Research tells us very few people consistently floss their teeth; my personal hope for my own kids and my patients is that they use dental floss as often as they perform the floss dance!
There are many products on the market now for cleaning in between your teeth. Your toothbrush alone cannot adequately clean these spaces. Flossing is strongly recommended to remove food debris and plaque between teeth to decrease cavities and reduce gingivitis. When we talk about which method is best for cleaning between your teeth, the answer is whichever method you are more likely to use. This post will focus on floss and water floss.
The most popular brand of water floss is called the Waterpik. A Waterpik, just as the name implies, uses a stream of water to clean between your teeth and gums. There are adjustable settings to control the pressure. This feature is very helpful for younger children who are just getting used to a water flosser, as a lower pressure is easier to control. Most patients have also found using the Waterpik with warm water is most comfortable. The Waterpik For Kids includes an orthodontic tip for cleaning around braces. Every child is different and will tolerate a spray of water in their mouth at a different age, but in general a water flosser is not recommended under age 6. Children should always be supervised when using a Waterpik to make sure they are directing the water stream in between their teeth and below the gum line. Waterpiks have been found to be very helpful in cleaning around orthodontic appliances. The stream of water can be directed in hard to reach places.
Baby teeth are usually tight together, and traditional floss is very effective at removing the food and plaque right at the contact point, which is a common area for cavities to form. However, traditional floss does require quite a bit more dexterity to accomplish the removal of plaque effectively. Children need to be assisted with flossing until at least 8 years of age. There are products on the market that hold the floss in a tight line for you and aid in the flossing process. One brand called Platypus Orthodontic Flossers are a very useful tool that guide floss under orthodontic wires without requiring the floss to be thread underneath the wire. One of the biggest advantages of floss over a water flosser is that floss comes in a small box. A box of floss can travel very easily. We can put it in our pockets, purse, or backpack and use it anytime throughout the day.
Both traditional floss and water floss have their inherent benefits. An ideal oral hygiene routine, especially for patients undergoing orthodontic treatment, would incorporate using both to capture the benefits of each. However, young children with tight contacts between teeth can accomplish all of their dental needs with brushing and traditional flossing alone. As I mentioned before, we know any type of flossing is better than not flossing at all, so figuring out what works best in your hands is the first step to getting in the flossing routine.
Dr. Nicole Stoker is a pediatric dentist for The Smile Shop and is a mother of two.