Alternatives to Dental Floss

flossingAdmit it—you would floss more often if only it weren’t for the floss. It’s stringy, it’s messy. You now have choices of instruments that will help you clean between your teeth and are very different from floss. “Floss is a traditional way to clean the spaces between your teeth and remove plaque,” says Dr. Carol Ford from her Phoenix cosmetic dentistry office. “But there are other tools to use. Because removal of plaque is important to keeping your teeth, any method you use regularly is better than avoiding floss,” Dr. Ford adds.

Here are some alternatives to dental floss:

Sonicare Air Floss. A hand-held device that injects air and water in a pressure burst to clean the spaces between your teeth. The pressure of the water disrupts plaque growth. The wand is re-chargeable and has a water reservoir. The charge holds long enough for a business trip or a vacation—about two weeks.

Stim-U-dent: The American Dental Association approves of the use of these wood picks. Flatter and thicker than a toothpick, the pointed wood picks have a choice of unflavored or mint flavor. Using the thin flat side next to the gums, the sticks are inserted around the gum line and between the teeth to disrupt plaque formation.

Dental floss picks. There are several styles of these rounded floss holders. Easier to insert in the mouth than your own fingers, these flossers help you reach your back teeth without triggering your gag reflex. They are easy to load (and some come with the floss in place) and can use plain or flavored floss.

G-U-M makes several products for interdental cleaning. There is a handle that looks like a dental tool, but has a replaceable rubber tip. The tip is useful for massaging gums and cleaning between teeth. Also available are Go-Between angled cleaners. They have small plastic brushes at the tip that scrub the plaque from between your teeth. Use them once and dispose them. Soft Tips are small, soft rubber-nubbed picks with a flat plastic handle. They fit between even tightly-spaced teeth and remove plaque.  Use for one tooth or several and discard.

Toothpicks. The American Dental Association warns against using toothpicks to clean your teeth, despite their name. The shape is fine for removing larger pieces of food after a meal, but the tip is not designed for gum care. The wood may also splinter and break between teeth.

The Doctor’s Tooth Brushpicks. Shaped like a flattened toothpick, but made of plastic. One end is pointed to help remove large food particles stuck between your teeth. The other end has flat plastic bristles that fits between teeth to remove plaque. The bristles are stiff enough to saw back and forth between tight-fitting teeth to break stubborn plaque.

“No matter which one of these you use,” says Dr. Ford, “if you use them daily your gums, teeth and smile will thank you for it,” Dr. Ford smiles.

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