Are there alternatives to flossing?

There are alternatives to floss; however, depending on the amount of space between your teeth floss may be the best answer.

Other interproximal cleaning devices include:
  • the Proxabrush which is a small nylon brush attached to a plastic handle for cleaning between teeth with larger spaces between them
  • Soft Picks-plastic disposable brushes for cleaning between teeth with smaller interproximal spaces
  • rubber tips.
There are other devices and methods but it is best to consult with your dentist who can advise you on the best method for you.
Peggy Rosen
Alternatives to dental floss are:
  1. Dental pick
  2. Water irrigation
  3. Interdental brushes
  4. Power Flossers (mechanical flossers)
People who have difficulty handling dental floss may prefer to use another kind of interdental cleaner. These aids include special brushes, picks or sticks. If you use interdental cleaners, ask your dentist about how to use them properly, to avoid injuring your gums.

Cleaning between the teeth once a day with floss or interdental cleaners removes plaque from between the teeth, areas where the toothbrush can't reach. It is essential in preventing periodontal (gum) disease.
There are alternatives to flossing, but in our experience none of them come close to being as effective as floss. If done properly, flossing is much better than all other methods, even brushing, at removing plaque and preventing gum disease.

When patients come in to have their teeth cleaned, we can usually tell if they've been flossing regularly by how healthy their gums are. I can't say that about any other method of home care.

The best alternatives? I agree with Dr. Gonzales that physically scraping the plaque off the teeth is the best. Proxabrushes can be very effective for people who have enough space between their teeth to fit one, especially people who've had gum surgery. And I have seen a handful of people who do a great job with a toothpick. Oral irrigators don't seem to make much of a difference unless nothing else is being used.
Dante A. Gonzales, DMD
Orthodontics & Dentofacial Orthopedics

Using string floss is still the "gold standard" for cleaning between teeth but there are good alternatives:

  • flossers or floss holders
  • proxy brushes
  • wooden toothpicks
  • oral irrigators (Waterpik)

The better tools to use are ones that will physically "scrape" or "brush" the plaque off of the teeth. Most of the oral irrigators are good at removing debris from the teeth but are not as good at removing sticky plaque from the teeth. Any of these tools will help reduce plaque and are better than just brushing alone.

Yes, there are several alternatives to flossing.

For me, the best alternative is irrigators (water jets, etc.). These get in-between your teeth and under the gumline, and do a nice job at keeping things clean.

Other "decent" alternatives include old-fashioned toothpicks (not the greatest substitute, but better than nothing), and flossers (floss on a plastic holder). Another alternative is a sonic toothbrush, which forces water and saliva between your teeth. Again, it's not as good as floss, but it beats nothing.
Carol Jahn
There are many great, easy, effective alternatives to string floss. Some of these include interproximal brushes, wooden toothpicks, floss holders, and oral irrigators, also called dental water jets or water flossers. Scientific studies have shown that these products can work as well as traditional floss in improving and maintaining oral health. It's important to choose a product that not only is proven to work but that you like and can easily use on a daily basis.
Flossing can be time consuming and frustrating, but like anything else, it gets easier with practice. Flossing the old-fashioned way, with a piece of floss between your fingers, is not only effective, it’s cheap. However, if you can’t floss because of arthritis or some other condition, or if you’re just looking to speed up the process, there are a few alternatives. Some companies make floss holders, which can be used effectively with one hand. Other companies make automatic flossers. Much like an electric toothbrush, these flossers move back and forth much faster than you would be able to with your hands. This speeds up the process of flossing considerably. The only downside is that they tend to be expensive.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.