When Flossing Your Teeth Is Simply Too Challenging

Posted on: 1 September 2021

The simple act of flossing your teeth was thrust into the spotlight a few years back, after an investigation into whether flossing actually had any benefits suggested that the process wasn't as important as previously thought. Perhaps some Australians took this as evidence that they no longer need to bother buying dental floss, but for other Australians, it's not quite so black and white. It might be that you never floss because you find it too difficult to actually do so.

Underlying Medical Conditions

Flossing your teeth can be challenging when there's an underlying medical condition that makes it difficult to achieve the required precision. Conditions such as arthritis, Parkinson's disease, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, or any condition which affects basic motor functions can make the physical act of threading floss through your teeth extremely troublesome, if not impossible. But since there's debate as to the effectiveness of flossing, surely it's safe enough to skip this aspect of your dental hygiene?

The Official Guidelines for Australia

The Australian Dental Association and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners both recommend flossing each day, so the official guidelines for flossing have not changed. And yet a formal recommendation carries little weight when flossing remains a challenge. However, flossing is only one way in which to achieve interdental cleaning (cleaning the spaces between your teeth). When it's specifically flossing that's difficult, you must find a more suitable way to undertake interdental cleaning.

Listen to Your Dentist

Studies that suggest flossing isn't as important as it was thought to be, or official guidelines that contradict these studies don't take a patient's individual circumstances into account. Essentially, if your dentist tells you that you need to step up your game in terms of interdental cleaning, it's important to follow these instructions. Fortunately, there are other ways to clean between your teeth that don't involve dental floss.

Interdental Cleaning

If flossing poses a seemingly unbeatable challenge, you need to explore other options, and your dentist is likely to have some recommendations. Interdental brushes are small brushes attached to a small grip, which is held between your thumb and forefinger. You simply use the brush to clean between your teeth, achieving exactly the same result as flossing, without the physical complexity of threading floss. If interdental brushes are too difficult to manipulate, you should consider investing in a water flossing system. This is a small handheld device which shoots a small, concentrated stream of water. The stream is strong enough to flush away food debris from between your teeth, but not strong enough to irritate your teeth or gums. It requires far less precision than traditional floss, or even interdental brushes.

Yes, if flossing is too demanding, you don't necessarily need to keep trying. You do, however, need to use another form of interdental cleaning.