It is estimated that 80% of adults in this country have periodontal disease. This is when irreversible bone loss occurs resulting from the virulent bacteria that collect between the teeth. Research has shown that periodontal disease is a risk factor for serious conditions such as heart and lung disease, diabetes, and premature and low birth weight babies. Since periodontal disease is painless, many people are unaware they have this condition. The good news is that it’s never too late to start doing something about it.
Flossing is able to remove plaque, bacteria, and food debris between teeth. Flossing has many benefits. A cleaner feeling mouth, it helps to prevent bad breath, and it helps to prevent cavities and bone loss.
If flossing is so good for your oral and overall health, why don’t more people do it? Statistics show that approximately 33% of people floss daily. Flossing is a hard habit to develop and maintain. Some people who have dexterity problems or large hands, find it difficult to floss. Other people just can’t get into the habit. There are alternatives though – and while they may not be as good as old fashioned flossing, they will make an improvement to your oral health.
1. End tufted brush
This is a brush that has bristles similar to a toothbrush but the size of the brush head is much smaller. It is great for brushing gently along the gum line, and between teeth.
To use an end-tufted brush place the brush along the gum line where the gum edge meets the tooth. Slowly move the brush along the gum line applying light pressure. Trace along the wavy gum line moving from tooth to tooth, adding a circular motion between the teeth.
2. Interdental Brushes
Interdental brushes are also known as an interproximal brush. These brushes are recommended for interproximal areas (areas between the teeth) where the gum is missing, shortened or has root concavities. This brush can also be used to clean around orthodontic appliances, space maintainers, small spaces in between teeth, under bridges if there is a space, and when spaces are large enough to easily receive the device.
To use an interdental brush, moisten the brush tip and insert it at an angle following the contour of the gingiva. Move the brush back and forth from the cheek side in towards the tongue side and back. Brushes come in different sizes according to the size of the space in between the teeth. The brush tip should be slightly larger than the space which it is going to fill and clean. Do not jam an interdental brush in an area where there is not enough space as this could damage the tissue.
3) Interdental Sticks
These are specially designed soft wooden / plastic wedges for cleaning between teeth. If your are using a wooden stick, the end of the stick should be moistened and softened in the mouth before use. To use, gently insert the stick between the teeth, with the flat edge facing the gum. Then move it in and out gently to clean the teeth and massage the gums. The sticks should only be used where there is sufficient space to allow the free movement of the stick between the teeth. Do not force them into position.
Flossers are small plastic devices that hold about a 1/2 inch of floss. For many people they make flossing easier as they are small and fit in your mouth better than your fingers! They are easy to use with one hand. There are many brands and styles of flossers. They usually come packaged in 50 – 200 flossers per package. Invest in a good brand so the floss doesn’t shred when used between tight contacts.
6. Water Flossers or Oral Irrigators
The water flosser/oral irrigator has been shown in studies to be effective in reducing bleeding and gingivitis. There are several brands out there. We do not endorse any one brand. It is important to make sure it uses a pulsating action, as the pulsating flow of water helps to clear bacteria and debris from between the teeth. It also stimulates blood flow. A small amount of mouthwash can be added to the water for flavoring and/or to enhance compliance. Any solution used should be at room temperature for greatest comfort. Follow manufacturers directions for adding solutions. Failing to do so may shorten the life of the unit.
7. Electric flossers
There are several types of electric flossers on the market. We don’t endorse any specific brand, but one sample of an electric flosser is the Airfloss. It’s microburst technology applies a quick burst of pressurized air and micro-water droplets to clean deep between teeth where a toothbrush can’t reach and with less mess than oral irrigators. This gentle yet effective technology is proven to remove more plaque between teeth than brushing with a manual toothbrush alone.
As you can see, there are many alternatives to flossing. While they may not be ideal, if you will use them properly and on a regular basis, you will see an improvement in your oral health. Pick an alternative that is easy for you and try it – who knows – it may be one New Years Resolution you keep!