Dental Floss Types: A Detailed Guide
There are numerous options when it comes to choosing the best dental floss, which can both be helpful and slightly difficult. Whether waxed or unwaxed, natural, dental tape, water flossers, air flossers, or others, the available types of dental floss are plentiful.
I have personally suffered from dental issues due to disregarding the importance of flossing, which has taught me how critical it truly is. I’m thankful for the various options on the market to keep my teeth cared for correctly and comfortably. If you are trying to decide on which flossing technique would be best for you, hopefully this helps make the decision clear!
#1 Unwaxed & Waxed Dental Floss
The most common type of floss you’ll find on your store shelves is made of nylon. This is often the cheapest and it comes in both waxed and unwaxed versions. Most people prefer waxed floss due to the fact that it glides between your teeth much easier. It’s typically thinner as well, which can work more effectively for teeth that are tightly packed together. However, keep in mind that the “wax” is usually Teflon, an industrial chemical.
Unwaxed floss may be thicker than waxed, which may be more difficult for flossing in tighter areas, but possibly more helpful for teeth with wider gaps. According to Delta Dental, unwaxed floss may also squeak when removing plaque, which can be a good indication of the floss doing its job. Finally, customers may find unwaxed floss appealing as it is not coated with Teflon.
Monofilament floss, just like multifilament, is indicative of its nature by the very name. “Mono” simply means one filament, and that’s what we find when we examine the floss. This type of floss is crafted from a singular strand of strong material, often Teflon. It can be thicker than multifilament floss, which may be more difficult for flossing between tight teeth. However, it typically glides easier than multifilament and doesn’t fray or shred near as much.
Multifilament floss is the most common floss, often made of nylon. Just like the name indicates, “multi” means that it is made of several filaments, whether strands or beads. Multifilament can also be called “woven floss” because it is created by several fibers being woven together to create a stronger strand. While multifilament floss may not break as easily, it can fray or shred quite a bit due to its woven rather than continuous nature.
Flavored floss is honestly just a matter of preference. Most people enjoy mint-flavored floss for the fresh feeling it provides, however, some people would rather have a unique flavor such as bacon floss or not any flavor at all. For kids, there are plenty of other flavors, such as bubble gum, which may encourage them to floss more often if they enjoy the flavor. Unflavored floss isn’t more healthy than flavored, considering the amount of sugar or calories used is extremely minimal and isn’t proven to have an impact.
If brighter teeth are something you’re interested in, whitening floss may just give you that extra edge you are looking for. Though it’s not anywhere comparative to whitening strips or dental whitening treatments, it can help gently lift those coffee or tea stains between your teeth.
Some types of whitening floss are coated with abrasive silica particles, while others may be treated with calcium peroxide. These compounds break down the saliva deposits and, as always, the bacterial plaque known for causing discoloration.
Floss with Mouthwash Added
Perhaps you are looking for a flossing option for those rushed mornings, or something to carry you through long commutes or plane trips with fresh breath. Whatever your motivation, there are mouthwash-infused floss options to help you feel extra fresh. The mouthwash floss goes beyond just tasting minty--it can help kill bacteria while it’s at it.
While this floss isn’t exactly proven to provide a significant difference in healthier gums and teeth, flossing itself is what’s important and if you like the mouthwash-infused floss, go for it.
Pre-Cut Floss Strands
There is such a thing as pre-cut floss strands, though this is typically just for the brand Superfloss. Superfloss is most common for people who need extra help with their flossing, for instance, those with braces or bridges. The Superfloss strands are designed with different sections for different purposes, so the pre-cut strands make it much more convenient for customers.
Floss for Kids
While there isn’t any debate over whether or not kids need their teeth flossed, finding the right technique for kids can be tricky. Children need to observe their parents flossing and see it as a priority, so they know it’s important for their teeth as well. As soon as their teeth grow in and begin to make contact with each other, flossing needs to start.
Most often, dental professionals recommend using dental tape with kids, which is thicker and easier to grasp, or even better: floss picks. The great thing about floss picks beyond their helpfulness is that you can even find them in various colors and designs to make flossing more fun for your kids.
Superfloss is a unique type of floss that oftentimes comes in helpful for people with braces and bridges. The floss comes in pre-cut, fourteen-inch strands with three different sections. On each strand, you’ll find a stiff end, a soft section, and a regular floss section.
The stiff end is most helpful for poking between teeth under the braces wire, between teeth on the bonded sides of a bridge, or simply tightly packed areas. Once the stiff end is poked through, it’s much easier to pull the rest of the floss through. The soft, thicker section is most often used for gently cleaning under the bridge, so as to not irritate your gums. Finally, the regular floss section is just helpful for continuing on with flossing other surfaces.
#3 Dental Tape
Dental tape is different from typical floss by way of thickness and shape. Standard floss is composed of a thin, round strand, however, dental tape varies in that it is thicker and flat. This can be helpful for flossing under bridges since it reaches more surface area, as well as teeth that have wide gaps.
Additionally, though it is thicker, the flatness of the tape could possibly help it slide between tight teeth easier. Dental tape has also proven helpful for teaching children to floss since it’s easier to grasp and hold tightly. Finally, dental floss can be a good solution if you’re looking for a floss that won’t tear, break, or shred as easily.
#4 Floss Pick
Floss picks are often found helpful by many people, especially children, the elderly, and those with limited dexterity. If you happen to have a smaller mouth or larger hands, it may be difficult to fit your fingers properly around the floss to clean your teeth effectively. Floss picks hold the floss for you on a handle, and are disposable and cheap. Typically, several are sold at once in a bag at the drugstore for only a couple of dollars.
These picks are plastic, oftentimes shaped like the letter “F,” with floss strung between two prongs. Most floss pick handles even taper to a pointed end for a toothpick, though safer and better for your teeth than toothpicks.
#5 Floss Holder
Floss holders are similar to floss picks in that they hold the floss for you. Typically, however, floss holders are reusable and can either be rethreaded or have replaceable “floss heads,” similar to electric toothbrush heads. Floss holders are larger than floss picks with a longer handle, more depth for the flossing area, and are shaped somewhat like a slingshot.
One great feature about floss holders is that if they can be rethreaded, you can customize the amount of tension you prefer by wrapping the floss around the holder. Floss holders that can be rethreaded may also be a money-saving option in the end, as floss picks or the holders with replaceable heads are typically more expensive than a container of string floss. Floss picks and floss holders require a different angle when flossing, but are both effective.
#6 Floss Threader
Floss threaders are tools shaped like the eye of a needle. They are often most helpful for assisting those who need an easier approach to flossing with braces or bridges. To use for flossing braces, the threader is slipped under the braces wire and four to five inches of regular dental floss is directed through the loop on the threader. At that point, the threader is pulled up under the braces wire, successfully pulling the floss behind the wire for effective flossing. At that point, you can floss as usual.
Similarly, it can be quite helpful for threading below the bonded sections of a bridge. Though they may take more time and effort, once it’s become a habit, floss threaders are a great way to floss those tight and hard-to-reach areas.
#7 Power Flosser
Power flossers are a very unique and high-tech approach to flossing. Though Waterpik is known for their water flossers, they have also released an electric flosser, which seems quite helpful. This would be a good idea for anyone who has trouble flossing traditionally, would rather not use a pick or holder due to teeth sensitivity, or needs help with flossing braces or a bridge.
The flosser is composed of an electric handle and a stiff tip of floss, which is easily inserted between the teeth and scrapes off the plaque and bacteria. It’s been clinically proven to be as effective as string floss and reduce bleeding gums. The power flosser uses ten-thousand strokes per minute to remove bacteria between teeth and below the gumline. It may also be easier to use than any other method, as you only have to poke it between your teeth and slide it along your tooth’s surface, while it does the rest.
#8 Natural Floss Alternatives
If you aren’t down for the Teflon, chemical-coated standard floss, there are natural options as well. More often than not, typical drugstore floss is coated with petroleum-based synthetic materials. Not only are these not super great for your health since the Teflon toxins can be absorbed into your blood while flossing, but they can have a bad impact on the environment. Floss may not seem like a big deal, but the amount of floss sold worldwide in a year adds up. Petroleum is non-sustainable and with major production, can be detrimental to soil, water, and ecosystems around the world.
There’s good news, though. Dental floss alternatives can be derived from silk or plant products. Silk is natural with minimal impact on the environment compared to petroleum. However, if you are concerned about animal byproducts, silk may not be the best option for you. Perhaps consider looking for products with the Certified Vegan Logo to ensure they are cruelty-free. As far as non-chemical options go for natural floss alternatives, here are a couple of brands we have found:
#9 Dental Floss Alternatives
Whether your teeth are too sensitive for string floss, or you’re looking for something more motivating to use, you still have more options. Possibly consider the water flosser or air flosser for a new way to clean between your teeth, and without the abrasive string. Let’s consider their differences, as well as their pros and cons.
Water flossers, commonly known by their brand name, Waterpik, are very helpful for flushing out food particles and debris that may otherwise remain with brushing alone. It could be very useful and a great step in the right direction for people who don’t floss to begin with.
Air flossers work by spraying a powerful burst of air with water droplets to remove the plaque film. This water could be replaced with any preferred mouthwash as well. You will simply need to point the tip between your teeth, and click to activate the air. It takes approximately sixty-seconds to clean your teeth.
Air flossing may cause some discomfort for people with extremely sensitive teeth, though using lukewarm water could potentially solve this issue. While the air flosser isn’t necessarily more effective than flossing, generally it is as effective, and a great choice for people who aren’t flossing due to one issue or another.
Choose What Works
Please let us know if you enjoyed this list of dental floss types and found it helpful for choosing your own approach. In the end, it’s all about finding what will actually work for you, because anything that you’ll use on a daily basis is best! From my personal, painful experience of tooth decay from not flossing, I know how much of a struggle it is.
Hopefully, this helped give you some ideas of the options you have available to find what works best for you! We’d love to hear what you think in the comments, and please share this article if you found it useful.
Aurora is the lead editor here at pearlywhytes.com. She is one of those people who actually likes going to the dentist. She loves to write about anything health related, but oral health is her most passionate topic. Her free time is spent partaking in family activities and experimenting in the kitchen.