When it comes to most things in life, it’s great to have options. Dental floss is no exception, except when you have no idea what the difference is between all those little plastic boxes in the toothpaste aisle. So, what’s the difference between waxed and unwaxed, toothpicks and flossers, and is one any better than the others?


Waxed: Waxed dental floss is, as the name implies, coated with wax. It may feel slightly rubbery to the touch. Waxed floss is a bit more durable than unwaxed floss, and some say particles between teeth stick to the wax, making them easier to remove. Waxed floss can be a bit thicker than unwaxed, and may be harder to fit into narrow spaces. Thus, if your teeth are very close together, waxed floss may not be as easy or comfortable to use as unwaxed floss. Fun fact: Some people use waxed floss to thread their eyebrows!

Unwaxed: Unwaxed floss is a nylon thread, usually comprising 35 strands of nylon that are twisted together to form one long strand. The downside to unwaxed floss is that it is more fragile than waxed floss; however, it is thinner and fits more easily between tightly spaced teeth.

Glide Floss: Glide floss is a brand name, but it’s also its own category of floss because unlike traditional waxed and unwaxed floss, Glide is not made of nylon thread. Instead, it is made of Gore-Tex, the same PTFE-based fiber that is used in cold-weather outerwear like jackets and gloves. Glide is the No. 1 recommended dental floss in America and the No. 2 selling dental floss in America. Patients who use Glide like it because its wide, flat surface makes it easy to reach between tight spaces and grab food particles and plaque, but its flexible material makes it gentler on the gums.

Floss picks or flossers: Floss picks or flossers are pre-threaded devices that can be used to remove food stuck between teeth. Flossers can be much easier to use for some people, including children and those with flexibility issues like seniors. Unfortunately, flossers aren’t the best option for flossing your entire mouth, because they have a very short piece of floss on each flosser. This means you’d essentially be using the same half-inch of floss for your entire mouth, potentially adding debris to teeth that didn’t have any between them to begin with. Flossers or picks are better suited for times when you are having trouble getting food out from between one or two teeth between brushing.

Wooden toothpicks: Thankfully, the days when wooden toothpicks were your best option for cleaning between your teeth are over. They are a nice gesture for patrons at restaurants when individually wrapped, but you're better off waiting until you have access to a toothbrush or floss if you can. Wooden toothpicks are often sharp and can injure your gums or accidentally push food further between the teeth, the opposite of their purpose.

Floss threaders: Floss threaders are great for people who have either braces, permanent retainers or other permanent dental work that prevents regular dental floss from reaching the gums. If you are unsure how to use a dental flosser, ask your dentist or orthodontist to demonstrate proper usage. To use flossers, simply thread your regular floss through the loop in the end of the flosser and pull the straight, single strand through the gap in your teeth below the retainer or wire. Keep pulling until the entire flosser has come through the other side of your teeth, including the floss that is draped through the loop. Pick up the floss on either side of your tooth, and floss your teeth as usual. Repeat this for each tooth that requires the use of a floss threader.

If you have any questions about which floss is best for your mouth or how to properly use any type of floss or floss accessory, please give Dr. Michele Simpson’s office a call at (910) 550-3959.