Flossing is a critical dental health habit that all too often falls by the wayside. Luckily, there are many interdental products on the market, and choosing one that suits your needs will help you implement flossing in your daily routine. Typically, dental professionals will recommend dental tape or floss, but which device is best for your teeth and flossing habits?
Dental Floss vs. Dental Tape
Dental floss and dental tape are interdental cleaning products that clean the surfaces between teeth where a toothbrush cannot reach. According to the Indian Dental Association, dental floss is either a bundle of thin nylon filaments or a plastic (teflon or polyethylene) ribbon used to remove food and dental plaque from teeth. Femina notes that dental tape is wider and thicker than the standard thread floss and is used when the gaps are wider between teeth. .
The decision on whether to use dental tape or floss depends on which is the most effective at cleaning between your teeth and which you find easiest to use. The Indian Dental Association explains that flossing is necessary for people who have tight contacts between their teeth since such contacts trap food and it is difficult to clean. Flossing should be done before brushing. Some people may also find it difficult to handle thin strands of floss, especially if you have large fingers. In this case, the FDDC advises switching to dental tape.
How to Use Dental Tape or Floss
The Indian Dental Association explains flossing technique: Start with about 18 inches of floss, wind most of the floss around each middle finger, leaving an inch or two of floss to work with.
- Hold the floss tautly between your thumbs and index fingers, slide it gently up-and- down between your teeth.
- Gently curve the floss around the base of each tooth using a seesaw motion, making sure you go beneath the gum-line. Never snap or force the floss, as this may cut or bruise delicate gum tissue. Curve the floss around the side of one tooth, forming a 'C' shape and rub the floss up and down to clean the tooth. Repeat the procedure in the opposite direction i.e. on the adjacent tooth.
- Use clean sections of floss as you move from tooth to tooth.
- To remove the floss, use the same back-and-forth motion to bring the floss up and away from the teeth. Floss holders are also available and can be used in the difficult to reach areas.
- Using a sawing back and forth motion, gently work the floss or tape up the tooth until it exits the in between space.
- Unwind a small section of floss or tape from one hand and wind it up on the other hand so that you have a clean section to work with.
- Repeat the motion on the opposite tooth surface, reversing the C-shape.
- Insert the floss or tape between the next two teeth and clean the surfaces in the same way. Repeat this for all the spaces between your teeth.
The flossing product you choose isn't as important as the act of using it. According to the Indian Dental Association, oral hygiene includes removal of calculus or tartar that may develop even after careful brushing and flossing. If the deposits are not removed they may progress into periodontal disease leading to gradual damage of the tooth.
That's why you should be flossing once per day. You can floss before or after brushing your teeth or at whatever time is most convenient.
Choosing a Flossing Device
If you have trouble using traditional dental tape or floss, a range of alternative devices are available, including dental picks, wooden plaque removers, pre-threaded flossers, powered water or air flossers and tiny dental brushes for cleaning between your teeth, reports the ADA. Dental brushes are cylindrical or cone-shaped and come in several sizes to fit the space between the teeth. There are also specialised brushes for cleaning between dental implants.
Don't allow problems with using dental floss or tape prevent you from developing or maintaining good oral health habits. Flossing once per day helps to keep your teeth and mouth healthy and reduces your risk of gum disease and dental decay. If you choose an interdental cleaner and it doesn't work for you the way you had hoped, ask your dentist and dental hygienist for advice and experiment until you find one that suits you and your teeth.