Which Type of Floss Should You Choose?

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Your dentist has recommended that you floss daily. Sounds simple enough, right?  That is until you get to the store and find yourself staring at dozens of different types of floss. Before you just close your eyes and pick one at random, check out this guide to the various styles to decide which is right for you.

First, understanding why flossing is vital for dental health is helpful. No matter how carefully you brush, reaching all the way into the tight spaces between your teeth is difficult. Particles of food and bacteria get trapped and create a build-up of plaque, resulting in cavities and gum disease as well as bad breath and discolored teeth. Flossing helps clean these recesses more thoroughly to prevent the germs from gaining a foothold.

No one type of floss is better than another in terms of cleaning your teeth. Find one based on features that work best for your teeth and gums and is comfortable for you to use. Once you make your selection, maintain a regular schedule of flossing for maximum benefits.

String or spool floss

The most common type of floss comes in a plastic container and is wound on a reel like thread. The two basic types are multifilament and monofilament.

Multifilament is the standard variety, made of fabric such as silk or nylon, and is generally the least expensive. Since it’s composed of several fibers, shredding is a possibility, particularly if your teeth are tightly spaced. Some brands have a wax coating so the floss slides more easily.

In contrast, the more recently developed monofilament floss consists of a single strand made from PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene). This newer technology creates a stronger fiber that’s resistant to tearing and shredding, and many people find it easier to pull through their teeth. Consider this type if you have sensitive gums because the texture is softer and gentler.

Floss also comes in different widths to accommodate small or large spaces between teeth. Flavors such as mint and cinnamon are available for those who prefer an extra level of freshness.

“Super floss” comes in pre-cut lengths with one end stiffened, similar to a shoelace, so it can be inserted under bridges, braces, and other dental appliances. It also includes a spongy, textured section for flossing around the appliance and in wide gaps between teeth. There’s also a regular section for flossing natural teeth and gum lines.

Dental tape or ribbon

This variation of floss is a wide, flat ribbon of plastic that comes waxed or un-waxed. Beginners often find this a good type because the thinner size makes it easier to glide between teeth. This is also a good choice if you have sensitive gums since the tape has less tendency to snap against them.

Woven floss

As the name implies, this type is made from fibers woven together for a rope-like appearance. It doesn’t have any of the edges found in other types of floss and many people prefer its softer feel against their gums. The texture is also easier to grip and less likely to slip through the fingers. Woven floss can be flavored or unflavored but has no waxy aftertaste. The downside is that this variety may be more difficult to find than other types.

Floss holders

If you find it uncomfortable or awkward to floss using your hands, a holder may be the solution. This tool generally comes in a “Y” shape with the floss threaded between the two prongs. They should be far enough apart to allow insertion between teeth without the handle getting in the way. Curved prongs with longer handles tend to be easier to maneuver, especially with the back teeth. Make sure the floss is taut to ensure maximum cleaning.

Disposable floss picks are available for single use. The floss is stretched inside a “U” shape and the handle is shorter than with reusable holders. Many feature a sharpened tip than can be used like a toothpick to dislodge fragments of food caught between the teeth.

Selecting the appropriate type of dental floss may seem like a daunting task, but it’s simple once you understand the features and benefits of each. The goal is to find one that is the easiest to incorporate into your daily routine.

About the author:
Dr. Joseph Zelig, D.D.S., is a Board Certified Periodontist and a Diplomate of the American Board of Periodontology. A practicing periodontist, speaker and educator, Dr. Zelig is currently practicing at Smile in the City located in Manhattan, New York.

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