Dental floss or dental tape: Which should you choose?

Flossing can make brushing more effective than brushing alone.

You don't have to be a hygienist or dentist to know how fundamental flossing is to oral health. Ideally, flossing is done in combination with regular brushing and best done prior to brushing. This helps to loosen up any food particles that get lodged between the teeth so they can be more easily and effectively wicked away with your brush's bristles.

However, flosses aren't all built the same. Produced in a variety of flavours (i.e. mint, cinnamon, bubble gum), lengths, thicknesses and consistencies (i.e. waxed, unwaxed, polytetrafluorethylene, etc.), dental floss typically comes in one of two forms: traditional dental floss and dental tape. From a practical standpoint, they're both designed to do the same thing, which in addition to particle removal, includes keeping the gumline healthy and scraping those hard-to-reach sides of your teeth where the back and front meet.

You may wonder, however, if one form is necessarily better than the other. In other words, is the dental tape alternative, which is wider and slightly thicker than your standard floss, more effective in keeping your teeth feeling as strong and as clean as they can possibly be?

ToothbrushesBrushing is more effective when done right after flossing.

We'll let you be the judge. Here are the pros and cons of each. Since you know your teeth and dental hygiene regimen better than anyone, apply these pluses and minuses to your routine and go from there:

Dental tape pros
If you've used dental tape before, you probably immediately noticed it's considerably thicker width-wise than traditional floss. That thickness makes it easier to wrap and hold around your fingers, but it's also ideal if you have large spaces in between your teeth. This wideness makes the flossing action more efficient, since there is more surface area for the tape to adhere to remnant food particles. So instead of flossing multiple times in the same gap, you can do it in one or two slides.

In short, dental tape can be a simpler and quicker method of flossing without compromising the quality of cleanliness.

Dental tape cons
Interestingly, the very same positive attribute to dental tape can also be its disadvantage. Many people have very little room between their 32 teeth. This, of course, is the goal for orthodontic procedures like braces or cosmetic procedures like veneers — for teeth become more aligned and symmetrical. However, the added thickness can make it difficult if not impossible to seamlessly swipe between all your teeth in the traditional up and down motion. Alternatively, you may be able to fit the tape in but have trouble getting it out. This can make the flossing process frustrating and, more problematically, ineffective.

Dental flossDental floss has its strengths and weaknesses relative to dental tape.

Dental floss pros
Dental floss has existed for a very long time, with the earliest variety tracing back to the early 19th century. As a result, traditional dental floss comes in an incredible number of options, like the ones previously mentioned. There are even flosses powered by electricity with ergonomic handles so hard-to-reach places aren't so awkward to access. There is also the kind you throw away after one use and can be maneuvered with one hand, which parents may find to be more useful for their children.

Everyone likes choice and you have plenty of them with traditional dental floss. This fact alone makes it potentially more worthwhile than dental tape.

Dental floss cons
As far as dental floss has come over the years and in as many different selections, it's far from perfect. This is mainly as a result of it's extreme thinness. Yes, spaces are naturally small between teeth, but every mouth, bite and gumline is different and floss can't adapt to the user on an as-needed basis (at least not yet). It may take several slides and to truly get in between your teeth so they're fully clean. Poor flossing is like poor brushing: It's better than doing nothing, but it's not a fail-safe. You have to do each one well to avoid cavities, plaque and more serious issues like gum disease.

So which will it be: dental floss or dental tape? In truth, the great debate on which method is better will likely never have a definitive winner. If you're truly not sure, consider speaking with your dental health professional. Aside from yourself, they know your teeth and may be able to make some recommendations about which one is best for you and why that's the case.

In addition to product recommendations, City Dentists has a wide area of expertise in all things dental and stand ready to serve you when you need us. Please schedule an appointment with us today; we look forward to seeing your smiling face soon; we can help you make that smile whiter and brighter.