Frictional coefficient during flossing of teeth

Dent Mater. 2018 Dec;34(12):1727-1734. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2018 Sep 21.


Objective: This in-vitro study aimed to develop a technique to measure the frictional forces and determine the frictional coefficient (μ) associated with the rubbing of dental floss against teeth. Incorrect flossing technique and the etiology of grooves at the cementoenamel junction (CEJ) of proximal area of teeth has long been a controversial topic. We hypothesized that the μ between teeth surfaces and dental floss is affected by contact angulation.

Materials and methods: Tests were conducted using two different types of dental floss (waxed and unwaxed nylon) on different surfaces (enamel, dentine, smooth and rough glass rods) under different moisture conditions (dry and wet). The μ generated by performing C-shape flossing was measured, using the Capstan equation, at constant load (100g) over different flossing contact sliding angulations. In addition, the surface characteristics of intact and used nylon flosses were compared using a scanning electron microscope (SEM).

Results: The mean μ was highest with a smooth glass rod (0.42±0.11), followed by rough glass rods (0.30±0.07), dry enamel (0.27±0.08), wet enamel (0.23±0.06), then dentine (0.18±0.04). Moreover, higher μ was associated with waxed floss when used against dry enamel, smooth and rough glass rods (P<0.001). At different moisture conditions, waxed floss demonstrated greater μ with dry surfaces (P<0.03). No association was found between μ and dental floss contact angulation. Both floss types showed deterioration after usage; although waxed type exhibited markedly greater deterioration when used on dry surfaces. In conclusion, the magnitude of the μ was found to be influenced by surface roughness, moisture condition, and independent of the contact angulation area during sliding of dental floss.

Significance: It is important to consider the potential side effects of frictional forces on both tooth surface and dental floss during clinical application.

Keywords: Cementoenamel junction; Dental floss; Dentine; Enamel; Friction; Oral hygiene.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Dental Devices, Home Care*
  • Equipment Design
  • Friction
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Nylons
  • Oral Hygiene / instrumentation*
  • Surface Properties
  • Tooth Cervix


  • Nylons