Importance of Effective Cleaning Between Teeth & Why Flossing Falls Short

Is brushing your teeth twice daily enough to keep your teeth healthy? Then why do so many people still get cavities and gum disease?

While daily brushing builds the foundation of good oral hygiene, there’s a lot more involved in maintaining optimal oral hygiene and healthy teeth and gums. This is where cleaning between the teeth comes in. Food particles and debris hide and thrive between the teeth, contributing to bacterial growth, plaque buildup, and increased risk of tooth decay, gum disease, and infections. In this blog, we will explore the best cleaning techniques between teeth, and why flossing, the most common method may fall short for some people. Read on to learn more.

Why is Interdental Care important?

Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that forms on your teeth and gums after you eat or drink anything. Over time, if plaque is not removed, it can lead to the formation of tartar or calculus, which is a hard and porous material that can form below and above the gum line.

In its stubborn persistence, the calculus sparks gum inflammation—a precursor to gingivitis and periodontitis (gum disease). Gingivitis is the initial stage, marked by red, swollen gums that may bleed during brushing. If left unchecked, it progresses into periodontitis, a more severe condition where the inflammation extends to the supporting structures of the teeth, potentially leading to tooth loss.

Proper interdental care is important to avoid the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. It helps remove food particles and plaque from inaccessible areas, preventing the formation of tartar and calculus and ultimately promoting healthier teeth and gums.

What is flossing, and how to do it correctly?

Flossing is a process of cleaning the tight spaces between your teeth using a thin thread called dental floss. It helps to remove food particles and plaque that your toothbrush may not be able to reach.

The correct technique for flossing involves the following steps:

  • Cut around 18 inches of floss and wrap one end around your middle finger and the other around your other middle finger, leaving a few inches between.
  • Hold the floss tightly between your thumbs and forefingers and gently insert it between your teeth, using a sawing motion.
  • Once the floss reaches the gum line, curve it into a C-shape around the tooth’s base and gently slide it into the space between the tooth and the gum.
  • Gently move the floss up and down against the tooth and under the gum line, being careful not to snap it or force it too hard. Each tooth has a triangle piece of gum between it (the papilla). Make sure the floss goes on either side of the papilla.
  • Repeat the process for each tooth, using a fresh section of floss for each one.
  • Once you’ve flossed every gap between your teeth, you can now brush your teeth. Yes, brushing is ideally done AFTER you clean the gaps.

Why Flossing May Fall Short?

Flossing is an effective way to remove plaque and food particles between your teeth, which is essential for maintaining good oral health. However, flossing is a technique-sensitive process, and most people do not go UNDERNEATH the gum…which is one of the key areas that floss is designed to clean. Misusing dental floss can lead to incomplete debris removal or gum damage if done too hard. Our dentists have found that when asked to demonstrate how they floss at home, most patients do not do it correctly.  This leads to ineffective cleaning, persistent inflammation and persistent dental problems.  All in all, a disappointing outcome for patients who just want to do the right thing for their teeth.

Interdental Brushes

Interdental brushes are small dental tools designed for cleaning the spaces between your teeth. These brushes are handy for cleaning areas that traditional toothbrushes and dental floss may have difficulty reaching.

Interdental brushes typically consist of a handle and a series of fine bristles attached to the handle. The bristles are usually tapered or conical, allowing them to fit between the tight spaces of your teeth. They come in various sizes to accommodate different interdental spaces in the mouth.

Some of the advantages interdental brushes offer over flossing include:

Easier to Use

Interdental brushes are easy to use due to their comfortable grip, simple technique, and visual feedback. With a handle that offers better control and minimal manoeuvring, users can easily insert the brush between teeth and witness the effective removal of debris in a time-saving manner. These brushes are especially user-friendly for those with limited dexterity.

More Effective

Interdental brushes are more effective at removing plaque and food debris between teeth. The small bristles of interdental brushes can reach deeper into the spaces between teeth, ensuring a more thorough clean. These brushes also clean the concave area of the interdental root surface, which can be challenging to clean.

Better for Your Gums

Flossing too hard or incorrectly can damage your gums, causing pain and bleeding. Interdental brushes are designed to be gentle on your gums, minimising the risk of injury or irritation, which makes them a safer and much more effective option.


Interdental brushes come in different sizes, shapes and textures so that you can choose the right brush for your teeth. This versatility makes interdental brushes a more suitable option for cleaning various interdental spaces and dental appliances such as braces.

Are water flossers effective?

If you’re looking for other interdental cleaning tools, you may have come across devices such as a water flosser.  Are these effective? The short answer is no…

A water flosser is a device that uses a stream of pressurised water to remove food particles and plaque from between your teeth. Whilst it may be effective in removing large food particles from between the teeth, it is ineffective at removing the sticky film of plaque that builds up on the teeth.  If you’ve ever washed a car, the water flosser is like a garden hose that you use to spray the car before you use the sponge and soap to clean it.  The garden hose spray will remove any large particles of dirt and leaves off the surface, but you definitely need to get in there with the sponge and elbow grease to get an effective clean of your car.  Using a water flosser is like using the garden hose on your car.  If you don’t do any mechanical cleaning afterwards, you’ll be disappointed with the results.


What about an electric toothbrush?

An electronic brush uses rotating or oscillating bristles to clean your teeth more effectively than a manual toothbrush. Some electronic toothbrushes come with interdental cleaning attachments, such as small brush heads or rubber tips, that claim to effectively clean between your teeth and along your gum line. This is not true. There is no toothbrush head that will get in between the teeth.  The only tool that effectively cleans in between the teeth is a correctly fitted interdental brush.

The best electric toothbrush simply has a small round rotating head with a pressure sensor to make sure you’re not pressing too hard.  The toothbrush bristles should be nice and soft.  As such, normally, the sensitive range of the electric toothbrush is the best one to get.

A Healthy Smile Begins with Preventive Dental Care

At Whitehorse Dental, we encourage preventive care and patient awareness to promote healthy dental habits and lifelong care. With routine dental checkups to maintain your dental health, we will also devise a personalised home care plan so you can be taught the most effective way to take care of your teeth at home. This is in addition to early detection of dental problems as it is the best way to keep your teeth healthy and dental bills low. We aim to educate and create awareness to maintain a healthy smile at every age. Book a consultation today.