Options to Assist in Cleaning those Tough In-Between Spaces
When you brush, you’re really only cleaning about 60 percent of your teeth – flossing cleans the rest. It’s true that flossing is the ideal way to clean in between the teeth but, for some people, flossing is difficult and often impossible.
People with limited dexterity and some types of dental restorations can make it challenging to clean with regular floss. And, for some people, flossing just plain isn’t going to become part of the oral hygiene regimen at home. Unfortunately, studies by Crest, Oral B, and the American Dental Association (ADA) have shown that not even half of the American population admits to flossing every day. The number could be lower in reality. As if bloody gums don’t give you away, a study by the American Academy of Periodontology found that 27 percent of people straight-up lie to their dentists about flossing.
Here is a list of alternatives, or adjuncts, to flossing.
Hand Held Flossers – Tired of numb, floss-strangled fingertips, and sticking your hands in your mouth? These Y-shaped pieces of plastic have a piece of floss strung across them that you can easily push between your teeth and pull out stubborn plaque and pieces of food. Essentially this is the same as the traditional way of flossing but allows for easier access and control with the fingers. There are different size handles and some have a small “pick” on the end that people often use to clean around the gum-line.
Because the floss is strung tightly, it really can’t wrap around the tooth or reach under the gums. Also, you can’t reach the back of the tooth as well as you can with regular floss. However, if it’s between using a floss stick and not flossing at all, the choose the floss stick.
Interproximal Brushes – For larger spaces, a smaller brush (that looks like a bottle brush) can be used. This can be a very effective way to clean as it mechanically disrupts the bacteria. Some people use brushes that affix to a longer handle and there are smaller “travel size” brushes as well. These can be used with or without paste. The brushes need to be replaced fairly frequently as the metal wire, that the bristles are attached to, starts to become flimsy.
Soft Picks – A relatively newer product that is much like the interproximal brushes but intended for a one-time use. Again, there are a couple of different sizes available.
Water Irrigation/Water Picks – Water picks were the rage for a while then seemed to lose their luster. In more recent years, the water pick has made a resurgence and can be an effective tool in helping to prevent and control periodontal disease. Water picks dislodge food particles, reduce plaque, irrigate around the gum-line and newer technology has designed a specialized tip for periodontal pockets which can also be used with antimicrobial solutions for irrigation. Water picks are often recommended for people that have braces as it can aid in cleaning around the metal arch wires and brackets that can easily trap food and plaque.
Although studies show that water flossing is a better alternative to string flossing, some dental hygienists, who deal with teeth all day long, disagree over how effective water flossing can be. They say in order to floss properly; the only way is to use string floss. If you do not properly use water flossers, they can cause a negative effect. If not properly used water flossers can push plaque further into your gums, cause irritated gums and excessive bleeding. It is also a bacteria feeding ground if not cleaned properly. Speak with your hygienist and dentist next time you go in for a cleaning to learn their position on water flossing.
Air Flossers – A powered device that uses compressed air to push a spray of water or mouthwash between the teeth. Studies seem to show that they are on par with flossing for effectiveness. If you are averse to flossing, but you are okay with spending a little cash and using some new technology, this could be your answer.
Avoid Using Toothpicks
One other “picking point”: Don’t use a toothpick to clean your teeth. Despite the name, a toothpick is not designed for dental cleaning, and it could break off and become stuck between your teeth
Ask Your Dentist and Hygienist About Flossing Alternatives
Proper and traditional flossing is still the best way to prevent gum disease, remove plaque and bacteria. With the above alternatives to flossing your teeth, you will be able to develop a habit much like a tooth brushing habit. A final, slightly radical, idea: Come clean to your dentist and hygienist. Tell her them you hate flossing, and tell them why. They should be able to offer a perfect solution you didn’t know about.
Sources: OralB.com, Shape.com, HuffingtonPost.com