Live Well | Laugh Often | Floss Much
Of all the new and exciting news from the world of dentistry last year, surely the report from the Associated Press report, which found an apparent lack of evidence to support the claim that flossing was effective, generated the most buzz throughout dentistry.
Equipped with their own advisories and statistics about flossing, dental professionals everywhere prepared themselves for the onslaught of patients who would, no doubt, come to their next dental appointments quoting this report and it’s claim of, “lack of scientific proof.”
But surprisingly, the best reply came from the comedian Steve Harvey who basically called the report was, “stupid” and was not going to stop flossing as he had seen some stuff on his string that he knew “full well” smelled bad. We won’t quote the whole thing, but you can listen to his full reply on YouTube.
He’s no dentist or scientist, but he’s certain that he’s coming from a place of knowledge.
You’re probably thinking, “I already brush 3 times a day, why do I need to do anything else?” The math is simple. With five surfaces to every tooth and the tooth brush only able to effectively reach just 3 of those surfaces, how much are you leaving behind? Approximately 40% of the plaque remains to continue it’s destructive work and eventually calcify to the hard substance called calculus (tartar).
And how many times have you taken something out from between your teeth or below the gum line with your floss that had a putrid smell? We think most people would agree with Steve that it’s usually pretty stinky stuff that is left behind.
We can laugh at Steve, but there’s no kidding aside! Interdental cleaning is a critical component to the oral care routine and a quick experiment at home will demonstrate that you will, most likely, still find foul-smelling plaque between your teeth and under your gums even after brushing effectively for a good 5 minutes. Go Ahead, try it!
How to clean what your toothbrush misses
1) Traditional Flossing
At Your Smile Dental Care, we look to see how effective a patient’s present way of interdental cleaning is before making a recommendation. If they can successfully remove what their toothbrush misses without gum damage or bleeding then there’s no reason for them to change what they have mastered. See instructions here (2:12 minute point in the video)
Some people, however, have difficulty with the use of string floss – finding the technique of wrapping the floss around their fingers and negotiating it between their teeth and under the gums quite challenging and awkward. Fortunately, there are other flossing aids that can be used with ease.
2) Floss Wands
Another method is using a floss holder. Although there are many different types of designs, it is basically a device that holds a small but tight piece of floss making it an easy and simple way to move and manage it around the mouth with just one hand. This is not, in our experienced opinion, the most precise option for flossing, but recognise that it has become a popular choice.
Therefore, we advise our patients to choose a product that allows you to load your own floss so that you can always have a clean segment for each tooth. This is a much more effective solution rather than just using the same piece of string for the whole dentition.
3) No Strings Attached!
There are also a variety of electric flossing devices including water and air flossers on the market. Both are designed to clean in and around teeth by forcing debris out with gently pressure.
Water flossing has been around for many years and is often used as an alternative to string flossing. Waterpik is the most common interdental cleaning device that comes to mind, but there are other products on the market as well. A water flosser introduces a steady stream of pulsating water to flush out interdental debris while massaging the gums.
An Air Flosser uses micro bursts of air and water droplets to disrupt and remove plaque.
4) Other Interdental Aids
There are many other tools on the market: picks, sticks, rubber tips, threaders, tuft or conical bristles – all designed for specific uses to assist you in your interdental cleaning efforts. The recommendation your dentist or dental hygienist makes will depend on your individual dental health needs. These other interdental aids are used in conjunction with flossing or as an alternative to flossing, but are not suppose to replace tooth brushing. While you will never be able to remove 100% of the plaque from your teeth, cleaning in between your teeth and under you gums will certainly help reduce the likelihood of dangerous plaque buildup.
Effort is a reflection of Interest
Unless you believe in the value of effective oral hygiene, how can we convince you to floss?
One of the most important pieces of advice that we can give to people is that they understand why they need to remove what their tooth brush can’t reach and make certain that they are doing it effectively. It is simply not enough to just snap the floss in between each tooth without taking the time and making the effort to really do a good job. This not only involves proper placement of floss and effective removal of debris, but taking the time to see and smell what you are removing and ensuring you are being gentle with your gums. Likewise, other interdental cleaners are of no value if they are not used with the attention to detail.
Dentists know that guilt and shame doesn’t work and using scare tactics as a strategy is usually not an ineffective way to motivate patients long term, especially when dental disease or the oral health rewards are not always immediately obvious.
So, while it is true that we cannot force someone to do something they simply do not want to do, we continue to try our best to persuade and help our patients to see the value of flossing. With more than half of the population suffering from preventable gum disease, we can’t, with a clear conscious ignore the benefits of interdental cleaning and patients should expect nothing but the best advice from their healthcare providers.