Regular flossing is something that many patients struggle with in their daily routine. Yet flossing is a key component of oral health. If you don’t develop strong flossing habits, you could experience issues like cavities, especially in those hard to reach places between your teeth. There are two popular varieties of floss to consider - string floss or floss picks. Let’s examine the strengths of each so you can choose the best variety for your needs.
Have you ever wondered who first came up with the idea of floss? A New Orleans dentist first conceived of this cleaning tool way back in 1819. Levi Spear Parmly used waxed silk thread to remove particles that couldn’t be dislodged with a toothbrush. The idea was certainly an advancement in the field of dentistry, but it took 63 more years before a company began manufacturing floss for consumers. Even then, flossing as a regular technique didn’t catch on until the 1970s.
String floss is the classic way to clean between your teeth, and it is still the type that dentists use today. While early floss was made of silk, today the majority of floss is made with nylon. Floss can be either waxed or unwaxed depending on the user’s preference. There are also dental tape varieties that have a wider and flatter design than traditional string floss. You use string floss by wrapping it around your left and right index fingers and inserting it gently between your teeth. Once inserted, proper technique calls for making a “C” shape along the contour of each tooth and then pulling gently up to remove plaque and food particles. The American Dental Association reports that using floss each day is an effective way to remove plaque.
While string floss is the traditional tool used to clean hard to reach areas between the teeth, floss picks have become more and more popular. There are several reasons for this, but primarily people find floss picks easier to use. Floss picks have a plastic handle that is easier to grip and doesn’t irritate your hands like string floss. There is also far less floss string to control with a pick, which means it is easier to slide in between the teeth. The F-shaped floss pick that most people use was invented in 1963 by James Kirby, but its use has only become prevalent in recent years.
So now that you have a brief background on each floss type, which is better for your oral health? Well the answer is simple. If you can use string floss, you should always choose it over floss picks. String floss cleans more effectively than picks because you can move it to make that all-important “C” shape that gets up close to the gum line. String floss also allows you to use a fresh section for each tooth. The small section of sting in floss picks is not well-suited for continued use on every tooth. The string will get coated with food particles and bacteria, and you may end up pushing that matter back down in between your teeth instead of cleaning it out. Of course, you could avoid this by using a fresh dental pick for every tooth, but this approach is very wasteful and expensive. Speaking of waste, string floss is much more environmentally-responsible than floss picks because it requires far less material to produce.
Well there you have it. Stick with the old faithful string floss, and get the maximum cleaning benefits from this important dental tool. Before we close, there is one exception we would like to share. Some people simply cannot floss effectively with the string variety. This includes people with disabilities or elderly patients. In this case, using a floss pick is much better than skipping floss altogether. Floss picks are also great for cleaning on the fly or when you travel. You can take one out to quickly and easily clean an area that is irritating you. So perhaps the best answer to this question is use a hybrid approach, but stick with string floss most of the time. If you need advanced instruction on how to best utilize floss, we welcome you to come into our office for a cleaning and checkup. Our friendly and experienced staff will show you the optimal way to floss each and every day. Contact us today to get your next appointment in the books!