Finally, floss loosen the teeth


Right down to the last corner
  • Dental floss cleans where the toothbrush can't go
  • Other interdental cleaners do not clean as thoroughly

Four instead of 150 meters  

The dentists recommend using dental floss once a day and threading about 50 centimeters with it. If you stick to it, you should actually use around 150 to 180 meters per year. The Germans reach four meters per head per year, and the Austrians are no better either. In this country, dental floss is still the most widely used instrument for cleaning the spaces between the teeth (interdental space). Interdental brushes and tooth sticks follow on the squares.

Remove plaque between teeth

Cleaning the spaces in between is vital to the health of your teeth. After all, they make up about 30 to 40 percent of the total tooth surface and are inaccessible even to the best toothbrush. It's not just about removing leftover food, but above all about removing plaque. This sticky, barely visible bacterial film that is constantly forming on the teeth has to go. Because it is the cause of tooth decay and periodontal disease. Admittedly, cleaning the interdental spaces is more arduous than brushing your teeth. But it's worth it. Our testers also confirmed this.


Contact points endangered

Check the contact points: These are the points where a tooth touches and supports its neighbor on the side. At this point, tooth decay easily develops. So if the teeth have larger spaces and there are no contact points, the risk of caries developing between the teeth is also lower.

We have tested ten interdental cleaners as examples: whether dental floss, tooth wood or brushes - all of them clean at least "average". The best way to remove plaque is by floss.

Waxed or Unwaxed?

Waxed floss has the advantage of sliding better through tight contact points, and it doesn't fray as easily as unwaxed floss. The two do not differ in the effectiveness of cleaning. This has been proven by studies and was also shown in the test.

Those who clean the interdental spaces for the first time (interdental cleaning) often find it easier with waxed silk. Beginners also like to use "tapes", which are specially coated, wider dental floss tapes (tested: Butler Gum Eez-Thru Floss). Pre-tensioned dental floss in a plastic holder or fork is also recommended for beginners.

Fluoride-soaked dental floss

Our testers did not always get along well with it, especially in the molar area. Some companies offer fluoride-soaked dental floss. In the opinion of dentists, this can have a positive effect on dental health. You can find details on this in our product information in “Consumer” 10/2003.

Dental floss with a fluffy middle section and reinforced ends (for example Oral B Superfloss) is particularly recommended for cleaning under bridges and braces, where "normal" dental floss reaches its limits. Incidentally, this can also happen with aging teeth: the gums then often recede - as a result of aging or periodontitis (see also “Consumer” 8/1999). The teeth can still be in close contact on the chewing surface, but underneath, towards the jaw, there are enlarged spaces. Here, too, the fluffy dental floss with a threading aid is particularly suitable. It reaches every nook and cranny.

Interdental brushes good and easy

If the gaps are wider, interdental brushes can also do a good job. Offered in different strengths, they work on the principle of the bottle washer. They also cleaned well in the test and were mostly easy to use. The brushes must be cleaned under running water after each use. Their shelf life is limited as they snap off fairly quickly in practice.

Tooth picks not quite as thorough

Tooth woods have a triangular cross-section and are made of soft wood (linden or birch) that swells when it absorbs moisture and thus adapts better to the surface of the tooth. They are not to be confused with toothpicks. They have a round cross-section and are usually made of hard beech wood. They are only meant to poke scraps of food out of your teeth. The woods, which are mostly soaked with fluoride, and the plastic dental sticks that work in the same way are different: They are an alternative to dental floss. However, they did not clean as thoroughly and did not completely convince our testers in handling either.

"Flosser" for the comfortable

Why exert yourself when there are devices that clean the interdental spaces at the push of a button? This is what the battery-operated Water Pik Flosser promises, for example. At the top of the hand tool is an attachment made of flexible, sturdy nylon, shaped like a small toothpick. This attachment is placed in the interdental space. If the device is switched on, it moves - according to the provider - with 10,000 vibrations per minute. Despite this impressive number: The cleaning effect of the Flosser was only "average". Our testers found the device a bit unwieldy, uncomfortable and too loud. They had difficulties using the flosser correctly, especially in the molar area.

Select individually

Our investigation can only give clues for the choice of the "right" interdental cleaner. In the end, everyone will have to find the right instrument according to their individual dentition problems and skill level. In general:

  • Closely? Floss: The best way to get between closely spaced teeth is with dental floss. If the gaps are of normal width, not only silk, but also tooth sticks are recommended. But some people swear by an interdental brush for these areas as well.
  • Far? Raft: For wide gaps or under bridges and braces, the fluffy dental floss with reinforced ends is the first choice. They made the gaps the cleanest. However, many testers got along better with a suitable interdental brush.
  • Perfect? To the professional: Let the dentist, the prophylaxis assistant or the dental hygienist (see “Consumer” 3/1999) advise you on the selection of the right instrument for you and demonstrate its correct use. You should follow these guidelines. Otherwise it can lead to painful injuries to the gums and teeth.


Practice creates masters

Do not despair if you find it difficult to use dental floss at the beginning. No master has fallen from the sky yet. And if your gums start to bleed, it shouldn't be a reason to give up. On the contrary: Bleeding is quite normal during this time and only indicates how necessary it is to clean these sensitive areas. However, if the gums are still so sensitive after two weeks, then you should speak to your dentist.

to be a role model

The procedures are usually too time-consuming for children. Without help, they are usually not yet able to use the instruments sensibly. That is why dentists recommend the use of interstitial cleaners only from the teenage age, but then on a regular basis. Don't forget: children learn by imitating them. You need your role model: if children see how you use dental floss regularly, they will master it faster.

When, how often, for how long?

Regularly means at least every other day, ideally daily. People with heart defects or artificial heart valves should discuss interdental cleaning with their doctor. Because during cleaning, bacteria can be washed into the bloodstream via gum pockets or bleeding gums. The aforementioned damage can result in inflammation of the inner lining of the heart (endocarditis).

According to experts, whether the gaps should be cleaned before or after brushing your teeth is above all a question of faith.

Waxed dental floss squeaks on the tooth

The space in between is clean if you have carefully threaded, wiped or brushed each side of the tooth about five times. With waxed dental floss it can even be heard when it has worked successfully: it squeaks on a clean tooth.

Test results: Dental floss & Co for normal interdental spaces

Test results: Dental floss & Co for wide interdental spaces and fixed braces

Recommended products

  • Normally wide interdental spaces: The floss cleaned consistently better than the other aids. Odol med 3 waxed dental floss was even a bit more thorough than the competition. The pack of 50 meters of floss costs a little over 3 euros. Only dm / dontodent dental floss unwaxed for 1.45 euros per 50 meters is significantly cheaper and also "very good" to clean.
  • Extended interdental spaces: For cleaning, fluffy floss with reinforced ends is the first choice. Oral B Superfloss (4.39 euros for 50 pieces) cleaned well. In terms of handling, the interdental brushes were sometimes better.

Brushing your teeth: the gentle way

Regular brushing with a brush is part of the basic program of any effective dental care routine. As a reminder, here are a few tips:

  • Regularly. Clean your teeth at least twice a day - for at least three minutes each time.
  • Gently. Choose a soft or medium-hard toothbrush.
  • All over. Thoroughly clean all tooth surfaces each time. Not only the chewing surfaces, but also the outside and back.
  • From red to white. Furthermore, the old rule applies to brush the teeth "from red to white", i.e. always with light pressure from the gums to the tooth.
  • Shake. Dentists recommend applying the brush to the gum line at an angle of 45 degrees and also making small shaking movements. Then wipe from red to white.
  • Force. Do not brush too forcefully, otherwise the gums can be damaged. Press your toothbrush on a postal scale until it reads 150 grams. The pressure on the teeth should not be stronger.
  • Plastering technology. The "correct" cleaning technique can vary greatly from person to person. Ask your dentist.


Mouth rinsers: limited use

An oral irrigator is only suitable to a limited extent for cleaning the spaces between the teeth. Always brush your teeth thoroughly before using them. Because the irrigator only rinses loosely attached food residues and dental plaque that has already been loosened from the tooth surface with the brush. It is powerless against stubborn plaque. However, it also reaches hard-to-reach places that a toothbrush cannot reach, for example under dentures, braces and bridges.

Without thorough toothbrushing plus dental floss or a brush in between, nothing fundamental will change in the condition of the teeth.

People who are prone to inflammation of the inner lining of the heart (endocarditis), for example with heart defects or artificial heart valves, are generally not advised to use an oral irrigator. This is because endocarditis pathogens can be pressed from the oral cavity into the bloodstream.


  • Butler Gum: Austrodent HandelsgesmbH, Lenaustraße 10, A - 4020 Linz, (0732) 66 63 31
  • dontodent: DM Drogerie Markt GesmbH, Kasernenstrasse 1, A - 5071 Wals-Siezenheim, (0662) 85 83 - 0
  • Elmex: Gebro Pharma GmbH, Bahnhofbichl 13, A - 6391 Fieberbrunn, (05354) 53 00 - 0
  • Müller: MHA Reinhard Müller Handelsgmbh & Co KG, Industriestraße 7, A - 3130 Herzogenburg, (02782) 825 07-0
  • Odol med 3: SmithKline Beecham GmbG & Co KG, Hermannstrasse 7, D - 77804 Bühl, (0049 7223) 76-0
  • Oral B: Willvonseder & Marchesani OHG, Heinrich-von-Buol-Gasse 18, A - 1210 Vienna, (01) 259 41 11 - 0
  • Water spades: Pharmador GesmbH & Co KG, Ungarnstrasse 23, A - 7503 Großpetersdorf, (0336) 240 03

Competent with the consumer

  • Floss better. With normal interdental spaces, they clean better than other aids.
  • Float at greater distance. For cleaning larger spaces between the teeth, fluff flosses (floss) with reinforced ends are the first choice.
  • Tore off? If the floss keeps breaking or fraying in the same place, something is wrong. The dentist should definitely examine the area.

That's how we tested

In the test: 10 exemplary selected interdental care products - including 4 dental floss, 1 dental floss tape, 1 dental floss in the holder, 1 fleece dental floss, 2 interdental brushes and 1 battery-operated device. The test was carried out by Stiftung Warentest, we publish the results of those products that are also available in Austria.

Purchase of the test samples : October / November 2003.

Prices : Survey of providers in May 2004.

Cleaning effect : The cleaning effect was determined in a laboratory test on model dentures with normal or enlarged interdental spaces using artificial plaque. The interdental spaces were cleaned by a dentist with the respective products, then the proportion of the cleaned area in comparison to the uncleaned area was determined.

handling : 20 test persons each with normal or enlarged spaces or braces used the products daily for two weeks. For example, it was about handiness, slip resistance, use in hard-to-reach places.

Instructions for use : Above all, the level of detail, comprehensibility and advice on cleaning techniques were assessed.