Everybody knows the importance of a good routine when cleaning teeth; however, toothbrushing alone isn’t sufficient enough to maintain healthy teeth and gums.
This article aims to educate you on the significance of interdental cleaning, giving you the tools, and an understanding of the correct method.
Don’t forget to learn how to brush your teeth correctly!
Simply put, it is cleaning between your teeth.
If you imagine your tooth, it has 5 surfaces: the inside, the outside, the biting surface and the two side surfaces. Even by using the correct toothbrushing method, you can only achieve the effective cleaning of the first three surfaces listed above.
That leaves the two side surfaces of the teeth unattended, which provides ideal circumstances for the plaque to sit there all the time. Just to recap, plaque is a major causative factor for gum disease (which if left untreated could lead to tooth loss) and contributes to the development of caries (tooth decay).
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When the plaque sits on the teeth, the bacteria (and their by-products) trigger an inflammatory response in the gums (gingivitis and/or periodontal disease develops) As a result they swell and ‘pockets’ appear. This means that the gum detaches itself from the tooth and it gives way to the bacteria to travel further down on the side of the tooth.
The bacteria and the by-products (toxins) and the body trying to fight off those are causing damage not just to the gums but the bone around the tooth as well. This destruction of the supporting tissues will lead to mobile teeth and eventually tooth loss.
If this wouldn’t motivational enough, maybe it is worth considering the effect gum disease can have on your overall health (please read one of my previous articles to recap: Links between general and oral health).
The purpose of interdental cleaning is to prevent that by removing the plaque from between the teeth. Ideally, interdental cleaning needs to be done once a day (or more, if it is advised by your dental care professional).
Read this if you’ve got sensitive teeth!
Interdental cleaning aids are available in various forms, including:
All of these options have advantages and disadvantages.
Dental floss is a soft, thin cord.
It comes in various types (waxed, unwaxed, tape, and super floss). Floss is available as a roll of string, but you can buy disposable floss picks/flossers (the floss is stretched out on a plastic holder) as well.
Effective flossing could be difficult to master as it is quite technique sensitive. Floss picks are easier to use, however, the disadvantage is that you will use the same piece of floss between all your teeth (it would be very expensive to use multiple flosses picks for one session, furthermore very bad for the environment due to the plastic waste they create).
You have to clean every wall of every tooth (e.g. the back wall of the last standing tooth).
Did you know?
If you use the string floss and it gets stuck don’t try to yank it upwards (you can dislodge a filling or a crown, or shred the floss), just let it go to one side and pull it through. If this happens too often it might be worth trying to use dental tape instead, which is flatter than the floss, therefore it can slide through the contact points of the teeth easier.
are little brushes attached to a plastic holder (they look like miniature bottle brushes). They come in different sizes and with different types of holders. They are easier to use than string floss.
Tips for use
Did you know?
The most popular make is TePe. You have to bear in mind that different makes have different colour coding systems for the different sizes (e.g. pink TePe might not be the same size as the pink version of another make).
Simply put these are devices, which are operated by pumping either air or water through a flosser tip. The cleaning between the teeth is achieved by the power of the air jet or water flow. Some makes need to be recharged before use; others have to be plugged in while using them. Electric flossers are easier to use than floss, and as they have a fairly big handle, they can be helpful for people with limited manual dexterity (e.g. people suffering from arthritis in the hand). The disadvantage is that they are costly. Also, some dental professionals are doubtful whether they are as efficient as other interdental cleaning aids.
These are just the most commonly used interdental cleaning aids. Some people may only need to use one type of interdental cleaning aid; others (who have more complex dental needs, e.g. having crowns, bridges, implants or orthodontic appliances fitted) may have to use a wider variety of products.
The market is full of different types of interdental cleaning aids and it can be very confusing, which one to choose. The condition of people’s oral health differs widely, hence their oral health care needs will vary individually. It is advisable (before spending money and finding the product doesn’t have the right effect) to consult your dentist/hygienist. They will provide the best advice based on the condition of the teeth/gums what interdental aids to purchase and how to use them.
At present, the only way to achieve good oral health is to put the time and effort in (i.e. there is no easy way around it) by using the correct toothbrushing and interdental cleaning technique and visiting the dentist regularly and the hygienist (if instructed by the dentist). However, if you look at the benefits, it is worth it.
Finally, to quote one of my dental colleagues: ‘Clean daily between the teeth, you want to keep!’