Floss, Dental Tape or Oral Irrigator: What Should You Use?
Everybody knows that regular flossing is an essential part of good oral hygiene. And while we know you should floss once a day, every day, there are a lot of other people out there who do not. It is more important and beneficial for overall health, reducing decay and preventing gum disease and bone loss by only flossing well and brushing ONCE a day, vs. brushing your teeth 20 times a day, but never flossing. The reason is that toothbrush bristles never clean the 20% of the tooth surface between your teeth.
Flossing is the best method to clean between your teeth, but the next best option is using Brush Piks or small bristle Proxybrushes that are used like “toothpicks” to clean between your teeth. Healthy gums don’t bleed and flossing does not cause the gums to bleed. Some of our new patients have told us they were afraid to floss because when they tried the gums started bleeding. In reality the gums will bleed when they are infected with plaque and bacteria which causes Gingivitis and Periodontal Disease. When a patient decides to finally start flossing after weeks and months of not flossing, the gums will bleed, and sometimes quite severely.
If there is no underlying bone loss or deep pockets you cannot reach, and you continue to floss every day, the bleeding will taper off and stop in about 6-8 days. If your gums are not healthy, hang in there and just floss well once a day, and the bleeding will stop. However, if you have gum disease and bone loss (which occurs with NO Pain), then daily flossing may not totally stop the bleeding. A good dental and periodontal evaluation and check-up is needed to diagnose gum disease, which requires more than a “regular” cleaning to get the gums healthy.
There are several options for removing plaque from your teeth and gum lines: floss and tape. Is one better than the other? Is dental floss better than dental tape? Is a certain product more effective over other types? Is there a significant cost difference? Dental floss is usually thinner than dental tape, but both products are effective in removing plaque from between the teeth. I like and usually recommend the thicker Dental Tape as I feel it cleans more surface area when using it. I actually go one step farther and recommend taking an extra-long piece of floss or tape and doubling it. If you can do this, and it will go between your teeth, you have now increased the efficiency of your floss or tape 100%.
In order to help our patients stay on a daily flossing schedule, we let them know that flossing does not have to be done at night before bed when you are tired and exhausted. It only has to be done once every 24-48 hours at any time of the day. Let’s face it, when you are beat at the end of the day and just want to get to bed, it’s easy to tell yourself, “I’ll just floss tomorrow.” We all know that tomorrow can turn into next month or longer. So if you can plan to do your flossing in the afternoon or after dinner, you are done! You don’t have to feel guilty as you head to bed that you did not floss, even though you had planned to. We have discussed gum disease and the link to systemic pathology on past blogs on our site.
An oral irrigator does NOT remove plaque from around or in-between your teeth. An oral irrigator is good for removing larger bits of food and debris in your mouth. An oral irrigator is also used sometimes to deliver medicated antibacterial liquids between your teeth and gums if you have Gingivitis or Periodontal (gum) Disease and bone loss. However as stated above, only using an oral irrigator and not flossing will not remove sticky plaques or prevent gum disease.
According to the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), flossing is the single most important weapon against plaque.
Dental floss has been around since people learned how to make string.
Thanks to the modern world, dental floss is hip and tasty: manufacturers have put a twist to what could otherwise be a mundane chore by adding mint, cinnamon and other flavored wax to the product.
Dental tape is a newer option made from plastic. It has a bit more stretch to it and is much flatter than floss. Some people prefer dental tape for the way it slides easily in and out the gaps between the teeth.
It comes down largely to comfort. There is no better choice and no significant cost difference. If you grew up using floss and prefer the more traditional, tried-and-true option, that’s fine. If you like using dental tape more and find you’re more likely to practice good oral hygiene, we recommend going with that.
HOW TO FLOSS:
- Break off about 18 inches of floss, wind most of it around one of your middle fingers and wind the remaining floss around the same finger of the other hand.
- Hold the floss tightly, with no slack, between your two hands, with about an inch of floss between them. Guide the floss between your teeth using a gentle sawing motion.
- Gently slide the floss into the space between the gum and the tooth until you feel slight resistance. Gently scrape the side of the tooth, moving the floss away from the gum. Repeat on all teeth
- If you have any questions about the differences in dental floss or tape, or need assistance on how to effectively floss, be sure to ask us next time you visit