Beyond Flossing: A Beginner's Guide to Interdental Cleaning Products

Brushing your teeth is only the first step to a healthy smile. Tooth brushing removes only 60% of plaque so it's important to clean between your teeth as well. Interdental cleaning products such as dental floss, interdental brushes, woodsticks, and water flossers are used to remove plaque and food debris between the teeth.

What is Interdental Cleaning?

Dental plaque that develops between the teeth can't be removed by brushing alone. Interdental cleaning helps to remove plaque and food debris that collects between the teeth. Regular use of an interdental cleaner like dental floss can help clean in-between and hard-to-reach tooth surfaces.

Below are four interdental cleaning products you may want to consider:

1. Dental Floss

Floss is usually the first choice for interdental cleaning and is available in several types – waxed, unwaxed and flavored. Both waxed and unwaxed floss works well to remove plaque and debris between the teeth.

For those with restricted movement, dental floss may be hard to use. Floss holders can assist those who find it difficult to hand floss. Floss-related aids available at drug stores include floss holders, floss picks and floss threaders.

2. Interdental Brushes

Interdental brushes work just as well as dental floss to reduce plaque and gingivitis. They look similar to a toothbrush, are 2 to 3 inches in length, and are usually made from metal wire core, soft nylon filaments and a plastic handle.

Interdental brushes are sold in a range of sizes. Those manufactured for implants have a coated wire to prevent scratching implant surfaces.

3. Wooden Interdental Aids

Woodsticks such as Stim-U-Dent Plaque Removers look similar to toothpicks and are usually made of basswood. They have a thin triangular profile and a tapered end. The tapered end is inserted between the teeth for cleaning. Woodsticks work well for individuals with open interdental spaces, crowns, or fixed bridges.

4. Water Flossers

Water flossers such as Waterpik and Sonicare Airfloss Ultra spray a steady stream of water to flush out food bits and plaque. The pressure settings are usually adjustable. Water flossers work well to remove food debris that may become lodged in gum pockets.

Water flossers use a combination of water pulses, pressure, and flushing to remove bacteria, plaque, and food debris.

Some studies suggest that water flossing may be more effective than interdental brushes or dental floss to remove plaque and reduce gum inflammation.

If you have dental implants, water flossers are a good choice as they are gentler on the soft gum tissue that surrounds the implant.

How to Clean Dental Implants

What is the best way to clean around dental implants? Just like natural teeth, dental implants can develop plaque. If not removed, plaque will stick to implant surfaces and inflame the surrounding gum tissue.  

Dental implants can be difficult to floss. Dentists often recommend using a water flosser or an interdental brush as they protect the soft gum tissue surrounding implants.

Whichever interdental cleaning aid you choose, each plays an important role in maintaining a healthy mouth. Ask your dentist which interdental cleaning aid is best for you.

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This blog is designed to provide general information and discussions about health and dental-related subjects. No doctor/dentist to patient relationship is established by your use of this blog or website. We are not providing any treatment or diagnosis on this blog, and it is not intended to offer specific dental or medical advice to anyone. The information or other content provided in this blog is not a substitute for professional dental expertise or treatment. We will do our best to provide you with information that will help you make your own healthcare decisions, however no guarantees or warranties are made regarding any of the information contained within this blog. If you have questions about any of the information presented on this blog, you should consult with your dentist. The dentists at Advantage Dental+ are licensed to practice in the states of Alabama, Florida, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Oregon and Texas and this blog is not intended to solicit patients from other states. External links may be provided on this blog as a service and convenience to our patients and other visitors to our blog. These external sites are created and maintained by other public and private organizations, and we do not control or guarantee the accuracy, relevance or timeliness of any outside information.

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Gary Allen, DMD, Advantage Dental Group, P.C. | James Thommes, DDS, Advantage Dental Oral Health Center Of Massachusetts, P.C.; Advantage Dental Oral Health And Vision Center Of Alabama, P.C.; Advantage Dental Oral Health Center Of Oklahoma, P.C.; Advantage Dental Oral Health Center Of Texas, P.C. | Cory White, DMD, Advantage Dental Oral Health and Vision Center Of Alabama, P.C. | John Clasen, OD, Advantage Dental Oral Health and Vision Center Of Alabama, P.C. | Neil Williams, DMD, Advantage Dental Oral Health Center Of Florida, PA