If you or someone you know has braces, taking care of those pearly whites can be tricky. That being said, just because it’s a nuisance doesn’t mean you can skip out on taking proper care of your teeth! In particular, it’s incredibly important to floss with braces, with benefits including:
- Improving gum health
- Dislodging debris from behind and underneath the braces
- Removing and preventing plaque buildup
- Preventing painful cavities
- Improving breath
- Reducing stains
- Keeping your teeth white
- And more
In this blog post, we’ll cover the 7 best ways to floss with braces, so that no matter what device you’re using, you can keep your teeth clean and your gums healthy.
1. Using String Floss with Braces
The most common, and oldest method, for flossing can still be done with braces, but it’s far from convenient. In fact, if you plan to use this method you need to give yourself 10-15 minutes to floss your teeth.
For starters, we recommend using waxed floss over unwaxed floss. This is because unwaxed floss can easily tear behind the metal brackets, becoming stuck. With that disclaimer, here are the steps to use string floss with braces:
- Start with an 18-24” piece of waxed floss.
- Thread the floss between the main wire and your teeth, this may be easier said than done and could take a few tries!
- Gently clean the wire itself, then around the brackets themselves.
- Now gently press the floss between your two teeth, curving it and gently easing up and down into the gum pocket on each side.
- Once cleaned, slowly and carefully remove the floss. You need to be careful as removing it too quickly or forcefully could cause the floss to know the wire out of the bracket.
- Repeat for each pair of teeth.
Obviously, this process is not only extremely time consuming, but also carries with it some risks, so surely there’s a better way.
2. The Best Method: Water Flossing
Water flossing is not only going to be the most convenient method on this list, but also more effective and faster to boot! This section will be broken down into two separate subsections. One for multi-jet water flossers (Instafloss) and one for single jet water flossers. We talk about the differences between these two extensively in our blog post on Waterpik vs Instafloss.
First, we’ll cover using Instafloss with braces. Instafloss is the most convenient option by far, with no special considerations needed other than adjusting the pressure for your comfort. This is thanks to the ergonomic design which enables the mouthpiece to fit over and around the braces while multiple water jets ensure perfect coverage.
Instead of threading a string through your teeth, which takes about 15 minutes, Instafloss can go right past your braces and floss all your teeth in under 10 seconds.
Because Instafloss aims for you at the dentist-recommended 90 degree angle, you’ll get a more effective floss as well! Which brings us to flossing with single jet waterflossers. Single jet waterflossers use the same core technology of a stream of water cleaning your gums and teeth. This means they, just like Instafloss, are much easier to use as you skip out on the difficulty of threading floss behind your braces.
That being said, because they require manual aiming they are both less convenient and more time consuming than Instafloss. Instafloss can clean your entire gumline in just ten seconds vs the many minutes needed with single jet flossers.
On top of that, due to the difficulty of manually aiming your water flosser, you may end up with a less effective floss, though it’ll still be more effective than string. Here are some tips for using single jet water flossers with braces:
- Use an Orthodontic tip which features a tapered brush at the end and is designed to clean around braces and dental work.
- If you have sensitive gums or teeth, try warm water vs cold water. The warm water may prove to be more comfortable in use.
- Starting at your rear most teeth, circle each bracket then trace along the gumline. While doing so, do your best to keep the tip aimed at the dentist recommended 90 degree angle.
- One you’ve flossed the front of your teeth, trace the gumline along the rear of the teeth again at the dentist recommended 90 degree angle.
While this process is much simpler than manual alternatives, you may find that the time needed to get a complete clean and the difficulty keeping the tip perfectly aligned makes Instafloss the ideal option.
3. Upgrading String Floss?
If you’d rather stick with string floss, there are a few ways to “upgrade” it, making it more convenient to use. These include:
- Super Floss
- Floss Threaders
- Platypus Flossers
Each of these has their own benefits, but you may find yourself leaning towards one option or the other depending on your preferences. Let’s start with floss threaders. Floss threaders still utilize regular waxed floss, and just solve the difficulty of getting the string floss underneath your brace bracket. With this in mind, the usage of floss with a floss threader looks like this:
- Start with an 18-24” piece of waxed floss.
- Run 5” of waxed floss through the loop of the floss threader.
- Using the single thread end of the floss threade, thread the floss through the space between your braces and your teeth.
- Remove the loop of the threader then floss as normal.
Another option to consider is instead opting for super floss. Superfloss is a section of floss with 3 different subsections. First is a stiffened end which enables you to more easily thread the floss underneath your braces. After that is a spongy section which is designed to clean around your brackets and the braces’ wire. Finally, there is a section of regular floss designed to remove plaque under the gumline.
Superfloss is much more convenient than string floss and for some, may be more convenient than even floss threaders. That being said, it’s still going to be time consuming and water floss is shown to result in a deeper, more effective clean.
The last of the string floss upgrades is a Platypus Flosser. These are essentially disposable flosses that are specifically designed for those with braces.They feature one end which is thinner and flatter, called the Spatula, which is able to easily fit in between your braces and your teeth. They also have a bracket brush on the opposite side which can be used to clean around your braces brackets and wire.
Platypus flossers are still time consuming to use, and still not as effective as water floss, but because of their portability it’s a great idea to keep some in your car or bag. That way, if a piece of food gets stuck, you can easily remove it while outside your home.
4. Picks and Brushes
Another great option for carrying with you on the go, the category of picks and brushes offer more convenience than their string based counterparts, but at the cost of effectiveness. Generally, there are three variants, with the main difference being the thickness of the pick/brush.
- Doctor Picks
- The smallest variant, can clean tighter spaces, but still can’t do as thorough a job as string or water based counterparts.
- Soft Picks
- Slightly larger than doctor picks, these can massage the gums in addition to cleaning between teeth.
- However, they’re thicker than doctor picks and as a result can’t get into some of the tighter spaces that they or water and string can.
- Proxy Brushes
- These are similar to soft picks, but easier to use - especially for mortars.
- They work well for larger spaces, but can’t clean the tighter spaces between teeth.
Depending on the variant you choose, it can be very convenient, especially when using on the go, but you do sacrifice some effectiveness as a result. If you’re comfortable with that trade off, they can make a good option on the go, but water flossing will be more convenient and more effective when at home.
Flossing with braces is an essential step in caring for your teeth and gums, and counter to popular belief, doesn’t have to be a chore. Your situation may dictate what’s best for you, but in most cases this will be using Instafloss at home and either a platypus pick or one of the other pick/brush options when on the go.