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Dental Floss: Has It Really Been A Big Fat Lie?


Has Dental Floss Really Been a Big Fat Lie… Or a long thin string-like one either?

Recently dental floss has been getting a bit of a slating, with some media articles claiming that it doesn’t do any good, and is not worth using.

Floss is used to remove plaque food debris and bacteria from in between your teeth. If your teeth are tight together, with no spaces, it is not possible for your toothbrush alone to remove all the plaque. Floss when used properly removes this stuff in between teeth.

If plaque is left it acts as an irritant to your gums that can initiate an inflammatory response causing gingivitis and leading the gum disease (periodontal disease). The British Periodontal Society released a document in response to the negative floss publicity, stating when floss is best, and when it is not as effective.(click to read)

If the plaque is in contact with sugars from your diet it can lead to cavities in between teeth. If this happens there may be a lot of damage before it becomes obvious, especially if on back teeth.


Floss works well if spaces between teeth are tight and braces are not worn.

If the spaces are bigger, or there’s an obstacle to the use of floss like braces, interdental brushes are the best.  The type I use are called Tepe brushes.  Your dentist can advise you on the the best size (different colours) to use and can demonstrate how best to use them.

I personally use floss (waxed type is my favourite as my front teeth have very tight spaces), red Tepe brushes between some of my back teeth that have crowns on, just before bedtime.  I use the interdental brushes first of all, then floss and follow with my toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste, also brushing my tongue.  I spit out the excess toothpaste lather at the end and don’t rinse with water or mouthwash.  I attend my hygienist regularly (Joanne is very gentle) and try to keep away from fizzy drinks and sweets between meals.

Flossing Effectively

To floss effectively, use a long length about 18 inches, wrap it around the middle fingers of both hands with about 3 inches unwound in between.  Use your pointer fingers and thumbs to manipulate between teeth.  Slide along one tooth and lap underneath the gum,remove the debris and then repeat on the adjacent tooth- so twice in each space.  The floss can go 2-3mm below the gum.  Don’t use a sawing motion, or side to side, as this can hurt and sometimes damage the gum.  When you see visible debris (or smell it) don’t use this part again, so wrap onto one finger and off the other to get a fresh bit.  Continue around your mouth until you have cleaned all the teeth.

Have a little rinse with water or mouthwash and then brush with toothpaste and a toothbrush.

The first couple of times you use floss, it takes a while. I prefer to do this at bedtimes and only brush in the morning.

The American Dental Association, The British Dental Association, The British Periodontal Society, most dentists and hygienists recommend to use floss to suitable patients.


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Claire Hughes Dental
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