Everyone is aware of the importance of brushing your teeth regularly, but no one has ever emphasized on the added benefits of using floss after brushing.
Flossing your teeth is as important as brushing regularly. A dental floss reaches the thin interdental areas between the teeth and effectively removes the plaque and food particles providing a thorough cleaning of the teeth.
There are two types of dental floss available in the market and they are waxed and unwaxed floss. Waxed floss is coated with wax that may sometimes contain essential oils or vitamins to enhance the dental benefits of flossing.
On the other hand, unwaxed floss is uncoated thin strands that can easily pass through the tooth contacts and provide better cleaning of the teeth.
Both types of floss are beneficial to maintain oral hygiene. The difference lies in the kind of tooth contacts in the mouth and the requirement of additional fluoride or vitamins.
Let’s go on further and read about the benefits of using a waxed and an unwaxed dental floss and which one is the best fit for you.
What is a floss?
Dental floss is a thin cord of filaments that is placed between the tooth contacts to remove bacterial plaque and food particles that are difficult to remove by a toothbrush.
Accumulation of plaque is the prime cause for the initiation of gum disease and tooth decay. Although it is challenging to use floss and may require extra dexterity, use of floss has by far proven to be the most effective method of cleaning the interdental areas of the teeth.
Why should you floss your teeth?
Regular brushing of the teeth only cleans the surfaces exposed to the oral cavity. Bacteria and food particles are small and can easily get trapped in the areas between the teeth and the gums.
These areas are not accessible by the toothbrush alone. If left uncleaned, the bacteria and plaque starts to accumulate causing dental caries, infections, gum diseases and also become a reason for bad breath.
Flossing daily helps to remove the plaque and bacteria, it protects the teeth from tooth decay and infections. It polishes the tooth surface and eliminates halitosis.
A comparative study between an interdental brush and dental floss was done to check the efficacy of plaque removal.
It demonstrated that a dental floss could eliminate 80% of the plaque from the mouth. (1)
What is a dental floss made of?
In the olden days, floss used to be made of silk threads. But in the modern day, floss comes in two forms –
- Nylon – dental floss made from nylon are usually multifilament. They are the most commonly used dental floss. Nylon floss can be both waxed and unwaxed.
- Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) – dental floss made from polytetrafluoroethylene are generally monofilament in nature and are used by people with regular tooth contacts.
Waxed vs unwaxed floss
Waxed dental floss
Waxed floss is nylon dental floss coated with waxes like natural bee wax or microcrystalline plastic wax.
The wax helps to slide the floss between the teeth and polish the tooth surface after cleaning the area. They leave a coat of wax on the tooth surface to protect it from the acid attack of bacteria.
Waxed floss is usually thick as compared to an unwaxed dental floss. Sometimes, natural flavoring agents, essential oils, vitamins or fluorides can be added to make it suitable for people.
Waxed dental floss can be a choice of floss for individuals who may have the following requirements –
- People who prefer flavored floss – it sometimes motivates the person to floss
- Tight contacts or closely aligned teeth
- Patients who are undergoing an orthodontic treatment – as the thick floss doesn’t get tangled between the brackets and the wire
- Those who require a thick floss to prevent breakage
Unwaxed dental floss
As the name suggests, an unwaxed dental floss is not coated with a layer of wax. They are made of nylon or Teflon and are thin and less sturdy as compared to waxed dental floss.
Unwaxed dental floss can easily pass through regular tooth contacts. (2) Unwaxed dental floss is commonly used by a majority of the population and can be a choice of floss for –
- People who prefer a thinner floss
- Those who don’t like to have a coating on their floss
- Patients with dental crowns
- In some pregnant women, a flavored waxed floss may cause nausea. In that case, they can switch to unwaxed dental floss
- People who don’t have tight tooth contacts
What is a proper flossing technique?
- Pull the strand from the floss box and use a strand that measures the length of your arm
- Hold one end around your thumb and wrap about six inches or 5-6 folds around the middle finger
- Now with the help of the thumb and the index finger of your free hand, straighten the floss and stretch it a little between both the hands
- Slide the floss between your teeth, curve the floss against the surface of the tooth and glide it up
- Repeat this movement by using a clean section of the floss and clean the spaces between all the teeth
- Rinse your mouth with water after you’ve finished flossing
- Remember to throw away the used piece of floss. Do not reuse it again
Take away message
All types of dental floss have equal efficacy and benefits. It only depends on the person’s dental condition and choice.
A good oral health practice should always include flossing to ensure a good cleaning of the teeth. If you are starting to floss, use a thick or a wide dental floss to ease the process.
Flossing requires manual skill and patience, but once you master the technique, it becomes smooth and effective.
If you don’t know which floss is better for you, consult a dentist and take advice from them. Your dentist can also teach you the proper technique of flossing.
Flossing before sleeping increases the health benefits of the oral cavity. Whichever time you prefer, make sure you floss at least once a day.