What’s the Difference Between Waxed and Non-Waxed Floss?

What's the difference between waxed and un-waxed floss? Learn all about it in this post.

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Hi, I’m Dr. B, practicing functional dentist for 35 years. I graduated from the Dugoni School of Dentistry in San Francisco, CA in 1987 and am a member of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM), Academy of General Dentistry (Chicago, IL), American Academy for Oral Systemic Health (AAOSH), and Dental Board of California. I'm on a mission to empower people everywhere with the same evidence-based, easy-to-understand dental health advice that my patients get. Learn more about Dr. B
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Q: I've always noticed that there's waxed and un-waxed floss. What's the difference? And which is better?

A: Waxed floss has a coating that makes it easier to get floss between teeth that are tightly spaced together. Unwaxed floss isn’t coated, so it’s thinner and won’t have any flavoring. As for which is better, it depends on personal preference.

Which Is More Effective?

The best floss is the one you’re going to use!

Seriously, pick the floss that you enjoy the most and is most comfortable. Get your favorite flavor so you actually have something to look forward to.

Manufacturers claim that waxed floss removes more plaque than un-waxed floss, but studies show that any floss will do.

If you’re concerned about removing more plaque, study up on your flossing technique.

Choose based on what makes it easiest and most comfortable for you to floss.

Waxed Floss Might Be for You If:

  • You like how it feels.
  • You find a flavor that motivates you.
  • Your teeth are tightly spaced together.
  • Floss tends to break in between your teeth.
  • You’re a beginner flosser trying to make the habit.

Unwaxed Floss Might Be for You If:

  • You want a thinner floss that’s easier to maneuver.
  • You want to avoid the chemicals in waxed floss.
  • You have crowded teeth.
  • You’re pregnant and want an unflavored floss that won’t trigger nausea.
  • You don’t like the lingering taste of flavored waxed floss, which can interfere with how food tastes.

Expanding Floss

There’s a third type of floss that has fibers that expand slightly when you get in between the teeth. These can be great for grabbing more plaque.

I really like Dr. Tung’s Smart Floss (I’m not paid or compensated for this recommendation — this is actually what I use and like). It’s woven and stretches slightly once in between your teeth, removing more plaque. It’s also coated in beeswax instead of plastic or tTeflonlike most waxed floss.

Chemicals in Waxed Floss

Here’s one problem I have with waxed floss: it’s coated in Teflon.

One of my favorites used to be Glide Pro-Health by Oral-B. It feels really good in between your gums and leaves you with a tingling clean mint feeling. It’s not so thin that you feel like you’re cutting yourself. It never breaks. It glides in between teeth and makes flossing a joy (seriously!) so I still recommend it to people who hate flossing.

But when I found out that Glide Pro-Health is coated in the same stuff in Teflon pans (PTFE), I stopped using it. In general, I try to minimize my contact with industrial chemicals — in this case Teflon and petroleum — for health reasons. If you don’t need the help of waxed floss, why expose yourself to the chemicals?

My Recommendation

  • If you don’t want to expose yourself to anything that’s potentially harmful, go with unwaxed floss or Dr. Tung’s expanding floss.
  • If waxed floss makes it easier for you to get in the habit, use it!
  • The best floss is the one you actually use.

Mark Burhenne DDS

Learn More: How to Floss the Right Way