dental floss for teeth and its types: waxed, unwaxed, dental tape, super floss, thread floss, etc.

Best Dental Floss And Types: How To Choose The Right One For You?

Written by Dr. Shaista Salam | Medically Reviewed by Dr. Zein El Hammouz, DDS, MFD/RCSI.

Fact Checked ✓

Table of Contents
1. Types of Dental Floss
2. The Best Dental Floss for your Teeth
3. How to Choose the Best Dental Floss?
4. Why is Flossing Important?

 

With so many types of dental floss available in the market these days, it becomes incredibly difficult to choose the right one. When deciding which one to get, you should take into account some factors like: your gum health, the condition of your teeth, and if you have any fixed appliances like braces, implants or bridges. Read on to find out how you can decide which is the best dental floss for you. 

Types of Dental Floss

Standard Floss

A standard floss is a thin strand made of nylon that fits into the small spaces between your teeth. If you have crowded teeth, a standard floss with a wax coating can get into tight places and effectively clean your teeth. Waxed dental floss is best for patients with braces as it easily slides in and out of small spaces and is gentle on the gums. Unwaxed or regular floss may get frayed when used around braces or implants. (1) 

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dental floss for teeth and its types: waxed, unwaxed, dental tape, super floss, thread floss, etc.
Standard floss

Water or Electric Floss

A water or electric floss uses small water jets to remove plaque and food particles between your teeth. Water floss is one of the best dental floss you can use if you have braces or cannot use standard floss. It can help clean in between your wires and brackets. In addition, water floss is extremely gentle on the gums and reduces gum inflammation. (2) 

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water flosser or oral irrigator is a device used to remove food particles from your teeth
Water floss

 

Dental Tape

If you find that regular floss slides in very easily or you see significant gaps in-between your teeth, it is advisable to use a broader or flat floss called "dental tape" that reaches all the surfaces. A broader floss like dental tape will make flossing easier when large gaps are evident.

 

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dental tape floss with thin nylon fibers in a green case
Dental tape

 

Super Floss

Super floss is usually recommended for people with a fixed dental appliance like braces or a crown & bridge. It is made of three parts: a rigid end to floss under the braces, a spongy part to floss around your braces, and a standard floss to remove plaque below your gums. 

 

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oral b superfloss for cleaning teeth, braces, bridges and wide spaces
Oral-B Super floss

Floss Threaders

A floss threader is a flexible plastic needle with an eye at one end for looping the floss through. Since the threader is stiffer than string floss, it easily passes under bridges, braces, and fixed retainer. (3) 

 

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floss thread is designed to clean areas of the teeth and gums, around braces, crowns, bridges and implants.
Floss threader

Floss Picks

A floss pick is a disposable and pre-measured piece of floss on a small plastic handle. It is an easy option to carry if you're traveling or don't want the hassle of cutting standard floss before using it. They are easy to use in tight spaces and can effectively remove food particles from between your teeth. 

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dental floss pick is a small plastic tool for tight teeth, braces and bridges
Floss picks

 

The Best Dental Floss For Your Teeth 

Condition

Recommended Floss

Why?

Examples

Tight Teeth

Standard floss or waxed floss

Can easily get in between tight spaces

  • Oral-B Glide Pro-Health
  • Listerine Ultraclean 
  • Dr. Tung’s Smartfloss

Braces, Bridges And Permanent Retainer 

Super Floss

Floss Threaders

Can be inserted under the bridges, fixed braces and retainer using the stiffened  end 

  • Oral-B Superfloss
  • Gum Eez Thru Floss Threader 
  • Jordan Clinic Brace Floss

Sensitive And Bleeding Gums

All types

Floss must be gentle on the gums but also effective in removing plaque

  • Oral-B Essential Floss
  • Colgate Total Mint Waxed dental floss
  • Humble Co. Natural Dental floss

Kids And Toddlers 

 

Floss picks
Water flosser

Easier to handle 

  • Floss picks

Gingivitis And Periodontitis

All types 

Inderdental picks may make it easier to clean black triangles-caused by receding gums

  • Oral-B Precision Clean Interdental Picks
  • Dr Tung’s Perio Sticks
  • Oral-B Satin Tape Floss 

Crowns Or Dental Implants

Water or Electric Floss

It helps clean around them without scratching the implant parts surfaces 

  • Waterpik Cordless Advanced
  • Waterpik Aquarius
  • Oral-B Aqua Care

Plaque Removal

Water or Electric Floss

It pushes the plaque away with the power of the water jet 

  • Waterpik Cordless Advanced
  • Waterpik Aquarius
  • Oral-B Aqua Care

 

How Do I Choose The Best Dental Floss For Me?

Using a specific type of dental floss is a matter of personal choice because all of them effectively remove plaque when used appropriately. 

Waxed vs. Unwaxed floss

Waxed floss is slightly thicker than regular floss but slides easily between tight teeth contacts because of its waxy coating. You may want to use waxed floss to prevent fraying if you have braces. However, be mindful that the wax coating may cause sensitivity reactions in rare cases. 

Dental tape vs. floss

Since the dental tape is broad and flat, it is recommended when there are significant gaps between the teeth or if your regular floss slides in too easily. 

Water floss vs. floss

Pressurized water jets can flush out food and debris trapped in the gum spaces. Thus, water floss is an easy-to-use alternative when people lack the manual dexterity to use regular string floss or under braces and implants (7) (8).

String floss vs. Floss Picks

Floss picks are a convenient option to carry with you when traveling. However, floss picks are not as effective as regular string floss in reducing plaque since they cannot reach all the corners and surfaces of your teeth. So only use them if you don't have string floss around. 

Super floss vs. Floss Threader

Both super floss and floss threaders have a stiff end that helps to insert the floss between braces, under bridges, and retainers. The main difference is that you have to buy your string floss separately with a floss threader. 

Why is Tooth Flossing Important?

Benefits of flossing

Flossing is an excellent means to prevent the buildup of plaque. When left for long, plaque hardens into calculus (a white mass) on the gum line, which is very difficult to remove with regular brushing. This hardened plaque also contains bacteria that attack the gums, leading to gum disease and infections. In short, flossing helps (4) :

  • Remove plaque and food trapped between the teeth 
  • Improve gum health and reduce gum bleeding 
  • Stop the development of periodontal disease
  • Keep your teeth and smile looking healthy!

How to floss? 

Here's the correct way to floss (5)

  1. Take about 18 - 24 inches (45- 60 cm) of dental floss and wind most of it around your middle fingers. 
  2. Hold 1- 2 inches (2-5 cm) of floss between your two thumbs and index fingers tightly. 
  3. Guide the floss gently into the space between two teeth with a back and fro rubbing motion. Don't push the floss forcefully between your teeth as this can hurt or damage your gums. Gently floss both sides of your tooth with a rubbing motion. 
  4. Once you reach your gum line, curve the floss against one tooth into a shape. Guide it into the space between your gums and your tooth surface. This removes food particles trapped in the gum space. 
  5. Discard the used floss as it can re-introduce bacteria into your mouth. Repeat the above steps with each tooth. Happy flossing!

 

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man flossing his teeth in front of a mirror
Flossing teeth

 

Is flossing more important than brushing?

Flossing and brushing are equally important for your oral health. Do not skip either one! Brushing removes plaque and food debris from the front and back surfaces of your teeth. At the same time, flossing removes plaque and food from the spaces between your teeth where the brush cannot reach. 

Conclusion 

Countless brands of dental floss are accessible to the public nowadays. Choosing the right one for you is purely based on your preference and which one is most effective in cleaning your teeth. Whichever one you choose, make sure to follow the correct flossing technique to get a brilliant smile!

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FAQ's

Does it matter what kind of floss you use?

Yes, some types of floss are better suited in some instances. For example, a superfloss or floss threader is recommended for use under a crown & bridge as the stiffened end can easily pass under small gaps. See Table 1.1 to know which type of floss to use when. 

What are the different types of dental floss?

Many types of dental floss are available in the market, catering to different conditions. The most common types are:

  • Waxed Floss
  • Unwaxed floss
  • Water or Electric Floss
  • Dental Tape
  • Standard Floss
  • Super Floss
  • Floss Threaders
  • Floss Picks

 

What type of dental floss is most effective?

Depending on the condition of your teeth, doctors will recommend a particular type of floss that will be most effective. See table 1.1 for the best dental floss for your situation.

How often should you floss?

The ADA recommends brushing twice daily and flossing once daily to maintain optimal oral health. 

Which is better waxed or unwaxed floss?

Waxed dental floss slides easily between tight teeth contacts, is gentler on the gums and doesn't fray. However, when used properly, both waxed and unwaxed floss are equally effective in removing plaque. 

Is thin or thick dental floss better?

Generally, a thinner standard floss is excellent for flossing tight contacts. But, you can use a thicker floss if your standard floss slides easily between your teeth or if there is some spacing. 

What is the best brand of dental floss?

A lot of great dental floss brands are available in the market. Some of the best dental floss brands you can use are:

  • Oral-B Glide Pro-Health
  • Oral-B Essential Floss
  • Oral-B Superfloss
  • Colgate Total Mint Waxed dental floss
  • Humble Co. Natural Dental floss
  • Waterpik Cordless Advanced

Do you floss before or after brushing?

Researchers found that flossing first, followed by brushing with fluoride toothpaste, is the most effective way to maintain optimal oral health. Flossing removes plaque from the tooth surfaces, allowing for better fluoride action on the teeth (6)

Why does my teeth stink when I floss?

Most often, the smell you encounter after flossing is from days-old food particles trapped between the teeth. But, if you're a regular flosser and still notice a bad smell every time you floss, there might be a hidden decay or periodontal pocket. It is better to visit your dentist for an expert consultation. 

How many floss picks should I use?

One floss pick is sufficient to floss your entire mouth. Although floss picks are convenient and easy to use, they aren't as effective as regular floss because they cannot reach all the angles between the teeth. 

Is water flossing better than string? 

Studies show that water flossing is as effective, if not superior to string flossing, in reducing plaque, gingival bleeding, and inflammation. For people with sensitive gums, fixed appliances like braces or implants, and dexterity issues, water flossing is a better choice than string floss (7) (8).

References

  1. Stavrakis, A.K., Kojić, S., Petrović, B., Nešković, I. and Stojanović, G.M. (2022). Performance Evaluation of Dental Flosses Pre- and Post-Utilization. Materials, [online] 15(4), p.1522. doi:10.3390/ma15041522.
  2. Ng, E. and Lim, L.P. (2019). An Overview of Different Interdental Cleaning Aids and Their Effectiveness. Dentistry Journal, [online] 7(2). doi:10.3390/dj7020056.
  3. Azcarate-Velazquez, F., Garrido-Serrano, R., Castillo-Dali, G., Serrera-Figallo, M., Gañan-Calvo, A. and Torres-Lagares, D. (2017). Effectiveness of flossing loops in the control of the gingival health. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Dentistry. doi:10.4317/jced.53858.
  4. Sambunjak, D., Nickerson, J.W., Poklepovic Pericic, T., Johnson, T.M., Imai, P., Tugwell, P. and Worthington, H.V. (2019). Flossing for the management of periodontal diseases and dental caries in adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. doi:10.1002/14651858.cd008829.pub3.
  5. Lin, J., Dinis, M., Tseng, C.-H., Agnello, M., He, X., Silva, D.R. and Tran, N.C. (2020). Effectiveness of the GumChucks flossing system compared to string floss for interdental plaque removal in children: a randomized clinical trial. Scientific Reports, 10(1). doi:10.1038/s41598-020-59705-w.
  6. American Academy of Periodontology. (n.d.). New Study Suggests the Ideal Sequence for Removing Plaque. [online] Available at: https://www.perio.org/press-release/new-study-suggests-the-ideal-sequen… [Accessed 14 Jul. 2022].
  7. Rosema, N.A.M., Hennequin-Hoenderdos, N.L., Berchier, C.E., Slot, D.E., Lyle, D.M. and van der Weijden, G.A. (2011). The effect of different interdental cleaning devices on gingival bleeding. Journal of the International Academy of Periodontology, [online] 13(1), pp.2–10. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21387981/.
  8. Barnes, C.M., Russell, C.M., Reinhardt, R.A., Payne, J.B. and Lyle, D.M. (2005). Comparison of irrigation to floss as an adjunct to tooth brushing: effect on bleeding, gingivitis, and supragingival plaque. The Journal of Clinical Dentistry, [online] 16(3), pp.71–77. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16305005/.