reach inside and to the back of the mouth with regular interdental brushes can be quite difficult.
Angled interdental brushes are designed to be used between the back teeth. Examples include TePe Angle or Curaprox Prime long handle.
The length of the handle and the angled head makes it much easier to reach these areas.
You can insert the brush into the gap between the teeth in the same way you would with teeth at the front of the mouth. An advantage of long and angled brushes is that you can insert the tool from both the cheek and tongue side of the mouth.
Some interdental brushes allow you to bend them at the neck to create an angle.
With larger sized brushes access and movement between back teeth may be improved if you bend the wire. Take care bending the wire as it does make them more prone to breaking.
You should repeat the interdental cleaning for all spaces between teeth and only use floss to clean the tightest gaps.
Some tips to consider and be aware of when using interdental brushes:
- The most important function is to manually disturb the plaque. There is no need to apply toothpaste to the brushes.
- If your gums are particularly sore, run the brush under warm water to soften the bristles.
- Do not force any brush into the gap
- The brush should glide through with relative ease, but with the feeling and sensation of a snug fit. If it feels too tight or you are having to apply pressure/force, then it is likely too big.
- Wash the brush with water after use.
- If you are struggling to reach around your back teeth because your cheek is in the way, insert the brush from the inside, ie, by your tongue or palate.
- Use your brushes in front of the mirror until you get the hang of it.
- You may notice over time that the brush feels less snug in the space. This is likely a sign that you have reduced any swelling that might have been caused as a reaction to not having previously effectively cleaned between the teeth.
Choosing the right interdental brush
Interdental brushes come in various shapes and sizes and are available from a range of manufacturers.
To help you choose the correct product for your situation, I have put together a guide on the best interdental brushes.
This is based on my own hands-on testing and experience as a dentist.
How to start cleaning between your teeth (and stick to it)
If you are new to interdental cleaning, it can seem like a daunting task. Before you start:
- Watch our video Flossing: A Quick Guide To Getting Started.
- Prepare yourself by picking the right tool for the job. You can read about the differences between floss, water flossers and interdental brushes here.
- Once you have decided on a tool to try, see our buying guides.
- And read my guide on creating a good flossing habit.
It’s normal to find the 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 cleaning between your teeth. Although the titles say “flossing”, they are all equally relevant to interdental brushes as they apply to all types of interdental cleaning. See the Electric Teeth Guides for:
- Why do gums bleed during or after flossing?
- Why do your teeth and gums hurt after flossing?
- What to do if your floss smells bad.