Choosing the Right Type of Dental Floss

by Jennifer Chan


Ask your dentist what type of floss is right for your teeth. Photo: Richard F. Sellman, D.D.S. (2014)

Everyone knows flossing is an important part of dental hygiene, but many people are confused about what type of floss to use. The sheer amount of options can be overwhelming, which is why it’s a good idea to have some basic knowledge before making a decision.

Fundamentally, there are two types of dental floss: nylon and monofilament. While nylon has been the standard dental floss for some time, monofilament floss is a more recent technology that consists of rubber, plastic or polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). Both nylon and monofilament flosses are available as waxed or un-waxed and come in a variety of flavors.

Some dentists insist that waxed floss doesn’t provide enough abrasion to effectively remove plaque, but according to the American Dental Association, recent studies show that there’s little difference in the effectiveness of either floss when used regularly. If you’re concerned about the effectiveness of your floss, woven nylon is a sure bet because it’s equally flexible and abrasive. However, while woven floss is particularly beneficial for those with normal to widely spaced teeth, those with more compacted teeth may experience discomfort and find the floss prone to tearing or shredding. In this case, monofilament floss may be a better option, as its synthetic composition precludes tearing and enables it to glide easily between teeth.

In addition to nylon and monofilament flosses, there are alternatives such as disposable flossing picks and water flossers. Disposable flossing appliances are generally regarded as less effective than traditional floss because they don’t allow for the same angular flexibility in getting around teeth. On the other hand, those who have difficulty reaching their back teeth or experience discomfort wrapping floss around their fingers may benefit from this option. Likewise, a water flosser is a fine supplementary tool, but it’s not a good substitute for regular flossing because water doesn’t have the same abrasive qualities as floss and is less effective at removing plaque.

While there’s no absolute answer as to which floss is best, the general consensus in the dental industry is that the best floss is the one you’re most likely to use. Dentists are less concerned about the style of floss you use and more concerned that you floss regularly.

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