Dental Floss Picks or Conventional Flossing: Which is Better?

Taking care of one’s teeth is important. In addition to the social and psychological benefits of maintaining a good smile, adequate oral health also impacts your ongoing physical health. Halitosis. Infection. Heart attack. Stroke. Dementia. None of these conditions are anything that people want — so why don’t more individuals floss? According to an article in U.S. News & World Report, less than one-third of the population flosses daily and 32 percent never floss at all. Some of the reasons why include the sheer inconvenience of flossing, and floss picks have stepped into the gap as an easier alternative. However, some have begun to ask a simple question: “Is it bad to use floss picks?” 

In this article, we will examine the advantages and disadvantages of dental-floss picks, contrast them with traditional floss, and answer some frequently asked questions. 

Traditonal dental floss and dental floss picks

Are Floss Picks as Good as Regular Dental Floss? 

Before we begin to analyze the differences between floss picks vs regular floss, there’s one important fact that we must acknowledge: Any flossing is better than no flossing. Though these two methods of removing gunk from between your teeth and around your gum line each have various disadvantages, you shouldn’t let that discourage you or your loved ones from flossing. Think of it a little like trying to establish an exercise routine in the new year. One gym may have cleaner equipment, and another may have a more welcoming staff. The main thing, though, is whether or not you’re building muscle and getting your heart rate up! 

With that in mind, let’s start by examining some of the pros and cons of floss picks.  

Benefits of Floss Picks 

Back before floss picks came on the market, there was only one way to remove the stubborn plaque that seemed to grow moss-like between teeth. You had to purchase a box of floss, twine it between your fingers (which would cause it to uncomfortably dig in to the skin just behind your first knuckle), and laboriously thread it in and out around your teeth. 

Once floss picks became available, everyone realized their primary advantage, which was that they’re easy to use. You don’t have to cut the floss. You don’t have to wind it so tight that it leaves lines in your flesh. You can floss with just a single hand. And you always know how much you have left. 

Floss picks also serve a double purpose. Sometimes you’ll find yourself with a bit of food, a stubborn seed, or a tiny flake of fruit skin that ends up stuck in or around your gums. No matter how hard you try, you just can’t seem to dislodge it with a strip of floss. Floss picks, though, feature an integrated toothpick that can help you remove irritating matter from your mouth. 

Finally, picks help people build good habits. Some may seek out the best floss picks or may want to argue about the relative merits of traditional floss. But none of that matters if you aren’t actually flossing. Getting into the habit of regular oral hygiene is always a good thing — even if there are legitimate reasons why floss picks aren’t the ideal product. 

Disadvantage of Floss Picks 

 Are floss picks better than traditional floss? When it comes to convenience, absolutely. But not when it comes to redistributing bacteria. Picks contain roughly an inch of flossing material, and when you use one, it collects bacteria. As you slide it from tooth to tooth, bacteria get introduced to new spaces. This has the possibility of increasing infection risk. 

Another more significant disadvantage to floss picks is that they require an unideal technique. Because none of your teeth are square with perfectly straight edges, you need to curve floss around them in order to ensure they’re properly cleaned. Unfortunately, the floss in floss picks is usually rigid, meaning that some parts of your teeth won’t receive enough attention.  

Those with an eye to preserving nature will want to pass on floss picks, because they have environmental drawbacks. All floss is meant to be used and thrown away, and the added plastic in picks will simply swell the volume in a landfill.  

Finally, floss picks are more expensive than regular floss. If you find yourself flossing daily (and you should!), then that cost can really start to add up. 

Benefits of Regular Floss 

By now, the benefits of ordinary floss should be evident. For one thing, it’s more effective than floss picks, at least if you use the proper technique. Starting with 18 inches of floss, correct flossing involves using a clean section with each insertion and curving the floss around the sides of the tooth. You simply can’t perform these tasks as adequately with a pick.  

Speaking of clean sections, clean floss minimizes your chance of spreading bacteria from one part of your mouth to another. Outcomes aren’t guaranteed, and the presence of an infection in one part of your mouth always means that further contamination remains a possibility. Using normal floss, though, makes that less likely. 

Our final positive might seem insignificant, but normal floss is significantly cheaper. Those who floss daily will definitely notice savings over time! 

Disadvantages of Floss 

The drawbacks of traditional floss aren’t hard to figure out, the biggest one being that it’s more difficult to use than floss picks. The measuring. The cutting. The way it presses into your fingers. The ick factor of sticking your digits into your mouth. There are plenty of downsides with string floss, and if these negatives keep you from flossing, then you should look at another option — even if it doesn’t do quite as good of a job at cleaning. 

Additionally, you may notice that your floss starts to shred as you use it, which means it can be abrasive. This degradation is part and parcel of the disposable nature of floss. However, it may irritate your mouth.  


Patients often come to us with various questions about all kinds of dental-health topics, flossing included. Here are some of the most common queries we encounter: 

Can you reuse floss?  

While it’s technically possible to reuse floss, it’s a big no-no. Think about rubber gloves or any other kind of wearable prophylactic. Simply washing them prior to reuse probably makes your skin crawl with the thought of potential contamination. The same thing holds true for floss. Use it once, and then toss it.   

Should you floss before or after brushing? 

Although any flossing is better than no flossing, some dentists prefer flossing before brushing. They claim that cleaning out your teeth and gums allows your toothpaste to get into crevasses it couldn’t reach prior. 

Are floss picks accepted as a viable product by the American Dental Association? 

The American Dental Association has not officially endorsed the use of floss picks, citing a lack of adequate research. “Available evidence for tooth-cleaning sticks and oral irrigators was reported to be limited and inconsistent,” the ADA said. “Overall, the evidence was graded as low to very low-certainty, and the effect sizes observed may not be clinically important.” 

How many times a day should you floss? 

Experts state that you should floss once a day. “The ADA recommends brushing twice a day and cleaning between teeth with floss (or another interdental cleaner) once a day. “ 

Contact us at Westend Dental for all your oral hygiene needs!