When that sticky bacterial film, plaque, builds up on your teeth, it hardens and becomes tartar if not removed daily. Plaque attracts stains, too, so getting rid of it is an easy way to maintain your white smile. Although twice-daily brushing is crucial to remove plaque, you also cannot forget to floss. Without flossing, as much as 35 percent of your teeth's surfaces don't become clean, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the plaque left behind can contribute to a host of unsightly issues.
Here are five flossing tools you can use to prevent stains and infection.
1. Traditional Floss
Traditional floss is composed of strands of either nylon or polytetrafluorethylene (PTFE). Nylon floss is multifilament, which means it's made of many individual strands of nylon. These strands can sometimes tear or shred while you're flossing tight spaces between your teeth. PTFE floss is monofilament, made of a single strand and won't shred while you're using it. Both types of floss will get rid of plaque and food debris as long as you use them properly, so choose the type your teeth respond to the best.
2. Floss Threaders
Floss threaders are disposable tools that can make flossing easier for people with braces, bridges or other dental appliances that get in the way of the spaces between teeth for which traditional floss is designed. Luckily, floss threaders are easy to use: You pass the end of the floss through the loop of the threader, then use the threader to maneuver the floss underneath your brackets or over your bridges. This quick process is repeated for every tooth. Although using a floss threader may sound tedious, you'll find it's the most practical way to clean around dental appliances to prevent tooth stains.
Flossers, also called floss picks, are an easy way to floss while you're on the go. These devices feature a handle (sometimes pointed) on one end and a piece of floss strung between the other end. Because they're so small, you can easily stash them in your purse, briefcase or pocket – making it easy to get something out of your teeth when you're not at home. Flossers only have a short piece of floss, though, so dentists recommend rinsing frequently or wiping the floss after using it between each tooth. They're best for quick touch-ups.
4. Interdental Brushes
Interdental brushes are round or cone-shaped brushes that are thin enough to slide in between the teeth. They are available with either long or short handles, depending on your preference. These tools are especially helpful for people who have trouble using traditional floss – those with braces or limited mobility, for example. Of course they're also appealing if you just don't like the feeling of using traditional floss. Interdental brushes have been shown to be more effective at removing plaque than toothbrushing alone.
5. Water Flossers
Water flossers are handheld tools that clean between your teeth with fine streams of water. This water washes away any plaque or food particles from the spaces between your teeth. Like interdental brushes, water flossers are ideal for people who aren't able to use traditional floss. One study in the Journal of Clinical Dentistry determined that water flossers can actually remove more plaque with traditional toothbrushing than toothbrushing with traditional floss.
No matter which of these flossing tools you choose, flossing is incredibly important and needs to be performed once per day. By removing plaque from between your teeth and other hard-to-reach areas along your gumline, you can reduce your risk of everything from tooth stains to gingivitis. Talk to your dentist or dental hygienist, who can help you choose the best flossing tool for your individual needs.