Is Flossing Really Necessary? And If So, Which Methods are Best?

Alaska's Dental Health Specialists

Is Flossing Really Necessary? And If So, Which Methods are Best?

You may have heard some confusing media coverage on flossing in the recent months.  The US Dietary Guidelines chose to focus on food and nutrient intake (i.e. limiting sugars) this year but they have relayed to The American Dental Association that it doesn’t mean their stance on flossing has changed.  Governmental organizations including the US Department of Human Health Services re-affirm that interdental cleaning (more commonly known as “flossing”) is an extremely important dental hygiene practice for removing plaque and limiting the development of cavities and periodontal disease. 

Gloria, the newest addition to our dental hygiene team who brings 33 years of experience to The Libby Group advocates that “flossing is of the upmost importance to gain and maintain oral health”.  She explains flossing daily between the teeth and gums “helps remove the bacteria that cause both dental decay and gum disease.” 

Many patients have a hard time making flossing a daily routine, either because they don’t understand the value of its benefits or they have pain and bleeding that can be associated with their current method of flossing.  Gloria states, “My job as a dental hygienist is to educate my patients” and she explains that one of her goals is to teach others to “eliminate the painful experience with flossing and regain the health of teeth and gums.” 

While customized feedback on your flossing technique can be given at your next dental check-up, we also want you to know there are many options for cleaning between the teeth.  Here are some of the pros and cons of each at-home method to help you discover which method may be best for you. 

Traditional String Floss

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Some floss is made out of dental ribbon, while the old-fashioned type of floss is a plastic or nylon string. String floss is simple and effective at removing unhealthy bacteria and plaque from between your teeth. Unfortunately, a common complaint is that it cuts into gums, causing them to bleed. People with braces and dental implants also find it difficult to floss using string floss.

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Plastic Flossers and Dental Picks

Plastic “flossers” also have a pick on the end of the handle and are wonderful if you don’t like putting your hands in your mouth on your flossing break.  If you ever see our hygienist Nadia or Dr. Libby sitting at a stop light, you may find them using one of these flossers!  One complaint is it can sometimes be difficult to reach around the back teeth as effectively as traditional string floss.

Water Flossers

Water flossers, also commonly referred to as water picks, use a pulsing stream of water to clean plaque from between the teeth and around the gumlines. Studies have shown that water flossers are an effective replacement for string floss, especially for people who have braces. They are great for people who don’t mind adding a little more time to clean between the teeth during a relaxing shower.  One downside to using a water flosser is its cost. Most water flossers sell for between $29 and $60.

Air Flosser

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Air Flosser is a great tool for removing plaque between teeth with a burst of air and water.  It can be filled with water or antibacterial mouth wash.  It does not make a mess and is great for those hard to reach areas.  The air flosser is an excellent tool for periodontal disease and orthodontics.  For best results use in conjunction with string floss. 

One method of flossing is not significantly better than the other, but the bottom line is to make sure you’re flossing!  If we can assist you or your family members with your oral hygiene, please schedule with us online at The Libby Group or you can call us at (907) 274-2659 for more information.