How to Prevent Cavities Between Teeth, if You Hate Flossing!

how to prevent cavities between teeth flossing

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If you are like most people, you brush your teeth once or twice a day, but when it comes to flossing, well, you basically just do it when something is stuck between your teeth. I have to admit that until I enrolled in dental school, this pretty much describes my oral hygiene routine as well! So I totally get where you are coming from.

The problem with flossing is it’s kind of gross getting all your tooth gooblies on your fingers, it can be painful, make you bleed and it can be difficult actually getting the tooth floss between your teeth. In this article I am going to show you how to prevent cavities between teeth. Even if you hate flossing!

But you do need to clean between your teeth!

If you think like I did before I studied dentistry you probably feel that once you have brushed the food remnants off your teeth you are done and can rush off to work. After all, if there is no food on or between your teeth, then you won’t get any holes in your teeth and your mouth will smell fresh right? Well, not quite…

Cavities are actually caused by the  sugar-eating, acid-producing BACTERIA on and between your teeth


Photo credit, NIAID Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

These bacteria are the main component of the plaque on your teeth. If you didn’t know already plaque is that white gunge you see on your teeth when you haven’t brushed for a day.

Your toothbrush simply doesn’t remove much plaque from between your teeth. In fact, plaque sticks so well to teeth that even vigorous mouthwashing doesn’t remove much plaque at all. This is why I frequently see patients with apparently very clean teeth, that brush twice a day and use mouthwash, still get cavities between their teeth.

Cleaning between your teeth is also very important to prevent gum disease and keep your breath smelling fresh. A lot of people don’t realize this, but the total area between most peoples teeth is about the size of a golf ball. That is a lot of area for the often foul-smelling bacteria to set up shop on! If you continue getting bad breath even after brushing, this is probably why.

I hope you can see why it is so important to also clean between your teeth where your toothbrush and mouthwash can’t get to!

Now I have you appropriately concerned, please read on and I will guide you on how best to clean between your teeth.


waterflosserThese devices work by basically water-blasting off the plaque from between your teeth. Sounds like fun! These devices are great if you struggle to get floss or other devices like interdental brushes (I will discuss these next) between your teeth.

When I first became aware of these devices I thought they were a great idea. You avoid having to struggle with getting floss between your teeth and you can also add mouthwash to the waterfloss’s water tank which may improve the health of your mouth a bit more.

But I had a problem with two things.

First, their claims always seemed to compare how well they remove plaque from between the teeth compared with tooth brushing. Well, as I said earlier tooth brushing doesn’t do a very good job of cleaning between teeth, so I would prefer to see a comparison with dental floss. Well, now further studies are coming out that are actually showing the effectiveness of these devices are just as good as regular flossing if not better.

Second, they were very expensive. Initially Waterpik was the only brand on the market. Things have changed now though with many other competitors  and the price of these devices are much more affordable now.

Click here to go to my in depth review on waterflossing.

Bottome line, if you hate flossing and have a bit of money to spend, a waterflosser is a great option!

Interdental Brushes

interdental brush

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These things look like miniature bottle brushes and you use them like you would a toothpick to clean between your teeth. They are much better at removing plaque than a toothpick though.

Interdental brushes are a great option if you have large spaces between the gum and where the teeth touch. People with gum disease often have very wide spaces between their teeth and these brushes do a great job of cleaning between the teeth of these people.

If your teeth are very tight together, I would recommend conventional floss or waterfloss rather than interdental brushes as the metal inside the interdental brush can damage your teeth if you force the interdental brush between your narrow spaced teeth.

Conventional floss

dental floss

Photo credit: Maria Kaloudi,

This is the stuff people are most familiar with cleaning between their teeth with. There is nothing wrong with it. If you have the dexterity to floss and don’t mind flossing, then just continue with it. It is certainly an inexpensive and effective option of cleaning between your teeth.



Photo credit: Tamorlan, Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

I don’t recommend using toothpicks. The wood doesn’t pick up the plaque very well, so you have to rely on the toothpick pushing the plaque out from between your teeth. A lot of plaque will still be left behind. If this is your only option, then by all means use them, but don’t expect as good results as the other methods discussed.

I hope you have gained a better understanding of the importance of cleaning between your teeth and some of the alternative options available to flossing. If there was anything in this article that you would like further information on or you have any questions, let me know in the comments below.


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13 thoughts on “How to Prevent Cavities Between Teeth, if You Hate Flossing!

  1. jeffrey

    Great post. Very informative. I am one of those people that hate to floss. I do a couple times a week, but not as often as I should. My last trip to the dentist, he lectured me about flossing more often, had some cavities and when he was cleaning my teeth he said the back part of some of my teeth were really soft and were getting bad. I like the idea of the water flossing device, I will definitely check into that! Thanks,Jeffrey

    1. David

      Thanks Jeffrey. I’m glad you found it helpful. To be honest, flossing just twice a week is better than what most people do.

      On another note, if you are getting decay and have soft teeth you might want to get a high fluoride toothpaste like NeutraFluor 5000. You can get that from a pharmacy or your dentist.


  2. Elliedan

    Hey David, this is great info here. I can always use a few useful tips. I have never heard of water flossing or devices for doing it, this is truly an eye opener

  3. Matt

    Hi David. I brush my teeth with a Sonicare and rinse with Act mouthwash twice a day, and floss once each night. I’ve never had issues with cavities, but I do seem to notice some issues with staining.

    About 4 or 5 months after each cleaning, I’m in a rush to get back to remove the stains! They always ask me if I’m a smoker or drink a lot of tea, but I do neither of those things. Any ideas what may be causing these stains? They’re not terrible, and I’m not even sure if others notice, but it does make me self conscious.

    I’ve recently begun using a stain removing toothpaste, Rembrandt, and it seems to be helping. Do you think a Waterpik might help this issue? I appreciate your input.

    1. David

      Hi Matt. How frustrating! Red and even white wine can also stain teeth. Do you drink a lot of wine? Do you ever use any other mouthwash than Act? You might want to check the ingredients on the back of the mouthwash container because it might contain chlorhexidine and this can actually stain your teeth as well!

      Honestly, I doubt the Waterpik is powerful enough to remove the staining or even prevent them. Perhaps you could try a toothpaste for smokers (even though you aren’t a smoker) as these type of toothpastes do a good job of removing surface staining. Let me know how you get on!

  4. Rod

    You’re right, I’ve definitely got to get better at cleaning between my teeth. Thankfully, I’ve never had a cavity, but I still need to clean better! Question, would you recommend using a water pick or floss?
    Thanks in advance!

    1. David

      Hi Rod. Well done on never getting a cavity! If you have never flossed before, I would recommend giving flossing a try first as it is cheap and effective. However, if you find it a chore consider using waterfloss instead.

  5. Claudia

    Thanks for putting all of this info together for us. I find it very informative and useful. I’m not at all fond of flossing, but I do it every evening because I know how important it is. The waterfloss looks interesting too. It’s probably easier to do than regular flossing. I’m thinking of giving it a try.

  6. Dara

    Tooth gooblies 🙂
    What are your thoughts on floss picks? Would you put them in the same category as conventional floss? I like to use them, your fingers don’t get as icky and the drool is kept to a minimum!

    1. David

      Floss picks are a good option too. They are great for people who struggle with getting the floss on their back teeth.

  7. Ange

    Ah Dave,
    Ya got me. I am terrible at flossing, I hate the feel of it between my teeth and I feel like I am damaging my teeth doing it. But thank you for reminding me of the importance of it. I didn’t realise how large the surface area actually is between the teeth. Wow. Thanks for the information.

    1. David

      Hi Ange. Thanks for the comment. A lot of people feel they are damaging their teeth flossing and sometimes fillings actually can come out while flossing. They only come out if they have lost their bond to the tooth though and can create major problems if they are left there as it is easy for decay to set in under the filling in that case. So don’t worry about damaging your teeth flossing ok? If your floss is catching when you floss, the filling has either dislodged or needs to be smoothed and you should go back to your dentist to get them to fix it.


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