Choice overload. That might be how you feel when you walk down the oral care aisle to pick out a new spool of dental floss. Waxed floss. Unwaxed floss. Flossing tape. Tufted floss. Fluoridated floss. Which one do you pick? Is it a completely personal choice, or does the kind of dental floss you get even make that much of a difference?
All floss is meant to be able to clean between teeth, around fixed bridges and implants, and reach places a toothbrush doesn't. But yes, the type of dental floss you choose can—at least slightly—impact your oral care routine.
Related: 7 Best Dental Floss
There are pros and cons to every type of dental floss, so ultimately, it boils down to your specific circumstances. Here’s a breakdown of some of the most common types of floss you’ll see in the drugstore:
People that have been in dentistry for a long time typically call this tufted type of floss "super floss" because of brands that have been on the market for a while. It's also called expandable floss because it expands and gives you a thicker area to grab food debris and plaque in slightly wider spaces.
You might want to use expandable floss to clean between your gums and a dental bridge or teeth that have small gaps between them where you can't fit an interdental brush.
Basically, it grabs more than regular dental floss does.
Waxed floss is completely safe to use. It's just like having orthodontic wax in your mouth or using lip balm.
Look, no matter how great your toothbrush is or how much you paid for it, it's not cleaning between your teeth. You absolutely have to use some type of interdental hygiene aid—like floss or a water flosser—to clean these spaces. Otherwise, it's inevitable that you'll develop tartar buildup, cavities, gum disease, and probably lose some teeth while you're at it.
Like they say, "Just floss the teeth you want to keep."
Aside from using floss picks, floss holders, or water flossers, flossing string is all used the same way: wrapping it snuggly against the side of your tooth in a "C" shape and sliding up and down the tooth several times.
Be sure to allow the floss to slip down below the edges of your gums to disrupt any plaque tucked below the gumline (in the area we call the "sulcus.”) Normally, the floss can go 2-3mm below the gums without causing any issues.
Before you move to the next tooth, make sure that you lift the dental floss up and over the papilla—the pointed gums between your teeth—so as not to accidentally cut it. Then repeat the process on the next tooth.
You'll need to be sure to use a floss threader to loop the floss under any fixed bridges or orthodontic wires.
If your gums are bleeding, it's probably because you don't floss often enough. Daily flossing should reverse any mild swelling or bleeding within a couple of weeks.
SIDE NOTE: Some people wrap the floss around their middle fingers, then use their thumb and index fingers to manipulate it around their mouth (winding on one finger and unwinding on the other as floss accumulates debris.) Others prefer to tie it into a big circle, using a little bit at a time as they work their way around their mouth.
Your dentist or dental hygienist may prefer that you use waxed floss or unwaxed floss if there are specific areas in your mouth that are a little different from the others. Such as a wide contact, tight space that's hard to get into, or even around orthodontic appliances. But if you have a typical average smile without any older dental work, you should be able to use either one. They can also talk to you about different styles of floss (like tape or expandable floss) that may work better for your specific smile. After all, if you're going to go through the effort of flossing, you at least want to be using the type that your dentist thinks is best for you.
As long as you're using dental floss every day, your dentist and hygienist are not going to care whether it's waxed or unwaxed floss. The point is that you're using it at all, which is half of the battle. As long as you're cleaning between your teeth and along your gumlines, you're disrupting the plaque that can cause cavities and lead to tartar buildup or gum disease. If you notice that waxed floss is easier to slip in-between your teeth than unwaxed, or unwaxed floss seems to remove more food debris than waxed, then use that one. Assuming you can use it and it's not getting caught on anything, use whatever type of dental floss you want.
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