Interdental Cleaning: How To Clean Between Your Teeth

Your Ultimate Guide to Cleaning The Interdental Spaces for Optimal Gum Health!

If you have gum disease, then you will know that your daily oral hygiene needs to be first class, to control the disease (this is also the best way to prevent it in the first place). All the advice tells you that you need to brush your teeth twice a day and clean the interdental spaces. But how do you clean between the teeth? This post reveals the different tools available on the market and explains which are the best to use.

Why Clean Between The Teeth

Toothbrushing is essential for healthy gums and teeth, but it actually only cleans 60% of your teeth. The other 40% is inaccessible with a toothbrush, so you need to use tools to clean between the teeth in addition to your toothbrush. 

Interdental cleaning addresses the areas between your teeth and along the gumline, where a toothbrush cannot reach effectively. By removing plaque and food particles from these spaces, you help prevent the onset and progression of gum disease, ensuring your gums remain healthy and your smile intact.

The Importance Of Interdental Cleaning On Gum Disease

Before we delve into the how-tos of interdental cleaning, it’s essential to grasp why this practice is vital in preventing and treating gum disease. Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is a common condition caused by plaque buildup, which irritates and inflames the gums.

If left untreated, it can progress to more severe stages, leading to gum recession, tooth loss, and potential health complications. Effective plaque control is vital for successful prevention and treatment and brushing alone simply isn’t enough; we must clean the 40% of the tooth surface that we don’t get with the toothbrush. 

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Choosing the Right Interdental Cleaning Tools

Various interdental cleaning tools are available, each catering to different needs and preferences. Some popular options include dental floss, single-tufted brushes, interdental brushes, soft picks, and water flossers.

When choosing the right tool for you, consider factors like the size of the gaps between your teeth, the presence of dental work like braces or bridges, and your level of dexterity.

Mastering Effective Interdental Cleaning Techniques

Once you have your preferred interdental cleaning tool, it’s time to learn the proper techniques for effective cleaning. 

Dental Floss

clean between with floss when you have very small gaps

If using dental floss, take around 18 inches of floss and gently slide it between your teeth, curving it against each tooth’s surface in a C shape. You need to pull the floss quite tight between your fingers. Floss is recommended for those with very small gaps between the teeth.

Interdental Brushes

Clean between the teeth with interdental brushes

For interdental brushes, like those made by Tepe, choose a size that fits snugly between your teeth and gently move the brush back and forth 7 or 8 times. Plaque is sticky stuff, don’t think you can get away with just poking the brush through. 

You may need a range of different sizes to clean effectively between the teeth. The brush wants to fit snugly between the teeth. You don’t want to force it but it also needs to be big enough to reach all the sides. These brushes are recommended for those with periodontal disease.

Single Tufted Toothbrushes

clean between the teeth with a single tufted toothbrush

There is evidence that single tufted toothbrushes can be very effective at controlling plaque biofilm in periodontal (gum) pockets.

To clean between your teeth with a single tufted toothbrush take hold of the single tufted toothbrush like a pen and gently insert the bristles between your teeth, targeting the spaces where your regular toothbrush can’t reach. Use a back-and-forth motion to dislodge plaque and food particles, being careful not to apply too much pressure to avoid gum irritation.

Repeat the process for all the gaps between your teeth, including those at the back of your mouth. Finish by rinsing your mouth thoroughly with water.

Gum Pocket Brush

The gum pocket brush is perfect for cleaning between the teeth

The revolutionary new brush was designed by the dentists behind the gum disease guide. This brush can help you clean deep within periodontal pockets and between the gums. This brush has been scientifically proven to prevent gum disease and stop it from coming back. This amazing brush gets into the exact place where gum disease starts, the place your toothbrush can’t reach. With regular use, you will start seeing a difference within just a few days. Within 2 weeks your gum disease could be cured.

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Water Flossers

Water Flossers use a stream of water to clean between your teeth, providing a gentle yet effective alternative. There is some debate if water flossers are effective.

Many professionals think that water flossers can be likened to running a greasy, soiled plate under a cold water tap without using any soap (It’s pretty ineffective). They may also harbor mold spores which you don’t really want to be putting under your already suffering gums. 

Which Of These Tools Is Best To Clean Between The Teeth?

As you’ve just seen there are a number of tools available. Research has shown that interdental brushes are the more effective tool in all patient groups because they are easy to use. They are especially useful in those with dental implants or periodontal disease, especially when large gaps are present between the teeth.  

Floss isn’t particularly useful when used incorrectly or in those with periodontal disease. Floss, wooden interdental aids and waterpiks do not reduce plaque levels but may be effective at reducing bleeding and inflammation. 

We discuss this a bit more over in our Ask A Dentist questions about which is best tepe brushes or floss?

Integrating Interdental Cleaning into Your Daily Routine

Consistency is key to reaping the benefits of interdental cleaning. Aim to clean between your teeth at least once a day, preferably before bedtime, to remove accumulated plaque and debris. Remember that practice makes perfect, and you may need some time to get comfortable with the technique you choose. However, the effort you invest in your oral health will pay off in the long run.

Partnering with Professional Care

While interdental cleaning is an essential component of gum disease prevention and treatment, the majority of which is carried out at home, you should seek professional dental care where possible.

Regular dental check-ups and cleanings allow your dentist or dental hygienist to assess your oral health, perform thorough cleanings, and identify and address any early signs of gum disease. If you don’t have access to a dentist take a look at our free tips on how to treat gum disease at home. 

In Summary

Congratulations! You now possess the knowledge and tools to take charge of your oral health by mastering interdental cleaning. By incorporating this practice into your daily routine and partnering with professional dental care, you’re on the path to preventing and treating gum disease effectively.

Remember that healthy gums not only contribute to a beautiful smile but also play a significant role in your overall well-being. So, let’s make interdental cleaning a priority and pave the way to a healthier, happier you – one smile at a time!

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Cleaning Between Teeth Called?

Cleaning between teeth is called interdental cleaning or interdental hygiene.

Is It Better To Floss Or Use Interdental Brushes?

Both flossing and using interdental brushes are effective; the better choice depends on individual preferences and the spaces between teeth.

Why Do Dentists Scrape Between Your Teeth?

Dentists scrape between teeth to remove plaque, tartar, and food debris that regular brushing and flossing might miss.

Why You Should Clean Between Your Teeth

Cleaning between your teeth is crucial because it prevents gum disease, reduces cavities, and promotes overall oral health.

I Brush My Teeth Twice A Day. Is That Enough?

Brushing your teeth twice a day is a good start, but cleaning between your teeth daily is equally important for comprehensive oral hygiene.

What If I Don’t Clean Between My Teeth?

Neglecting to clean between your teeth may lead to gum disease, cavities, bad breath, and other dental issues.

How Often Do I Need To Do It?

Cleaning between teeth should be done at least once a day, ideally before bedtime. Many with gum disease, have found that cleaning the interdental spaces and the teeth 2 or 3 per has been effective at controlling the disease. 

What To Clean Between The Teeth With? 

Interdental brushes, dental floss, and water flossers are common tools used for cleaning between teeth.

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Ng E, Lim LP. An Overview of Different Interdental Cleaning Aids and Their Effectiveness. Dent J (Basel). 2019 Jun 1;7(2):56. doi: 10.3390/dj7020056. PMID: 31159354; PMCID: PMC6630384. Available here:

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Written by Sharon Fyles

Periodontitis Expert & Writer

Sharon Fyles, BSc (Hons, SW), MSc, Dip,  is a Manchester-based expert dental writer specialising in periodontal diseases and their treatment.


Medically Reviewed and Verified by Dr. Gareth Edwards BDS (Hons), MFDS (RCPS Glasgow)

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