Why should I use interdental brushes?

Interdental brushes help to prevent gum disease by getting rid of pieces of food and plaque from between your teeth.

Plaque is a sticky substance made of bacteria. If it builds up, the bacteria can irritate the gums and cause inflammation (swelling).

If your dentist advises you to clean between your teeth (interdental cleaning), they may recommend using interdental brushes. 

Interdental brushes

Interdental brushes have small bristled heads specially designed to clean between your teeth. They are available from pharmacies and come in different widths to suit the sizes of the gaps between your teeth. You may need to use more than one size of brush.

How to use interdental brushes

You should follow your dentist's advice about using interdental brushes, including how often you should use them. The tips below may also help:

  • use a brush appropriate for the size of the space between your teeth, as advised by your dentist
  • insert the brush gently between your teeth – don't try to force the brush into the space
  • if you work to a pattern round the whole of your mouth, it will help you not to miss out any of the spaces

What if my gums bleed?

When you first start using interdental brushes, your gums may be tender and bleed a little as you start to get rid of any plaque build-up. Carry on using the brushes and the bleeding should reduce as your gums become healthier.

If the bleeding doesn't stop after a few days, get advice from your dentist. They can check if you're using the interdental brushes correctly.

What if I find it difficult to use interdental brushes?

If you find it difficult to use interdental brushes, get advice from your dentist. They can show you how to use them and give you advice about other ways to clean between your teeth, such as dental floss. However, some people find using dental floss more difficult. 

For more information, see Why should I use dental floss?

Read the answers to more questions about dental health.

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 02/02/2015

Next review due: 02/02/2018