Author: Gurek Nahal
What are interdental cleaning aids?
Interdental refers to the spaces between the teeth, so we use cleaning aids to clean in between these spaces. Interdental cleaning aids are used in conjunction with regular brushing, which is intended to clean the surface of our teeth. These cleaning aids include dental floss, interdental brushes, and oral irrigators, such as waterpik flossers (Ng & Lim, 2019).
Why is interdental cleaning important?
Regular interdental cleaning removes bacterial plaque and food debris that can cause cavities and gum disease (Ng & Lim, 2019). Plaque buildup can harden when it comes in contact with minerals from saliva, and then become tartar (calculus) over time. This tartar has the potential to cause cavities, persistent inflammation, and irritation of the gums (gingivitis) or gum disease (periodontitis) (Listgarten, 1988). Once tartar forms interdentally, only a dental professional with specific tools can remove it.
How do I clean effectively?
We recommend daily interdental cleaning with tools such as floss, interdental brushes or a waterpik flosser. It is important to floss on both sides of the gum between each tooth. This means flossing is not necessarily an ‘up and down’ or snap motion into the gums. Snapping floss between your teeth may cause damage to your interdental papilla (the peaks of your gums between your teeth) known as a “floss cut”, similar to a cut on the finger.
Although toothpicks can be convenient for dislodging food between your teeth, they should not be substituted for dedicated flossing tools. Toothpicks are not designed for actual interdental cleaning and may result in injury if the gums are poked accidentally.
It is crucial to clean ‘under’ both sides of the gum to ensure adequate removal of bacterial plaque. This is best achieved by gently guiding floss between your teeth in a rubbing motion. Once it is through your gums, curve the floss into a ‘C’ shape against one tooth and guide this along the tooth until it reaches under the gum area (Figure 1). Do the same with the floss against adjacent teeth to ensure both sides of the gum are cleaned effectively.
Figure 1: Correct Flossing Technique (2020).
Flossing your teeth. (2020, September 19). Retrieved March 12, 2021, from
Listgarten, M. A. (1988). The role of dental plaque in gingivitis and periodontitis. Journal of
Clinical Periodontology, 15(8), 485-487. doi:10.1111/j.1600-051x.1988.tb01019.x
Ng, E., & Lim, L. P. (2019). An overview of different interdental cleaning aids and their
effectiveness. Dentistry Journal, 7(2), 56. doi:10.3390/dj7020056