Floss vs interdental brush: fight for power

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Flossing and interdental brushing are both good interdental cleaning tools in addition to regular toothbrushes. The ongoing debate is about which one to choose, floss vs interdental brush. You might need to be informed about the differences and advantages of these two products.

Flossing may be more effective in some cases, but interdental brushing is generally the preferred method. What is the reason behind that? We will discuss every little detail, and give you the most comprehensive floss vs interdental brush comparison.

After reading this article you will find all your answers and we also gave some extra information at the end to give you more insight into dental hygiene products. 

Shall we begin with the main differences? Floss vs interdental brush!

What are the differences between floss and interdental brush?

Traditional floss and interdental brush are both interdental cleaning methods. Generally, they seek to remove food debris and bacteria from the tooth surface in order to stop plaque build-up and cavity formation. Using such tools will improve your oral health enormously. So, what are the general differences between floss vs interdental brush?

Interdental brush Dental floss
Differences Cleans with bristles on a tiny wire Cleans with a soft thread
Easier to use Tricky to use
Requires less dexterity Requires dexterity skills
Less time-consuming More time-consuming
Different sizes of the same product Lots of different variations
Reach your every tooth easily Hard to clean the back teeth

The way of usage is the main difference between these two products. The interdental brush uses the bristles over it to clean the area and you can do it with your single hand. Cleaning your every tooth easily is possible, though, you might find it hard if you have crooked teeth. While flossing in a traditional way, you need to grip the floss with both hands. It can get into even the tiniest places. Wrapping the floss around your hands might be tough for you. You might find it hard to clean your back teeth.

Traditional floss is the standard way to clear out food particles and plaque in between your teeth. Depending on the type of floss you’re using, you can use either your hands or a floss holder. Although it’s quite effective, it may be tricky to work with because dental floss is a thin string and you need to wrap it around your fingers.

An interdental brush is an alternative to flossing. It looks like a tiny toothbrush, which has a bristled head attached to a metal wire and is used to clean the tooth surface. The brush size of it comes in a variety of range and they are bendable. It is an effective interdental cleaning tool that is used for plaque removal and to keep your gums healthy. Despite being effective, it can be hard to use between so firmly tight teeth.

Pros and cons of dental floss vs interdental brush

When it comes to cleaning those unreachable parts between your teeth, dental floss and interdental brushes are two of your choices. Although both can help you with cleaning, they each have their strengths and weaknesses.

Money: You can save money with flossing compared to interdental brushes. Traditional floss is much cheaper and once you get one it will last for a long time. On the other hand, you will need to purchase a new interdental brush around every week of its usage. Score goes to dental floss: dental floss 1-0 interdental brush

Time: In regular flossing, you need to prepare the thread with your two hands and form a C shape around each tooth, this might take a while. With an interdental brush though, you do not need preparation, and using the tiny brush is less time taking than flossing. So, dental floss 1-1 interdental brush 

Variations: Interdental brushes only have different sizes and no variations. In contrast, there is not just one type of floss, they are various from regular floss to electronic flossing devices. So, dental floss 2-1 interdental brush

Effort: Not just the time you spend on flossing, but also the effort you put in is also much higher in flossing since you have to go back and forth a lot of times. While using interdental brushing, you put in less effort. So dental floss 2-2 interdental brush

Effectiveness: People who have tight spaces between teeth, might consider dental floss since it can. But if you think you have large spaces between your teeth interdental brush will be a better option since it has a wider effect area. Choose wisely.

Why do you need an alternative: floss vs interdental brush

Having different flossing alternatives are good for your oral hygiene routine. It gives you a comfort zone where you can find the best option to keep your gums healthy. Let’s say you have orthodontic treatment, which one is better for you? Here we explained why flossing and interdental brushing can be preferred in different conditions.

1- If you are one of the people with braces

When you have orthodontic treatments such as braces, you might consider getting an interdental brush over traditional floss. Flossing will also clean your braces but the effort and time you spend are less with an interdental brush.

Besides, you might need to buy an extra device (floss threaders), to hold the traditional floss or there are some specially made flosses called super floss. These will make the flossing process easier with your braces and dental implant.

When it comes to the effectiveness comparison of floss thread/super floss vs interdental brush, we can say they are both good for cleaning, using both of them will give you approximately the same results. For an interdental brush, make sure you get the correct size for better cleaning.

What about water floss vs interdental brush with braces?

An interdental brush, as we said before, is a beneficial interdental device that is less time taking than flossing. While using it you need to go over every tiny space between your teeth with back-and-forth movements. But did you know that you have an option that requires no manual effort? Water flossing!

Water flossing is a great alternative to interdental brushing. It uses a stream of water to clean between the teeth and along the gum line. Due to its ability to access hard-to-reach areas, this method is especially advantageous for those with orthodontic braces, bridges, or implants. (1)

A water flosser can be an effective method but may cost more than an interdental brush if you have braces. Water flossers and interdental brushes both offer benefits for you. While interdental brushes allow you to save money, water flossers let you save time and effort.

2- If you have rather thick fingers and fewer dexterity skills

Using traditional floss requires learning how to use it on your teeth. You might have heard of forming a C shape around your teeth and holding it with your two hands while flossing. It might take a while and you may find it hard especially if you have thick fingers. The interdental brush on the other hand is ready to use and requires no such preparation. Though, you can still benefit from dental floss sticks which are also ready-to-use products.

There is one more thing to consider if you think you think you have less manual dexterity. People might trigger their gag reflex easily while trying to reach the back teeth with flossing. Interdental brushes can be a better option in this case.

3- If you have concerns about the environment

Since we are living in this world and one of our responsibilities is to keep it clean, you might prefer eco-friendly options of floss. Of course not all dental flosses are eco-friendly but you can silk or cotton materials used flosses. On the other hand, there are no eco-friendly interdental brushes.

4- If you want to take care of your teeth detailly

Between dental floss vs interdental brush, you might need to know which option is most suitable for deeper cleaning. Actually, we briefly mentioned it in the first title, but they are both useful in cleaning your teeth and protecting your general oral health against bacteria, plaque formation, inflammation, and tooth decay. However, if you are wondering which one is the best to keep your gums and teeth healthy, an interdental brush can be a little bit better option.

Interdental brushes have lots of tiny bristles over them that can reach over your gums more easily while cleaning the tiny spaces between your teeth. On the other hand, flossing is not all useless, but not might be effective as those tiny bristles of interdental brushes.

If you think you have tightly spaced teeth and want to take good care of your gingival health, you might consider using them combined. You will find more information about this below.

5- If you have tight spaces between your teeth

Having tight spaces between your teeth means that you need something thinner to go through them. The thinnest product you can use is dental flossing. Of course, there are some tiny interdental brushes you can use to get in those tiny gaps between teeth, but you will find dental floss way easier to get in.

6- If you have concerns about periodontal diseases

Various researchers have found that an interdental brush is an effective way to avoid periodontal diseases (gum disease). Though, fewer studies talk about the effectiveness of flossing on the same subject. It is generally because of the lack of information, and people’s preferences.

They are both effective to keep your gums healthy, though there is strict evidence that interdental brushes are proven. That is why you might prefer brushes over flossing.

Additionally, for sensitive gums, delicate touches are required. Your chances of using floss in the wrong way and fraying your gums are more likely than an interdental brush. If you have sensitive gums that are newly healing from a disease or an infection, an interdental brush will be a better option. (2)

Can I use a combination of these products?

Yes, it might sound crazy, but you can also use a combination of dental floss and an interdental brush. Dentists usually suggest either flossing or using an interdental brush to keep your gums and interdental spaces clean. If you can dedicate more time to your dental hygiene, it might be beneficial to apply both methods, depending on your personal preferences.

When you use them both, you get to keep every spot on your mouth clean. The flossing can help you get into the tiny gaps between your teeth, while the interdental brush will help you in general cleaning and keep your gums better cleaned from bacteria. Although, if you have just started interdental cleaning it might be better for you to use one of them for a while.

In general, flossing helps remove plaque and food particles from between your tight teeth, while an interdental brush can help reach those hard-to-reach areas that floss may not be able to get to.


(1) Abdellatif H, Alnaeimi N, Alruwais H, Aldajan R, Hebbal MI. Comparison between water flosser and regular floss in the efficacy of plaque removal in patients after single use. Saudi Dent J. 2021;33(5):256-259. doi:10.1016/j.sdentj.2021.03.005 Link

(2) Chapple IL, Van der Weijden F, Doerfer C, et al. Primary prevention of periodontitis: managing gingivitis. J Clin Periodontol. 2015;42 Suppl 16:S71-S76. doi:10.1111/jcpe.12366 Link

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