Dental floss and Interdental brushes Guide

28 / 09 / 2020

Our guide to using dental floss and interdental brushes


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We have previously provided advice on how best to keep your teeth clean using a toothbrush but it’s important you also clean the hard to see or reach parts of your teeth as well. Cleaning between your teeth and on your gumline is essential to ensuring you have removed all plaque and food particles. To clean these areas, we use flossing or interdental brushing as a regular toothbrush unfortunately cannot reach them.

Interdental brushes have small bristled heads designed to get between your teeth. They come in different widths to suit the sizes of the gaps, you can buy them from your dental practice, pharmacies and in the supermarket. If you are unable to get out, then you can always use the CTS website to buy supplies directly.

Another option is dental floss and is recommended for use where the gaps in your teeth maybe too hard to clean with an interdental brush. Individuals may also have a personal preference on using one or the other or a mixture of the two. Research does show that interdental brushes provide better plaque removal than floss.

From the age of 12, as well as brushing twice daily, we recommend that you should clean between your teeth at least once a day, ensuring you keep a regular pattern so that you don’t miss any areas. Sometimes, looking in a mirror can help to ensure that you reach the gaps in every tooth. For children under the age of 12, they may need help with flossing safely and this can start as soon as they will let you do this.

How to use interdental brushes

Make sure you use a brush appropriate to the size of the space between your teeth as you may need more than one interdental brush. Your dentist/hygienist can help you to find the right size. They are coloured to represent the different widths. They also come with short or long handles to make it easier to reach the teeth further back.

Holding the interdental brush between your thumb and finger, gently place the brush through the gap between your teeth. Do not force the brush head through the gap, if the brush bends then it is too big and you’ll need to use a smaller brush head.

Work your way around the gaps between each tooth in an orderly way so that you don’t miss any of the spaces. When you first start using interdental brushes, your gums may bleed, they may also be tender as you start to remove any plaque build-up. Bleeding is a sign that the gums are not healthy, but this is completely normal if you have not cleaned in between your teeth in this way before. If you can carry on using the brushes, bleeding should reduce as your gums become healthier.

If your gums are still bleeding after a few days, seek advice from your dentist as you may be using the interdental brushes incorrectly.

How to use dental floss

Dental floss is a thin, soft thread used to help eliminate any additional foodstuff in-between your teeth following brushing. If you find it difficult to use floss you can use dental tape which is thicker, but the main action of flossing is a firm but gentle stroking of the tooth from the top down. Try not to be too aggressive with the floss as this may harm your gums.

For the best result, break off about 45 centimetres of floss, and wind some around one finger of each hand. Hold the floss tightly between your thumbs and forefingers, with about an inch of floss between them, leaving no slack. Use a gentle ‘rocking’ motion to guide the floss between your teeth, trying not to snap the floss into the gums.

When the floss reaches your gumline, curve it into a C-shape against one tooth until you feel resistance. Hold the floss against the tooth, gently stroking the side of the tooth, moving the floss away from the gum. Repeat on the other side of the gap, along the side of the next tooth.

When flossing, it’s always best to keep to a regular pattern. Start at the top and work from left to right, then move to the bottom and again work from the left to right. This way you’re less likely to miss any teeth.

If you find flossing very tricky or don’t have nimble fingers then you may find the floss holders are useful and easier, although they are not as thorough as normal floss.

Similarly, to when you first use interdental brushes, when you first floss your gums may be tender and bleed a little, but this is all completely normal in moderation. Carry on flossing and your gums should become healthier after a few days and stop bleeding. If your gums are still regularly bleeding after a few days, contact your dental team and they can check if you’re flossing correctly.

Good dental health begins with you, by following these tips on how to brush in-between your teeth, and following our guide on how to brush your teeth properly, you can keep your mouth clean and healthy, reducing plaque build-up and gum disease.

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