Several times when we ask patients if they are flossing they will respond with "I don't floss, but I do use an interdental brush". Although we understand that patients may find it easier and more convenient to use an interdental brush instead of dental floss. I think it's important to understand that using a proxy brush doesn't completely remove the need to floss. Interdental Brush VS Dental Floss: Yes, we can all agree that both dental floss and interproximal brushes are capable of removing plaque and food debris from in between the teeth. In fact, we've seen many patients who only use proxy brushes remove more plaque and food debris from the surfaces in between their teeth than those who are only flossing. However, we think the reason behind this is because interproximal brushes are easier to use than dental floss. We believe that if a patient uses the "C-shape" flossing technique properly, they will not only be able to remove as much plaque from in between the teeth, but also remove plaque from those areas where the interproximal brush doesn't reach completely.
So which areas are these?
Again, assuming that you're using the proper flossing technique then the dental floss should be going slightly underneath the gum line in between your teeth as you're flossing, removing the plaque that sits here. This is often an area where the bristles from an interdental brush won't reach or clean properly.
Another area where the proxy brush doesn't clean properly is the area where the teeth touch each other (the contact point). If you have ever had meat stuck in the contact point you'll notice that a proxy brush struggles to remove this piece of meat in comparison to using the dental floss. Even if you don't have or notice any food being stuck in this area, it is important to remove the plaque that may accumulate in this area because it may lead to tooth decay.
Our goal is not to discourage people from using an interproximal brush, after all we are glad to know that patients are using something to clean in between their teeth. Our point is to point out these areas where the floss can be a better alternative and maybe get you to floss in addition to using an interdental brush.
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