Flossing vs. Interdental Brushing: Which Is Better?

Keeping your teeth clean, your mouth healthy, and your breath minty fresh is about more than just brushing the surface of your teeth and swilling a bit of mouthwash around. Good oral hygiene concerns the hidden parts of your mouth as well as those bits that are on show – with an effective dental routine, including cleaning both on and between the teeth, as well as along the gum line and around your tongue. 

Of course, cleaning between your teeth is easier said than done – and, while you don’t need any special skills to complete this part of the routine effectively and efficiently, there are certain tools you will need to get the job done.

In this blog, we’re covering two of the most common methods of cleaning between the teeth – flossing and interdental brushing. Is one better than the other? Which is easier? Does it hurt? These are all questions that will be answered during the course of this blog. 

But first, what is flossing and how does it differ from interdental brushing?

What is flossing?

Flossing is one of the most recommended solutions by dental hygienists, because it is cheap and easy, and it is a solution that can be adopted by anyone. 

Using dental string or flossing tape, the process of flossing effectively involves manually slotting the string or tape down into the gaps between your teeth and drawing it back out systematically. This dislodges any food which may have become stuck between your teeth, and helps to remove any build-up of plaque deposit.

What is interdental brushing?

Interdental brushing follows much the same process as flossing, though it uses small brushes that can be pushed between the gaps in your teeth to perform the same task.

The small brushes used for interdental flossing are reusable, though there are only so many times that they can be used before the bristles become worn from constantly being pushed and forced between the teeth. It’s worth noting that there are different sizes and thicknesses of brushes to ensure optimum efficiency and comfort for the user, and that you will likely need to tackle some trial and error to establish which brushes are right for you. 

The importance of cleaning between as well as across the teeth

Now that we know what both flossing and interdental brushing are designed to do and achieve, why is the task so important?

We’ve all been in social situations where we find out that something is stuck between our teeth. Well, this is the visual symptom of getting food stuck in the gaps between your teeth – with interdental cleaning an important way of ensuring that your teeth look pearly white and clean. But alongside and behind those visible signs of food debris lies plaque, and when this is allowed to build up, it can wreak havoc on your oral hygiene and lead to issues like gum disease later down the line. 

In short, brushing or cleaning between the teeth is an integral part of good oral hygiene, which should be embedded into your regular routine. 

Is one method better than the other?

The two options mentioned in this blog are both effective, both easy to master over time and with practice, and both tackle the job of cleaning between as well as around and across your teeth. 

Typically, we would say that flossing is a solution that can be picked up by anyone, with the variety of dental string and tape flexible for different jawlines and different sized gaps between your teeth. Interdental brushing doesn’t work for everyone, but flossing is an option which can be mastered by anyone.

If you really want to optimise your oral hygiene and overall health, then you might find that a combination of flossing and interdental brushing is the best approach – using different tools for different parts of the mouth. For example, those pesky back teeth which are harder to reach might be best cleaned with flexible dental string and floss, while the larger front teeth are easier to tackle with an interdental brush.  

FAQs about flossing and interdental brushing

Does it hurt to clean between the teeth?

You should be pushing the brush or floss between the teeth right until it touches the gum line – but not forcing it so hard that it hurts. Any pain or bleeding can be a sign of inflammation, which is not caused by the flossing but rather an indicator that you are not flossing regularly enough. 

The other thing to be aware of is that, if you meet with too much resistance when attempting to floss or brush between your teeth, it could be a sign that the brush or floss tape is too large or too wide for the gaps between your teeth. Adjust your tools accordingly to ensure consistent results. 

Is one method easier than the other?

Both methods for interdental cleaning take some time to master and get used to – though neither are particularly challenging. The only thing we would say is that it can be difficult to reach the back teeth, regardless of your tool of choice, with some flex and practice required. 

Do you need to clean between every single tooth?

Just as you wouldn’t only brush a few of your teeth, it’s important to approach flossing with the same consistency and commitment. Make sure that you brush or clean between every single tooth to minimise your exposure to potential gum disease, and to maximise your dental hygiene routine. 

Should you floss before or after brushing your teeth?

This tends to be a matter of preference more than anything else, as it doesn’t really matter whether you floss or use your interdental brush before or after cleaning your teeth. Many of our clients choose to floss after, as it prevents any dislodged food from being pushed back between the teeth by your toothbrush – however, you might find that you wish to remove all food debris before cleaning your teeth.

Whichever way you choose to floss or clean between your teeth, and whichever tool you use, remember that interdental cleaning is an integral part of your oral hygiene routine and is something that can not only leave your mouth feeling and smelling fresh, but is also an important deterrent from gum disease and other issues.