What is the difference between flossing and taping?

September 27, 2022

What is the difference between flossing and taping?
What is the difference between flossing and taping?

Flossing is one of the most important aspects of maintaining a proper oral health. It helps in keeping the interdental areas free from plaque and debris. Flossing facilitates maintenance of adequate gingival health. It is one of the oldest techniques of mechanical plaque control that has now seen many variants for efficient interdental cleaning.


What is dental floss?


Dental flosses can be medicated, may or may not have an attached handle and can be attached to additional auxiliaries for cleaning between interdental areas in patients with braces or prosthesis. They are conventionally available as thin string-like materials. One of the variants of dental flosses are dental tapes. They are also known as ribbon tapes.


What is dental tape?


Dental tapes are broader and thinner compared to conventional flosses. They are usually used in areas where the contact between the gums and tooth are wider. Compared to the conventional floss, dental tapes are more elastic. They are made of nylon or polythene fibres. Since they are thinner, they can be easily inserted between the two teeth without the risk of injuring the gingiva. Insertion of dental tapes might be a challenge in the upper teeth compared to lower teeth.


The conventional floss is used by two techniques - spool method and loop method. The dental tape is also recommended to be used in a similar manner. The loop technique involves tying the ends of approximstely 20 inches of floss 5 form a circle. This circular arrangement is then inserted in interdental regions to perform the cleaning activity. This is a relatively easy technique to use and learn and is recommended for ones with limited motor skills or manual dexterity. Children who are introduced to flossing can also learn this technique easily.


The spool method requires the dental floss or tape to be taped around the index or the middle fingers of both hands, after which a sawing motion helps in plaque and debris removal from the interdental regions. One common problem faced by users is that the conventional flosser leaves a cut mark on their fingers when it is wrapped around. However, this is not the case with dental tapes as its broader cross section does not have any excessive pressure on the fingers.


Like dental floss, dental tapes are also waxed, thus making them durable. Moreover, it allows the tape to glide more easily between the teeth. A non-waxed version of the dental tape is also available. Dental tapes can also be flavored, thereby leaving a better breath after flossing. It is difficult to use the conventional floss in areas where there is a lot of spacing between the teeth. In these cases the dental tape comes in handy as it covers a larger area of the tooth. Thus, dental tapes help to floss the interdental regions more quickly.


The disadvantage of dental tapes is that it is too broad to be used in patients with dental prosthesis or braces. The patient may insert the dental tape somehow, but it becomes tedious to perform the flossing action in these cases. In such cases the conventional flosser can be used with a dental threader for easier insertion of the floss and performing the flossing action.


Some dental tapes may also contain abrasive agents. These abrasive agents are soluble in saliva and their main role is to remove the more stubborn plaque and biofilms attached in the interdental regions of the teeth. Medicated dental tapes may also contain fluoride, an element that is extremely important for the resistance of teeth against dental caries. Better advances in flossing like super flossers, water flossers, air flossers and sonic flossers are more superior than conventional flossers like dental tapes. However, since Tey are more expensive, not everyone can afford these advanced plaque control devices.


Dental tapes are available as 30m long rolls and are priced very similar to that of conventional flossers. Between tapes and floss, the selection is largely based on patient's comfort. Dental tapes are much more recent compared to conventional flossers. The satin texture of dental tapes makes them a more attractive marketing product compared to flossers. However, dentists and dental hygienists should educate the patients pros and cons of both these interdental cleaning aids depending on their oral health status and their oral hygiene behaviours.


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