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What’s the Difference Between Types of Dental Floss?

As one walks down the dental hygiene aisle of any grocery store or pharmacy, you are instantly treated to a wide variety of toothbrushes, toothpaste, and even flosses. We all know that certain toothbrushes are more effective than others for different people’s dental anatomy, but what about dental floss? Is one type (not brand!) more effective than the other?

Believe it or not, this is a topic that many researchers have broached, and they re-research it every time a new type of floss is FDA approved and hits the shelves. All of the results come out the same: all types of floss clean your teeth in the same way with the same effect.

So why are there different types of floss? There are different types of people with different types of teeth!

The typical floss most often found in dental offices and dental freebies is a nylon, waxed floss. Sometimes it’s interlaced with minty-tasting strands, but it’s all still the same. Nylon floss is rather thick, and it has a tendency to break and/or shred while cleaning between teeth. Since it is so thick, people with “tight teeth”–meaning they have very little space in their mouths so teeth feel tightly packed in together–or people with sensitive gums due to periodontal disease do not find nylon floss to be comfortable. In fact, if you have tight teeth, nylon floss is more likely to cause gum bleeding and is more likely to break and shed.

The most popular type of floss right now is polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) floss, sometimes also called “silk floss.” This floss is thinner, softer, and a bit slicker, so it is easier to squeeze into tight spaces and it slides easily between teeth. Many prefer PTFE floss also because it’s a bit stronger than nylon.

If you haven’t flossed in awhile or if you have sensitive teeth and gums, PTFE floss is probably your best bet in finding comfortable flossing. If you have questions about types of floss or flossing techniques, your dentist is your best source for answers.