November 30, 2012

Which Floss Is Best?

Waxed or unwaxed. That is the question.
Deciding which floss to buy can be very confusing.
Thick or thin? Braided or string? Fluffy or not? Brand name or generic?
I'll help you out here. Just follow this one, simple rule:
Buy whatever is cheapest.
There, I said it.
From an official dental hygienist's perspective, there is no need to pay more than $1 for a piece of string.

Surprised? Amazed? Shocked?
It's really not any harder than that. There will always be dentists and hygienists who swear by a particular brand. But truthfully and technically, there isn't any research (yet) to prove one floss above the other. However, let me discuss just a few points with you.
  • Why so many types of floss? Well, why so many types of pizza? Easy. People like different things. If you prefer the feel of waxed floss, then use that. If you prefer thick floss, then use that. Don't make this harder on yourself than it has to be.
  • What about the floss-on-a-stick? Good question. This is one type of floss that I prefer you stay away from. Why? Because the two most important aspects of flossing are doing it every day, and going under the gums. While I am not aware of any scientific research to back me up on this opinion, in my own practice I have found that patients who use the floss-on-a-stick are not able to go as deep into the gums as they need to... resulting in unnecessary gum disease. I've seen this too many times to count. However, I'd rather have you try to floss than not. For some people with minimal dexterity in their fingers (older folks, kids under that age of 10), they may not be able to use string floss. Or, for others with large hands, such as those of the male species, it may be impossible to reach to their back teeth.  These are the select few that have my permission to use the floss-on-a-stick.
  • What about water flossers? There are mixed scientific results and opinions on water flossers right now. Some dentists/dental hygienists will say water flossers should not replace regular flossing, some say it doesn't work as well, some say it does. What have I seen in my own patients? Two things: Most of my patients who use the water flosser instead of string floss have mouths that are in excellent shape; and usually those who listen to my recommendations and start using a water flosser have incredible improvement in their gum disease. If your dental hygienist says you still have gum disease and you use a water flosser every day... then I guarantee that you a) aren't truthful about using it every day, or b) have bad technique. This is one of the few dental tools that I will actually swear by. (I use this in my own mouth!) But, like floss, you need to be consistent and you need to pay attention to your technique. For the first week of using it, I recommend flossing right after so that you can check yourself. Is your floss coming out with gross stuff on it? Then your technique isn't perfect. Once you get your technique perfect, go ahead and check yourself with floss every once in a while just to make sure that you are staying on par.

  • What about the air flossers? Honestly, this is new technology. I haven't used one yet and haven't seen enough results to be able to make a judgement call. If you currently use it, let me know what you think.
So should you use the water flosser? Or regular floss?
In my professional opinion, if you can afford the water flosser, buy one. Most people actually enjoy using it and it will improve the health of your gums.
But when it all comes down to it, this particular dental hygienist doesn't really care what you use to floss with, as long as you are flossing every day. Any good habit is difficult to start. I know. You hate flossing. Even I hate flossing. America is flossed out.
So go get crazy and buy a water flosser.
Your friendly dental hygienist, (m)
*As always, I try to present the most current, valid, un-biased facts on dentistry. I promise I will clearly note when I am giving my opinion. The medical field is always changing, so when new research comes out, I will do my best to update you. If you are curious to know where I get my facts, please go here and here or feel free to contact me.

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