Three Time-Saving Alternatives to Flossing Your Teeth

By Dr Toby Edwards-Lunn and Dr Mike Heffernan

Why is it so important to floss your teeth? Brace yourself for a shocking truth: it’s not. Cleaning between your teeth is important but precisely how you go about it is up to you, which is a point frequently missed by many patients – and their dentists!

People tend not to floss for two reasons: it’s fiddly and it can be mildly painful (though only if you’re doing it wrong).

However, done correctly, flossing performs an important service for your teeth, by cleaning the 20% of your tooth’s surface that is adjacent to its neighbours, otherwise hard to reach and so a likely breeding ground for plaque, which in turn can cause tooth decay, gum disease and an increased risk of systemic diseases such as strokes and diabetes.

So how can you master the important art of interdental brushing without reaching for the floss? Here are three great alternatives we would recommend to all non-flossers:

1. Dental tape – Dental tape is far easier to use than floss because it is wider and lubricated. It can also be mounted on a dental pick which makes it easier for you to slide the lubricated tape between your teeth, especially at the front of your mouth. We recommend using the Y-shaped dental pick for this rather that the other common design that is shaped like a bow.

2. Interdental brushes – Whereas dental tape is best for cleaning between the teeth at the front of your mouth we recommend using interdental brushes at the back. Your interdental brushes should have an angled head so they can be more easily inserted between your teeth. You should gently pull the brush head between each of your teeth once a day. If the brush doesn’t go through easily, a gentle wiggle should do the trick, but please don’t force it. Interdental brushes are available in all sizes and you should choose the biggest brush head that still fits between your teeth. You will probably need two or three different brush head sizes to cater for all areas of your mouth.

3. Rubberised interdental brushes – For patients who find interdental brushes too fiddly or that the brushes soon bend out of shape, we recommend using rubberised interdental brushes. The rubberised versions are not quite as effective at cleaning your teeth as the regular brush heads but they are extremely easy to use.

Whichever technique you prefer, the key is to ensure that the daily cleaning process is quick, easy and painless: brushing between your teeth should take no more than three minutes from start to finish. And if you find yourself rushed off your feet in the mornings, we recommend keeping some dental tape or interdental brushes with you at work, as it’s a great healthy habit to fit into other free moments during the day, such as when taking a screen-break or after lunch.

Dr. Mike Heffernan and Dr. Toby Edwards-Lunn are practising dentists with more than 50 years’ combined experience. They are also the inventors of Dr. Heff’s Remarkable Mints, a sugar-free mint that cleans and restores teeth and is endorsed by Toothfriendly International