Should I floss? 

Flossing is something that most of us have heard about. Some of us do it regularly, some a little and the rest not at all. There have been some reports that say flossing makes no difference and is not effective, but in actual fact, this is misleading and what they have done is misinterpreted the comments and findings of the European Federation of Periodontology. Which is why so many people are asking the question ‘should I floss?’

Fact: Brushing your teeth only cleans 60% of the tooth surface. 40% is left uncleaned unless you clean interdentally.

The reasons for brushing your teeth are simple, to reduce the numbers of bacteria living in your mouth which can lead to problems. These bacteria live on the food particles and debris left on your teeth after eating and drinking. As they feed, they reproduce and create acidic by-products that attack the tooth enamel, creating cavities. Relying on brushing alone cannot remove the bacteria living in the spaces between your teeth.

Tarter build up

Failure to remove the plaque between your teeth allows it to harden into tarter. This is much harder to remove just by brushing alone. Tarter also encourages bacterial growth which can cause the gums to become inflamed, known as gingivitis. If left untreated this can develop into periodontal disease (gum disease) which affects the structures of your teeth and the supporting bones. So, if you’re still asking whether you should floss or not, the answer is absolutely!

Which method of flossing is best?

There are three ways to clean between the spaces of your teeth (AKA interdental spaces):

  1. Flossing Tape: You can use flossing tape which looks like thin string. A length of floss is wrapped around your fingers, holding it tightly, then scrapping between the teeth. A new piece should be used between each space. Care should be taken not to take it too far up into the space, risking cutting the gum.
  2. Interdental brushes: Small brushes, called interdental brushes can be used. These come in a variety of sizes and your dentist can advise which sizes should be used. These brushes are easier to use in the more difficult places to reach and are ideal for cleaning around orthodontic brackets. They are just as time-consuming to use as flossing tape.
  3. Electric water flosser: An electric water flosser is a device that allows you to shoot a stream of water at and between your teeth, in order to dislodge anything your toothbrush can’t reach. They use a small tank of water that that sits on the worktop and is connected by a cord, or the tank is attached to the device and is cordless. The heads are interchangeable to allow for different needs.  All you must do is lean over the sink and away you go. The time taken to fully floss your mouth is dramatically reduced.

How to decide which method is best for you

Lifestyle, manual dexterity and price all play a part in the decision.

Price: flossing tape is the cheapest method, but probably the most difficult one to use. Hence why you start off with good intentions, but soon become frustrated. Interdental brushes are the next level but can only be used for a short period of time before they must be thrown away and replaced. Packets of brushes can be bought in multiples. Water Flossing machines are the most expensive. The initial outlay is greater, but long term is an investment

Ease of use: Flossing with tape can be quite difficult and requires a certain amount of manual dexterity. It can also be difficult to clean further back in the mouth. Interdental brushes are easy to use but can be time consuming and you may need different sizes to ensure you are cleaning properly.

Liked this blog? Check out some of our other dental advice about: