Sunday, May 22, 2011

Does It Matter What Kind of Floss I Use?

According to the studies it does not matter. We will discuss different types of floss and tell you why we prefer some flosses over others.
Dental floss is available in many forms and textures: waxed and unwaxed, flavored and unflavored, tape or ribbon, and in varying widths: thin, regular, or wide. Some floss has a fluoride coating to help prevent dental caries, but its effectiveness has not yet been proven.

Tape or ribbon floss is thin, wide, and smooth. The most common floss of this type is Glide. Many people use it because it slips through the teeth easily and does not shred. However, it is so smooth that it does not remove plaque as well as floss that has some texture to it. Glide or tape floss can also cut into the gum if pushed down too hard.

Waxed floss comes in many colors, sizes, and flavors. It is made up of many fibers. For this reason it can shred when pushing it between the teeth. (A trick to reduce shredding is to ease the floss back and forth to get it between the teeth instead of popping it through.) Look for waxed floss that is comfortable on your gums. Tom's of Main naturally waxed anti-plaque flat floss is very comfortable and fairly shred resistant. It can be found at Trader Joes, Wholefoods, Rainbow, etc.

Unwaxed floss is more difficult to get between the teeth than waxed and tends to shred more easily. Some people prefer unwaxed because they say it does not leave a wax residue on the teeth after flossing. Some believe this residue can collect plaque more quickly. If you prefer to use this type of floss just be careful when getting the floss through the contacts of your teeth so it wouldn't "snap" down too rapidly and injure your gum.
Superfloss contains segments of stiff-end threader, spongy floss and regular floss. The stiff end threader makes it easier to slide under bridge work or fixed orthodontic appliances. The spongy floss cleans around the appliances. Regular floss removes plaque from the adjacent tooth surfaces. Almost always this type of floss is used as an adjunct to reach specific areas that other types of floss don't reach. If you have a multiple unit dental bridge or if you are going through braces (not Invisalign) this is the only type of floss that gets in between those areas that connected either by orthodontic wire or a your dental bridge.

Woven floss is made of blue and white "yarn like" strands that are woven together. In the box it appears very bulky, but it stretches into a thin string when placing it between the teeth. Woven floss is very gentle on the gums, it is easy to grip, and it actually absorbs plaque. The main drawback with woven floss is that it tends to shred more easily than other floss. Therefore, people with many jagged restorations, rough crowns, or very tight teeth have trouble using this floss.
Disposable flossers and floss appliances: Many people like to use disposable flossers after each meal. These and the flossing appliances are not as effective as flossing by hand because the floss cannot be pushed as tightly against the tooth, thereby cleaning less thoroughly. The floss must be taut in order to be effective. But these aids are certainly better than not flossing at all.

Children Floss: Let's face it, no matter how well-disciplined a kid may be, motivation is often needed where dental hygiene is concerned. What child can deny that Wild Fruit flavored floss is fun? Combine this kind of design genius with wide, textured handles, specially made for small fingers and pre-strung, fluoride-coated floss, and you have a recipe for success. What are you waiting for? Instill good dental hygiene habits in your kids today. Dentek fun flosser is another good brand of floss to use for children. 
With so many brands and textures in the market, choosing the right floss may not be so easy! Your dentist or hygienist is able to guide you through the process. As conditions change in your mouth, you may also need to change the type or brand of the floss that you use. For example if you get braces, you will need to use "Superfloss" or a "floss threader" for the entire duration of your orthodontic treatment. No matter what type of floss you use, remember to "FLOSS THOSE TEETH THAT YOU WANT TO KEEP"!

Q & A:
  1. My gum bleeds when I floss, does that mean that I am flossing too aggressively? Healthy gum rarely bleeds while flossing. Bleeding while flossing could indicate inflammation of gum or "gingivitis". Please see your dental healthcare provider if bleeding persists while flossing.   
  2. What am I really flossing, the teeth or the gum? You really should be flossing the teeth in order to keep the teeth and gum healthy and clean. While flossing, there must be continuous contact between the floss and your teeth. In other words, you are following the contour of your teeth and allowing the teeth to guide the floss down under the gum. Keep in mind that our teeth are wider on top and narrow as we approach the gum area, so be prepared to accommodate the change in shape and keep the floss in contact with the side of the tooth that you are flossing at all times.                                                                                                                                            
  3. Could flossing cause an existing crown to come off or damage an existing dental filling? 
  4. I am told to brush "gently" and not press the brush against my teeth, should I floss "gently" as well? Applying pressure while brushing could cause enamel abrasion but applying pressure while flossing would not damage the enamel. Keep in mind that while flossing, at all times, the floss should be in contact with the side of the tooth that you are flossing and it should never be pushed down into the gum. So as long as you keep the floss in contact with your tooth at all times, you should be pushing the floss towards your tooth rather "firmly" to keep it in contact with the tooth at all times and ensure that you are scraping the side of the tooth with the floss.
  5. How many times a day do I need to floss? The more the better! But at least once a day.
  6. When is the best time to floss? It is best to floss after meals and prior to going to bed at night.
Tips and Pointers: 
We all know how hard it is to floss when we are so tired and sleepy at night! What we suggest to our patients is to floss after meals and before going to bed at night but if that doesn't work for any reason, here are some practical suggestions: 
  • Put floss out in various places at home and at work; if you see it more, you will remember to floss more often 
  • Floss in the shower; make sure to keep the floss pack out of the shower so it stays dry 
  • If your gum doesn't bleed while flossing, floss while watching TV 
  • Floss in bed before you fall sleep 
  • Floss at work after lunch before reporting back to work; this provides a routine which once followed it becomes a habit 
  • Practice flossing with other members of your household; make it a "family floss time" 
  • Always pack your favorite floss when you go on vacation or any trips; don't rely on local shops for finding the brand or type that you are used to 
  • Stack up on floss so you don't run out 
  • And last but not least, feel free to tell your date or significant other what a "floss geek" we are and how much we are fussing over flossing! There is a good reason for that; we want you all to maintain healthy teeth and gum for many years to come and flossing is the key to that! 
Resources: Oral-B – Dental Health Topics Library