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Learn More About Floss & Interdental Cleaners

Look for the ADA Seal—your assurance that the product has been objectively evaluated for safety and effectiveness by an independent body of scientific experts, the ADA Council on Scientific Affairs.

What does floss do?

Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it has a chance to harden into plaque. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces.

Plaque that is not removed can harden into tartar, a hard mineral deposit that forms on teeth and can only be removed through professional cleaning by a dental professional. When this happens, brushing and cleaning between teeth become more difficult, and gum tissue can become swollen or may bleed. This condition is called gingivitis, the early stage of gum disease.

Flossing helps remove debris and interproximal dental plaque, the plaque that collects between two teeth. Dental floss (or dental tape) helps clean these hard-to-reach tooth surfaces and reduces the likelihood of gum disease and tooth decay.

Cleaning between teeth is essential to your daily oral hygiene routine. Need instruction on how to floss?

What’s in floss?

Floss was once made from silk fibers twisted to form a long strand. Today, floss is usually made from nylon filaments or plastic monofilaments. It may be treated with flavoring agents, such as mint, to make flossing more pleasant.

What’s the difference between waxed and unwaxed floss?

There is no difference in the effectiveness of waxed or unwaxed floss. It’s not what type of floss you use, but how and when you use it. If you have a preferred type of floss, you may be more likely to use it.

What’s the difference between floss and other interdental cleaners?

Floss is a flexible strand. Interdental cleaners are special wooden or plastic picks, sticks or brushes that are used to clean between teeth.

How do flosses and other interdental cleaners get the ADA Seal?

A company earns the ADA Seal for its product by producing scientific evidence that the product is safe and effective in reducing plaque and gingivitis. The ADA Council on Scientific Affairs carefully evaluates the evidence according to objective guidelines for Dental Floss and Other Interdental Cleaners (PDF) guideline.

To qualify for the Seal of Acceptance, the company must provide evidence that:

  • Using the floss with toothbrushing is more effective than brushing alone at reducing plaque and gingivitis.
  • The product components are safe for use in the mouth.
  • Unsupervised use of the product by the average patient will not harm hard or soft oral tissues or restorations.

Why look for floss brands that display the ADA Seal?

The Seal is your assurance that the product has been evaluated by an independent body of scientific experts, the ADA Council on Scientific Affairs, for safety and effectiveness. Look for the ADA Seal statement in a box on the product label. It tells you why the ADA has given the Seal to this product. You can also be assured that all claims on packaging and container labeling have been reviewed and approved by the ADA. Products with the prestigious ADA Seal must say what they do and do what they say.

When’s the best time to floss?

The ADA recommends brushing twice a day and cleaning between teeth with floss (or another interdental cleaner) once a day. Some patients prefer to floss in the evening before bedtime so that the mouth is clean while sleeping.

Should I brush or floss first?

Either way is acceptable as long as you do a thorough job. However, if you use dental floss before you brush, the fluoride from the toothpaste has a better chance of reaching between teeth. Some people brush their teeth and unfortunately skip flossing because they think their mouth feels clean or they may be short on time or tired and flossing is postponed. That’s not a good idea.

Can I rinse and reuse floss?

The ADA does not recommend using a floss strand more than once. Used floss might fray, lose its effectiveness or may deposit bacteria in the mouth. Discard after use.

What products have earned the ADA Seal of Acceptance?

Get a Complete List of ADA Accepted Floss and Other Interdental Cleaners

Additional Resources