Flossing may be the most popular dance craze of this generation but for most, it is certainly not the preferred oral hygiene activity. Flossing daily is just as important as brushing. Flossing allows you to clean those hard to reach areas between your teeth, removing plaque and trapped food that your toothbrush cannot reach. Flossing is thought to be difficult, time consuming, and a rather annoying part of oral care and to make flossing a little easier many people resort to floss picks (commonly called Plackers).
Floss picks or Standard dental floss: Which should I use?
Patients frequently ask about using Plackers instead of floss. My answer is simple; always go for the good ol’ standard wax dental floss. Patients often find that floss picks may be easier to use, especially when trying to reach the back of your mouth and are somewhat effective in removing food and bacteria between your teeth. While it’s certainly better than not flossing, it has its drawbacks. However, a major drawback as it relates to floss picks is that they redistribute bacteria in the mouth, especially since people tend to use the same floss pick for their entire mouth. If used appropriately this won’t be an issue with dental floss. In reality, to avoid this, more than one floss pick is required and let’s be real, this isn’t a financially practical option. Traditional dental floss would last longer and would certainly make more financial sense.
Floss picks cannot be adapted to the surfaces of your teeth and therefore cannot properly remove plaque. Wax floss on the other hand is flexible and bends to curve around the tooth and can get under the gum line, reaching between tightly wedged teeth and areas often not attained by floss picks. Additionally, for patients wearing braces, other orthodontic appliances, and bridges, the use of a traditional dental floss accompanied by a floss threader is recommended, as floss picks absolutely cannot be used in these situations.
How to Effectively Use Dental Floss:
- Wind 18 inches of floss around index finger. Pinch floss between the thumb and index finger, leaving at least 2 inches between each finger.
- Use the thumbs to guide floss between upper teeth and the index fingers to guide floss between lower teeth.
- Glide floss between teeth using a zig-zag motion
- Glide floss around teeth in the form of a “C” to follow the contour of each tooth
- Slide floss up and down against the tooth surface and under the gum line.
- As you move from one tooth to the next, unroll a fresh section of floss from the finger of one hand while rolling the used floss onto the finger of the other hand.
Flossing should be a key part of everyone’s oral hygiene routine. Using a floss pick is certainly better than not flossing, but considering the negatives, I almost always never recommend them. Wax floss or oral irrigators (to be discussed in a future article) are my go-to.
With that being said, while flossing, there is no need to race, be gentle, have patience and pay attention to your technique and the areas being flossed. You can always ask your dental professional to show you if you are uncertain.
Feel free to ask any questions you have in the comments below.
Steven Moore is a General Dentist practicing in Jamaica. He graduated from the University of the West Indies in 2015 and completed a Dental Residency (AEGD) with the NYU Lutheran Medical Centre in 2017. He enjoys playing video games and practicing judo.