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How to Floss with Braces: Water Flossers and Orthodontic Dental Floss

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Are you wondering how to floss with braces? Cleaning around those wires and brackets can be a pain, but oral hygiene is more important than ever during orthodontic treatment. Braces provide lots of hiding places for bacteria, so you need to do a thorough job of cleaning them.

flossing for braces
Reaching the gap under the wire can be fiddly

Fortunately, with the right products and technique, you can soon master the art of cleaning properly between each tooth. We're going to look at some products that might help, including:

  • Floss threaders
  • Orthodontic dental floss for braces
  • Interdental brushes
  • Water flossers

Keep reading for our tips to make the flossing process that bit easier while you or your child have braces.

Best Products for Easier Flossing with Braces

Oral-B Superfloss

Check the latest price

Cleaning method: Scrapes plaque from teeth
Features: Stiff end for threading, spongy end for cleaning bigger gaps

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GUM Eez-Thru Floss Threaders

Check the latest price

Cleaning method: Works with regular floss
Features: Pulls floss through fiddly gaps

Waterpik WP-660UK Ultra Professional Water Flosser

Check the latest price

Cleaning method: Pulsing water jet with 10 pressure settings
Features: Pacer and timer, separate water reservoir, orthodontic tips

Best Products for Easier Flossing with Braces

Oral-B Superfloss

Cleaning method: scrapes plaque from teeth
Features: Stiff end for threading, spongy end for cleaning bigger gaps

Check the latest price

GUM Eez-Thru Floss Threaders

Cleaning method: Works with regular floss
Features: Pulls floss through fiddly gaps

Check the latest price

Waterpik WP-660UK Ultra Professional Water Flosser

Cleaning method: Pulsing water jet with 10 pressure settings
Features: Pacer and timer; separate water reservoir

Check the latest price

Why is flossing with braces important?

Our teeth are under constant attack from acid and bacteria in the food and drink we consume. Brushing twice a day and flossing daily is usually enough to keep teeth healthy.

However, braces create more surfaces for bacteria to cling to and more holes for food to get stuck in. They also make your normal teeth-cleaning routine more tricky and time-consuming, but if you don't make the extra effort to maintain good oral hygiene, you're at risk of getting:

how to clean braces on teeth
Interdental brushes are an alternative to flossing with braces

Once your teeth are properly aligned you should find it easier to keep your teeth clean. But while you're fixing the issue of your crooked teeth, make sure you're not creating even more problems for yourself.

Helping children floss

Younger brace wearers may not have the dexterity – or the patience – to floss properly under their braces every day, so they need adult help. Many parents find it easiest to floss their children's teeth while they are watching TV as their head stays quite still. Make sure the area is well lit so you can see what you're doing.

Older children and teenagers shouldn't need any help flossing once they've got the hang of it. However, it's best for parents to supervise them now and again to check they're doing it properly.

How should you floss with braces?

The thing that prevents you from flossing the traditional way is the archwire – the wire that runs through each brace bracket to connect them all together. Dental floss gets stuck half way down, so you need to thread the floss through each gap below the wire, too. Trying to thread the flimsy floss through each hole can be pretty fiddly and frustrating, and you may not have the patience to keep it up for the year or two while you're wearing braces.

Fortunately, there are a number of different products that can make it easier to clean plaque and food debris from around your teeth and brace brackets. These also work well if you need to floss with a fixed retainer. Take a look and see if any of these would make life easier for you:

Dental floss threaders

If you're happy with your regular floss and just want an easier way to get it into position, a floss threader should do the job. These are flexible, needle-like devices which pull the floss under the wire so you can floss like normal.

GUM Eez-Thru Floss Threaders come in a pack of 25, which should last a while since they can be used more than once.

How to use floss threaders for braces

You simply insert your floss through the eye of the threader, then thread it under a section of wire. You can then floss as normal. It might be time-consuming at first, but you should soon get used to the technique. See a floss threader being used on braces in the video below:

Description

Dental floss is available waxed or unwaxed and as single strand (monofilament) or multi strand (multifilament). You'll find that waxed monofilament floss glides more easily around your braces and is less likely to snag or get stuck.

Special orthodontic floss for braces

If a floss threader isn't for you, you can buy dental floss for braces which is designed especially for use with orthodontic appliances, bridges, etc.

A very popular product is Oral B's Superfloss for braces, which has the following features:

  • Pre-cut strands
  • One stiff end for easy threading under braces
  • Part regular waxed floss
  • Part thicker, spongy floss for easier cleaning of orthodontic appliances

“Recently got braces fitted and was spending way too long messing around with regular floss. Grabbed some of these and it makes the job much easier,” says one Amazon reviewer.

Can you use dental floss picks with braces?

Floss picks are a handy way to clean between teeth, but they don't always work well with braces. It's difficult to use some brands, like Dentek floss picks, with braces because the plastic points are too wide to fit behind the archwire.

One exception is Platypus Orthodontic Floss Picks, which have one flat end that's designed to fit between the archwire and the teeth. At the other end of the handle there's a small brush for cleaning around brackets, too.

If you're a fan of dental picks, you might want to give these a try. However, be prepared to pay the price for a dental floss pick you can use with braces.

Also be aware that some users have reported difficulties using them on every part of their braces. Depending on the positioning of your teeth, brackets, and wire, you may need to use another method as well.

Always press down gently when using a floss pick for braces, to avoid damaging your appliance.

Interdental brushes

tepe interdental brushes mixed
TePe is a popular brand of interproximal brush in a variety of sizes

Another way to clean between teeth while wearing braces is interdental brushes. These little brushes are small enough to fit between teeth and clean around brace brackets, making them a useful tool for keeping teeth clean with fixed braces. They can scrape away plaque and food debris from between teeth just as effectively as floss, but there is no issue with the archwire getting in the way.

If you're new to interdental brushing, a good place to start is this mixed pack from TePe which contains eight different sizes. Once you've worked out which sizes work best for you, you can buy those in larger quantities. 

Read our guide to interdental brushes to find out more about the other brands available and exactly how to use them.

Water flossers / Oral irrigators

A completely different way to floss with braces is with an electric water flosser. Also called oral irrigators, these devices look a bit like electric toothbrushes but they emit a pressurised jet or pulse of water (and air, with some models) to clean between teeth.

To use a water flosser with braces, you simply hold the tip between two teeth for a few seconds before moving on. You can also spray it around your brace brackets to clean them.

A water flosser like the Waterpik makes it much easier to floss with braces

There are many brands of water flosser, which you can read more about in our full guide here. They come with various settings and features, and some have tips specifically for flossing with braces. Look for one with an adjustable power setting, especially if you'll be using it on your children's teeth.

One of the most popular water flossers is the Waterpik WP-660UK. It has 10 pressure settings and five different tips, including an orthodontic one. It's a countertop model, meaning it plugs into the mains and has a separate water reservoir. Waterpik is one of the more premium brands on the market, but it's a good investment if it means better oral hygiene while wearing braces. You can read more Waterpik reviews here.

If you're after a cheaper or more compact model, this one from MyDenTeeth is a great choice. It has three power modes and an orthodontic tip, and it's rechargeable rather than mains-powered. Costing less than half the price of the Waterpik, our testers think it is excellent value for money.

This short animation shows how a water flosser can make the job of cleaning teeth with braces much easier:

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The jury is out on whether an oral irrigator is good enough to use in place of regular floss since it doesn't have the same physical contact to scrape plaque off teeth. However, some studies have shown water flossers are actually more effective than string floss.

Ultimately, if the hassle of threading floss between your braces is meaning you just don't bother, you might be better switching to a water flosser instead. This method of flossing for braces is certainly better than not doing it at all.

FAQs

How often should you floss with braces?

Whether or not you're wearing braces, you should brush your teeth twice a day and floss at least once a day. If you're conscious of food getting stuck in your braces, you can clean them more regularly – perhaps after every meal.

You might find it helpful to keep an interdental brush handy. You can use it to remove annoying bits of food without having to floss several times a day.

How to floss with braces without floss threaders

If you find floss threaders to fiddly to use, you could try special floss for braces which has a stiff end that's easier to thread between the teeth. Interdental brushes can also be easier to handle, although you might need several different sizes to get around all the gaps in your teeth.

Probably the easiest way to floss between braces is with a water flosser. A high-powered water jet shoots between your teeth and around your brace brackets to dislodge food particles and remove plaque. However, there are mixed opinions on whether these are as effective as manual flossing.

How to floss back teeth with braces

Flossing back teeth with braces is even trickier because you can't see very well and there is limited space in your mouth. An angled interdental brush might help, or you could invest in a water flosser.

Conclusion

Fixed braces are a hassle to clean, but it's really important to make a special effort to remove plaque from your teeth while wearing braces so that your oral hygiene doesn't suffer. Flossing with braces can be made easier with the help of floss threaders, orthodontic floss, interdental brushes or an oral irrigator.

How to Floss with Braces: Water Flossers and Orthodontic Dental Floss
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Contributors:
Amanda Napitu
Amanda Napitu
Amanda Napitu on FacebookAmanda Napitu on LinkedinAmanda Napitu on Website
Amanda specialises in writing informative content about dentistry. She has been a regular contributor to Dentaly.org since 2017.
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