What are the Different Types of Interdental Cleaners?

Meghan Cunningham

Many types of interdental cleaners are used to get plaque and food debris from between the teeth and along the gumline. The most common types include dental floss, toothpicks, specialized toothbrushes, and water flossers. These cleaners get to the hard to reach places that a toothbrush cannot.

Dental floss is the most common interdental cleaner.
Dental floss is the most common interdental cleaner.

The cheapest and most common interdental cleaner is dental floss. A 32.8 to 164 foot (10 to 50 meter) piece of nylon or other synthetic filament is wound on a spool and comes in a plastic dispenser. The floss is sold waxed or unwaxed and can be bought in a variety of flavors.

Those with braces may need special interdental cleaners to help them reach behind wires and between brackets.
Those with braces may need special interdental cleaners to help them reach behind wires and between brackets.

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A person cuts off a piece of about 18 inches (45 centimeters) and winds the ends around his or her index fingers; that person then gently scrapes the floss up and down between the teeth. A clean section is used each time the person moves to the next space between the teeth. Dental tape is a wider, tape-like version of dental floss and used in the same way.

Someone with orthodontic braces may need different types of interdental cleaners. Those who wear braces may want to purchase floss threaders, which are flexible plastic pieces shaped like a sewing needle. Floss is strung through the eye of the threader, which then guides floss through braces, around teeth, and below the gum line. If using a threader is inconvenient, superfloss can be used. This is pre-cut dental floss that has stiffened ends to get between orthodontic braces; with soft spongy material between the stiffened ends, the floss glides easily among the braces, the teeth, and the gums.

The tooth pick and interdental pick are two common types of interdental cleaners. The toothpick is a small slender piece of wood, metal, or plastic with pointy ends, and it is used to scrape material from between teeth after a meal. A newer variety of toothpick, more commonly called an interdental pick, is available too. This style has a u-shaped end along which a piece of dental floss or dental tape is strung. The person is able to clean his or her teeth without the hassle of winding dental floss around his or her fingers and having to stick the fingers in the mouth.

Two other types of interdental cleaners include a specialized toothbrush and the water flosser. The specialized toothbrush has a tiny, cone-shaped brush on each end, which a person uses to brush between his or her teeth and along the gumline. This type of brush is especially useful for people who wear orthodontic braces because it gets between the brackets and the wires.

In addition, the water flosser is an excellent interdental cleaner. This tool is usually battery-operated or cordless, and has a reservoir that is filled with water. Once turned on, the water flosser uses pressure to force the water out to clean between the teeth. A water flosser is useful for people with braces, crowns, or bridges, as it is powerful and effective at removing debris.

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