Brushing your teeth is one of the most important ways to preserve your smile. But brushing alone won’t save your teeth: you need to floss once a day to keep cavities at bay.

So why, according to the American Dental Association, do only four in ten Americans floss their teeth every day? And why do 20% of Americans fail to floss at all?

One reason could be that some people don’t like the feeling of floss. They don’t like wrapping string around their fingers, and they have a hard time moving the string in between their teeth, especially if their teeth are close together with narrow gaps.

Fortunately, if you don’t like traditional floss, you have a host of other options. Keep reading to learn why you shouldn’t put off flossing any longer and how you can find a flossing regimen that works for you.

How Can You Floss?

Traditionally, Americans use dental floss to clean their teeth. Most types of floss don’t decompose, though, and the fact that floss sits in landfills for years makes some people wary of using it. Additionally, floss can be made from petroleum or Teflon, which makes some consumers uncomfortable. Others don’t like how the string sits on their fingers or have a hard time using floss to reach their back teeth.

Switching to a different floss brand might help you clear up any of the above problems. For instance, if you have narrow gaps in between your teeth, you might need a different brand with smoother string. Your dentist can give you advice about different floss brands and point you in the direction of the best type of traditional floss for your teeth.

If you prefer not to use traditional floss at all, read through the options below and ask your dentist which one he or she thinks will work best for you.

Floss Picks

Dental floss picks are small dental tools with y-shaped, curved plastic handles that support short, suspended strings of floss.

Instead of holding 18 inches of floss between your fingers, you simply move the pick in between your teeth with one hand. The simplicity makes floss picks a perfect choice for people who lack full mobility or who have a weak grip. Even though you only use each floss pick once, you can purchase them in relatively affordable packs with 50 to 100 picks each.

Oral Irrigators

You might hear this floss substitute referred to as a water pick. In some ways, it’s similar to an electric toothbrush, but the device produces a small stream of water that you can spray between your teeth.

Although oral irrigators are helpful, especially for removing large food particles, they don’t necessarily spray hard enough to remove sticky plaque from in between your teeth. Combine an oral irrigator with another flossing alternative for best results.

Inter-dental Brushes

These brushes are a little similar to floss picks, but instead of suspending a string of floss, they have soft bristles at their tips that easily slide in between your teeth. The bristles gently remove plaque as you move them back and forth.

Many orthodontists recommend that you use inter-dental brushes to clean the spaces in between your brackets, so if you’ve had braces before, you might already be familiar with this product. Luckily for you, inter-dental brushes can continue to benefit you even after you have your braces off.

Even if you have a relatively straight smile, the gaps between your teeth might not all be the same size. In this case, purchase a few different sizes of inter-dental brushes. The tips can be small enough to fit between the tightest teeth and wide enough to sweep larger particles from wider gaps, so find a few sizes that work for you.

Since many inter-dental brushes are thicker than floss, your gums might need some time to get accustomed to this new form of flossing. Expect your gums to feel a little tender, but this symptom should clear up quickly. Just like with floss, you should never try to force an inter-dental brush into a narrow gap between your teeth. Just invest in a smaller size for next time.

Why Should You Floss?

Regardless of how you floss, you should do everything you can to make flossing a key part of your daily routine. Here are just a few of the ways flossing benefits you:

It cleans more of your mouth than brushing alone. While brushing removes plaque from the front and back of your teeth, it doesn’t remove food particles stuck in between your teeth. If they’re not removed, these particles start to decay.

It lowers your chances of getting periodontal disease. When left untreated, periodontitis causes your gums to bleed and, eventually, leads to tooth loss and bone decay.

It’s good for your heart. Removing plaque from your teeth might reduce your risk of heart disease. Plus, removing more cavity-causing bacteria lowers your risk of experiencing infection and disease in general.

Since flossing has so many benefits, you have far too many incentives to floss to skip it altogether. Use one of the flossing methods listed above along with mouthwash and twice-daily brushing to help your teeth stay strong.


Along with visiting your dentist for a thorough tooth cleaning-including flossing-once every six months, use one of the instruments listed above to keep your teeth plaque-free. If you have any other questions about how or why to floss, get in touch with our dentists. We’re happy to help you find the best tool for keeping your mouth clean and healthy.