Let’s Get Flossy!!!!!!

Ok so this is it… the GRAND FINALE…   of my series of FAQ’s.  This week I am going to discuss the wide and untamed world of floss AND mouthwash (you get a two for one deal on this!).  For those of you who are just joining in on the fun, check out my other blog posts about toothpaste and toothbrushes (I promise they are more interesting than they sound!) Oh yeah, by floss I don’t mean the types of underwear you can buy at Victoria Secret…

Dental Floss Photo taken by: Stan Zurek

Dental Floss
Photo taken by: Stan Zurek


So in the fascinating world of floss there are not many types to choose from, you have (please read ala Forest Gump style): waxed floss, unwaxed floss, tape floss, tufted floss, etc…

Studies have shown that it doesn’t matter what type of floss you use, it is all in how it is used.  However, I will still go into describing the different floss and whom might benefit from using them.  (Oh yeah, I will also be discussing the most important part: HOW TO FLOSS).

  Waxed Floss and Expanded PTFE Floss

AKA: Glide, Easy Slide, and Satin floss

Glide is actually expanded PTFE floss (expanded plastic monofilament polyterrafluoroethylene with wax) but can be grouped with the waxed floss because it has the same characteristics.  So no matter the brand name, all waxed floss have the same features:

  • Smooth, waxed surface that helps prevent damage to gum tissue
  • Easily slides between teeth
  • Expanded PTFE resists breakage or shredding
  • The wax covering provides some strength and durability; shredding or breaking is rare

I usually recommend waxed floss to all of my patients, usually because of its durability.  A lot of people have tight spaces between their teeth, ill-fitting or old crowns, old fillings that are becoming jagged and waxed or expanded PTFE floss just works better.  However, because it has a smooth surface, the user has to make sure they use the right amount of pressure and pay attention that they are actually getting plaque off of their teeth.  We hygienists have a saying at the office where I work, “Glide floss glides right over the plaque”.  If we see that people who swear they are flossing and are using the technique we teach them are still having a tough time getting plaque off, we recommend another floss.

Unwaxed floss

As with waxed floss no matter the brand, all unwaxed floss have the same features:

  • Usually thinner than waxed, may be helpful in tight spaces
  • Pressure against the tooth causes the fibers to expand and gives a wider surface for plaque removal
  • Produces a “squeaking” sound which patients tend to like (if it squeaks it must be clean)
  • Has a sharper thinner edge which can “cut” the gum tissue if too much pressure is applied
  • Tends to fray when passed over a rough edge caused by tartar, jagged fillings, etc…
  • If wound too tightly around fingers can cut or cause discomfort.

If a patient prefers to use unwaxed floss I usually don’t interfere (I’m just glad they are flossing) unless I see they are damaging their gums or not flossing effectively.

Tape Floss and Tufted Floss

AKA: Superfloss or NuFloss (tufted flosses)

These types of floss are usually used by a smaller group of people for very specific needs.  Tape floss is thicker, flatter than regular floss and is recommended for people with larger gaps between their teeth, as it has a larger surface area.  Tufted floss is recommended for people with bridges or implants.  It has a stiff end with a gauzy tufted middle and a harder filament end.  People who use this floss are usually given specific directions by their dentist or hygienist for its use.  These people also have to use regular floss around their other teeth.  Basically the user threads the stiffer end between the “fake tooth” and the gums and then uses the tufted end to rub underneath the “fake tooth” and around the crown.  For users with implants, the stiffer end should be threaded between the implant and gums and then the tufted end is rubbed around the implant.

How to floss

Instead of having lengthy, possibly confusing instructions on the proper way to floss I searched the web and found what I think is the shortest, most concise instructions.  Please remember that I am not endorsing the dental office the dentist is from, just her advice and instruction.  Just click on the link: https://youtu.be/vfLOgPzwny4 . I tell my patients that in an ideal world everyone would floss and they would floss before brushing.  But it is not an ideal world and if you are like me, I feel like I accomplished something by brushing my teeth for 2 minutes before I fall face first into my bed.  Find a time that works for you.  A lot of my patients floss in the shower, it works for them I’m not judging.  In Atlanta, we have a lot of traffic, I know of some patients who floss their teeth while in traffic (not while moving, texting, putting makeup on, reading a book…the things you see people do while driving; and these are the tame examples), again, I’m not judging.  As with everything else, find a time and routine that works for you.

Also a little tidbit: the use of floss piks and the like are NOT the same as flossing!  You cannot manipulate the flosspik to correctly floss.  The use of these floss aids are to help with the stray food caught in teeth after eating steak, corn, popcorn, etc… Gross!


AKA: Waterpik, AirFlosser by Sonicare

When patients ask about water flossers I usually do not discourage use of these adjunct products but remind patients that they are to be used with flossing not instead of.  We do recommend Air Flosser for implant patients in the office I work in.  Water flossers are a good way to flush out particles loosened by flossing and brushing and if used with a mouth rinse are a good way for your mouth to feel “clean”.


All types of mouthwash.   Photo taken by: Bart Everson

All types of mouthwash.
Photo taken by: Bart Everson


Mouth Rinse

Did you like that lead in?  Mouth rinses are used by a lot of people.  Commercial mouth rinses all have the same basic ingredients:

  • Water
  • Flavoring
  • Coloring
  • Sweetening Agent
  • Active Ingredients (can be alcohol, fluoride, essential oils, peroxide, etc…)

As you can see mouth rinse can be as varied as toothpaste.  I tell my patients to find one that they like.  There is a mouth rinse for every need (bad breath, fluoride, anti-bacterial, or plaque control).  However, read the instructions and follow them as you would anything you put in your body.  Listerine is widely used with my patients, however, I remind my patients that it does have alcohol in it.  Some dental professionals believe the alcohol can dry out your mouth, usually associated with overdosing.  Most people just open and take a swig, please do not do that.  The recommended dose of Listerine is 4 teaspoons and rinse for 30 seconds.  Listerine is not the only mouth rinse that contains alcohol, so you need to read the label.  Also, I would like to take the time to remind everyone that rinsing with a mouth rinse does not take the place of flossing.

Correct way to rinse with mouth rinse

Yes, there is a proper way to rinse with mouth rinse.

  1. Measure out the correct dosage and put into mouth.
  2. Close lips but leave teeth slightly apart
  3. Use your lips, cheeks, and tongue to force the liquid back and forth between the teeth.
  4. Balloon the cheeks (ala Louis Armstrong) then suck them in, moving the fluid between the teeth again.
  5. Concentrate on the different areas of your mouth (front, left, and right)
  6. Spit out
  7. Follow the directions on the label for length and regularity of rinsing.

Your dentist or hygienist may put you on a prescription mouth rinse.  They should give you directions on use before you leave the office.  If they do not or you forget, usually directions are printed somewhere on the packaging.  Or call the office and ask for a refresher, believe me, they would rather explain again than for you to tell them at your next appointment “what rinse” or “I didn’t use it”.

So that’s that.  Your home oral hygiene care is not rocket science.  Basically, follow your dentist or hygienist suggestions.  Find a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, and mouth rinse that fits your needs and you like.  The most important part is actually following through with a routine.

Next week the plan is to start in on some of the great fictional stories I have read online.  It should be pretty interesting; duh, duh, duh… lies on the internet

Happy brushing (and flossing)!


What do you think about this and the last few posts?  I would love some feedback; the good, bad, and ugly.  Also, please let me know if you have a suggestion for a post or have a question about anything dental.  I want to hear from you!

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