You'd think picking out floss would be an easy task, but the rows of choices at the drugstore could turn this daily routine into a head-scratcher. Why all the different materials and features? What's the difference between woven dental floss and other varieties?
You know dental floss is an important part of your oral hygiene routine: The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends flossing at least once per day for the cleanest mouth. Still, you might find some flosses less comfortable or even difficult to use, so it's important to understand the difference between the types you have to choose from.
Nylon vs. Monofilament
The most common material for woven dental floss is nylon. In fact, the vast majority of flosses are created using tiny filaments of nylon woven together to create one stronger, flat strand. This is called "multifilament floss" and although it is comfortable for most users, it can break and fray with time. Another choice is monofilament floss, made from just one strand of stronger material – usually teflon or polytetrafluoroethylene. The type you're most comfortable with could require some trial and error. Nonetheless, monofilament floss can typically glide between teeth more easily and is more resistant to fraying.
Waxed vs. Unwaxed
Another variable you'll notice on floss packaging is whether the floss comes waxed or unwaxed. The former has been treated with a thin coat of wax to make the floss easier to pull between the teeth. Unwaxed floss, according to Delta Dental, actually squeaks against clean teeth to indicate you're successfully collecting plaque. Still, it's a matter of personal preference and what feels the most comfortable for your daily use.
Shape vs. Flavor
As you buy and dispense floss from different containers, you'll notice it comes in multiple shapes and sizes. Round floss is common (and one of the first incarnations of floss) but if your teeth are closer together, you may prefer the maneuverability of flat floss instead. Floss also comes in a variety of flavors, from mint to bubblegum and even cinnamon. As with most oral hygiene products, the one you can use comfortably is generally the most effective – especially because it encourages you to be consistent.
If you struggle to grip strand floss, you can purchase floss picks, which have both woven and unwoven material strung between two tines and attached to a handle. This makes flossing easier for small or shaky hands.
When flossing, measure out about 18 inches of floss and stretch it taut between your two pointer fingers, leaving about four to six inches between (you may have to wind some excess around your index fingers so it doesn't slip off). Gently move the floss up and down between each space between your teeth, bending it across the lower surface to remove bacterial buildups along the gumline. Remember to rinse well to get rid of any lingering plaque, and discard the floss after each use so you don't reinsert the same germs into your mouth.
Still unsure of the floss that's right for you? Talk to your dentist or dental hygienist. In the end, the best floss is the kind you use at least once per day. Try using it with a foaming toothpaste, designed to get in between teeth like the Colgate® Max Fresh® Max Clean™ Foaming Toothpaste. When used together, your oral health products help you create a better, cleaner and healthier smile.