Alternatives to Flossing

Floss layed out to spell the word "floss"

As you probably know, regular brushing, flossing and rinsing are some of the most important things you can do to maintain healthy teeth and gums. But as we age, it can become challenging to perform some or all of these tasks.

For example, wrapping floss around your fingers or keeping a steady hand may become difficult and uncomfortable. If you’re finding traditional flossing difficult, there are a few tools and tricks you can use to make flossing easier. Also be sure to check out our article on Tooth Brushing Tips for Older Adults.

Why Flossing is Important

As plaque and food work under the gums, neglecting to remove it can lead to gum disease. Flossing is important because it allows you to clean under your gums and between teeth. It’s important to brush twice a day and floss before bed every day.

What Can I Use Instead of Floss?

Floss Picks

A floss pick is a simple tool that allows you to clean under your gums and between teeth without wrapping a long piece of floss around your finger. Instead, a short string of floss is attached to a handle that may be quite short or long and toothbrush-like. Dispose of the floss pick after each use.

Example of a common floss pick

Water Flossers

A water flosser is a device that cleans by flushing the gums out with water, which may be easier to use than traditional floss and can be purchased at most drug stores. Water flossers are generally comprised of a small countertop unit attached to a water tank by a narrow hose.

Water Flosser image
Example of a standard water flosser

While water flossers are convenient, they should not be used while lying down or if you cannot remain standing over a sink to complete the task.

Though you should always read the instructions for your specific device, most water flossers can be operated using these steps:

  1. Fill the tank with water. You can also add an optional tablespoon of antiseptic.
  2. Hold the handle so that the flosser is angled between two teeth.
  3. When you’re ready, direct the water pulse so that it can stream under the gums.
  4. As you floss, let the water run out of your mouth while using the handle to direct the pulses to each section of gum tissue.

Regular Dentist Visits

Lastly, one important step to keeping your mouth healthy is to see your dentist regularly for cleanings. Between dental visits, you should always do your best to keep your teeth and gums healthy, but you can trust that the dentist will check your teeth and gums and clean them much more thoroughly at their office.

Be sure to follow a schedule for your appointments, which may be once every three, four or six months. During your appointments, ask any questions you may have, and don’t be afraid to ask how you are doing with taking care of your teeth at home and what you can do to improve.

About the Author

Amy L. Cooper, RDH

The information on this article is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Tooth Wisdom® and Oral Health America do not recommend or endorse any specific dentists, products, procedures, opinions, or other information mentioned. See full Terms & Conditions.

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