One of our patients recently brought to my attention an article entitled “If You Hate Floss, It’s O.K. to Try These Alternatives.” As a strong advocate for daily flossing, my first thought upon reading the title was that I was going to hate this article. It turns out, however, that the author raises several valid points that make a lot of sense.
The link to the article appears below, but here is my take on the highlights:
The fact is that the American Dental Association (ADA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommend flossing every day. That said, there are patients with manual dexterity difficulties, arthritis, or development disabilities that make it hard to floss the traditional way. And then there are those who simply hate string floss. So, as dentists concerned for your oral healthcare, all we can ask if that you do whatever you can do to disrupt the plaque between your teeth and stimulate your gums.
As long as you see the ADA Seal of Acceptance when shopping for interdental cleaners, here are some types you can try if string floss just does not work for you:
Oral irrigators – these are in essence water “flossers” that burst water between teeth to remove loose food. These have been shown to reduce gingivitis symptoms in the short term, but no evidence for overall plaque reduction.
Interdental brushes – these small, textured brushes made for cleaning between teeth may be easier to hold and maneuver than floss. This technique can reduce gingivitis symptoms and plaque in the short term. People with tightly spaced teeth may have trouble with these.
Toothpicks – we’re not talking about the ones you pick up at the diner, rather the wooden plaque removers with the ADA Seal of Acceptance. The wooden version can help reduce gingivitis but not plaque, while those made of synthetic materials may reduce plaque but not gingivitis.
Floss picks – this is a disposable tool with a toothpick on one end and a bit of floss held taught on the other. A side note here: I have seen an inexplicable number of these lying discarded in the street, making me wonder how they got there. The Journal of Clinical Dentistry found that these are at least as good as regular dental floss when it comes to removing plaque, but may be difficult to maneuver.
Tape floss – some people find that this wide, flat floss is more comfortable and easier to slide between tightly spaced teeth.
At the end of the article, I was glad that I read beyond the title. It reinforces the overall lesson that whatever method you choose, make flossing a habit. Try and power through for at least 10 days in a row before deciding what may or may not work for you. We have had patients ask about charcoal, tongue scrapers, oil pulling, and more – and nothing takes the place of flossing.
Believe me, once you get used to it, you will not want to miss a day! If after two weeks straight, flossing is still uncomfortable, come and see us so we can check for a more serious issue.
In the meantime, feel free to call with any questions – we always welcome your feedback.
Here is the link to the article in its entirety:
All the best,