The Dental Floss Threader: A Dentist's Explanation

What is a dental floss threader? A dental floss threader is a type of flossing tool that helps you to get dental floss into otherwise impossible areas!

A floss threader is basically a piece of stiffened nylon thread, about 4 inches long, folded to make a tear-drop shaped loop with the ends glued together . The tip is blunt and soft, so that it does not damage your gums. Below left is a picture of a blue floss threader with some white floss looped through it. On the right is a photo of the blue threader being used to thread floss between 2 teeth.

dental floss threaderdental floss threader 

What is a Dental Floss Threader used for?

Basically, it is used to thread floss through between teeth where it may be difficult or impossible otherwise. For example, if you have a fixed bridge, you will know that it is usually made up of three or more "teeth" joined together. Because of the "joins", you can't get floss down between the teeth in the normal way. But there ARE small spaces under the bridge that MUST be cleaned.

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What to do?

Get out your dental floss threader! First, you take off about 18 inches of your normal floss. Then you pass one end of the floss through the loop of the threader, and pull about half of it through. Now you're ready to start threading!

Stand quite close to a mirror, so that you can see the area you want to floss. Let's assume it is an upper tooth, about halfway back. If you just aim the threader tip straight between the teeth, it's likely to get stuck halfway through!

The trick is to angle the threader tip correctly. What you should do is this: holding the threader close to the teeth, as if you were about to thread it through, lift the rear of the threader up, so that you are "aiming" slightly downwards towards your tongue.

Then gently slide the tip of the threader under the bridge, between two of the "teeth". Keep aiming down towards your tongue. Now wiggle the threader gently as it slides through the tiny space.

When it seems to slip through, you can gently "feel" with your tongue if it has appeared on the inner side of the teeth. If it has, reach in with a finger and thumb and slowly pull the threader all the way through. It will pull the floss with it. Keep one end of the floss on the outside of your teeth with one hand!

Now you have the floss threaded under the bridge. You can take the end of the floss out of the threader loop, and use the floss as normal to clean under the gum next to the tooth.

Then you can slowly pull the floss directly backwards (or forwards, depending where you started!) to clean under the bridge tooth.

For fixed bridges on the LOWER jaw, you have to aim the opposite way - upwards! Just pull down your lower lip a bit next to the bit you want to floss, and aim the floss threader upwards towards the roof of your mouth.

Where else can you use floss threaders? While cleaning under fixed bridges is the most common use for threaders, they can also be useful for flossing when you have fixed dental braces to straighten your teeth. The brackets and wires involved tend to trap A LOT of plaque, so it is even MORE important to clean between your teeth very carefully - just at the time when it is more difficult!

There are several manufacturers of dental floss threader. Here is a list of the ones that I like best;

  • G-U-M (Butler) Eez-Thru Floss Threaders. The G-U-M threaders are the classic style of looped plastic thread. They are good quality, and each one can be re-used a few times if you wash it thoroughly after each use.

  • Bridgeaid Floss Threader. The Bridgeaid floss threader is very similar to the G-U-M, but perhaps not quite as stiff. Still a good choice.

  • DenTek Floss Threaders. Dentek threaders are very similar to the G-U-M ones, but are a little less expensive overall. The exact value per threader depends on how many times you can re-use the threader before it starts to get too bent to work properly!

  • Glide Threader Floss. This is the one from Oral B, and is probably the best quality. But I'm splitting hairs here, really, because the 4 makes of threader I have listed here are ALL good. After all, I wouldn't recommend any products that I didn't trust!

It's worth pointing out that Oral B Superfloss has three sections; it has a 2 inch stiffened tip at one end that acts like a floss threader. Then it has a "fuzzy" woven section that's great for cleaning under fixed bridges and around implants. It is very similar to standard Oral B Ultrafloss.

                               oral b super floss

The remaining section is like standard waxed floss, but is not as soft nor as flexible as normal floss. This means that Super Floss is really best used under bridges and around implants, where you need the stiffened end to act as a threader, and the soft woven section to do the cleaning under the gum.

For flossing between normal teeth, I think it may be better to use a standard floss, such as Oral B Satin Tape.

But Super Floss definitely has it's place as a useful flossing tool! I think that Oral B Super Floss is a great all-round floss with an integrated dental floss threader!


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