The low-tech way to brush between your teeth is to use dental floss or tape. Both are made from the same materials – either nylon or Teflon – and may be waxed or unwaxed. Tape is better if you have large gaps, while floss fits into small cracks more easily. It doesn’t matter whether you brush or floss first as long as you do both.
To floss with tape or floss, wind a long length of floss around your index finger on your left hand. Take a couple of turns around the index finger on the right hand, and adjust the floss, so a small amount is stretched between your two fingers. Thread this between your teeth a few times then wind the used segment onto the right finger and allow a new section to come off the left. Use this to floss the next tooth along and repeat until all gaps, top and bottom, have been cleaned.
Luckily there are plenty of gadgets to help your floss more effectively. Disposable flossers are small Y- or F-shaped pieces of plastic with a piece of floss mounted between the prongs of the letter. Insert the floss between your teeth and rub back and forth a couple of times. The flosser is discarded after each flossing session – so this is the less environmentally friendly option for cleaning your teeth.
Larger gaps may benefit from the use of an interdental brush. These come in a range of sizes, with the most common being in the range 0.4-1.5mm. They can be reused a few times, but due to their small size, they splay quickly and should be replaced as and when needed.
Power flossers have a nylon tip and oscillate at high speed to quickly floss between your teeth with minimal effort. If the thought of pushing anything between your teeth is unpalatable, then a water flosser works by squirting a carefully designed jet of water between your teeth to blast away any lurking nasties. Although the name indicates otherwise, air flossers use a combination of pressurised air and water or mouthwash to clean. Power flossers look very similar to an electric toothbrush and are usually charged in the same way.
Water flossers offer a higher power alternative and can be combined with a brush. A simple water flosser such as the Waterpik cordless plus water flosser WP450 has an easy fill reservoir of water and a rotatable head to direct the jet of water exactly where it is needed. Philips also offer a air flosser (Philips HX8438/01 Airfloss Ultra White Electric Flosser) which can be filled with water or mouthwash. Read our review here.
Countertop water flossers – the type your dentist may use – have a larger reservoir allowing for a more extended flossing session or higher power cleaning.