Interndental Brushes, An Alternative to Flossing

By Catherine M. Fascilla, D.D.S.

By and large, the importance of plaque removal is accepted and it is generally understood that reducing plaque buildup is very important in maintaining overall health. However, effective plaque removal is not achieved simply by brushing. Dentists have been touting the need to floss for years but the reality is, floss is not used regularly by the majority of the population.

There have been many studies that have compared other methods of interdental plaque removal to flossing. One method that surpasses the effectiveness of floss is the use of interdental brushes. These are small tapered brushes that fit between the teeth like a toothpick. Patients like them because they are easy to handle and because they are able to effectively remove plaque between their teeth using only one hand. Flossing can be an awkward task for some people.

One of the main reasons why interdental brushes are more effective than flossing is because they are able to clean concavities that exist between the teeth. The diagram below compares the effectiveness of a toothpick or stick versus the interdental brush versus floss. The brush has the greatest contact with the tooth and can therefore remove more plaque.

There are many brands of interdental brushes on the market. They are available with very short handles for use with your fingers and with longer handles to be held in the palm your hand. The difference is simply a matter of personal preference. They also come in various widths. This is extremely important because one size does not fit all. People with bridges, dental implants or advanced bone loss will likely need the wider brushes to get into larger spaces. On the other hand, anyone with a full set of teeth and very healthy gums will require the most slender brush or may find that only floss is thin enough. The photo below shows one brand of brush in the various widths that it offers.

The point of this article is to say that removing plaque between the teeth is extremely important and should be done daily. If someone finds flossing to be a particularly arduous or distasteful task, there are other methods. Interdental brushes offer a very effective alternative to flossing.

Back to main articles page>