Are you one of those people who only floss when it’s time to go to the dentist for your semi-annual exam and cleaning?
The trouble with only brushing is that you leave lots of each tooth uncleaned. It’s like washing your face, neck, hair, and limbs while leaving the rest of your body still covered in sweat and grime. Your face looks great and your hair is shiny and full, but you probably don’t want to stand too close to those around you.
Likewise, brushing is great for cleaning the obvious surfaces of your teeth, but it just can’t get the in-between spaces. A substantial part of the tooth remains untouched, leaving harmful bacteria to their own devices.
Hence, the need for interdental cleaning – whether with floss, toothpicks, interdental (“proxy”) brushes, or an oral irrigator such as Waterpik.
In fact, recent research suggests that of all the cleaning tools available, interdental brushes and oral irrigation may be your best options. One study published earlier this year in the Journal of Periodontology, for instance, found that both tools “had the highest probability of being ‘best’” for reducing gingival inflammation – a hallmark of gum disease.
The probability of floss or toothpicks being the best, on the other hand, was “near zero.”
Another study, published last fall in the International Journal of Dental Hygiene, found that both conventional and rubber tipped interdental brushes helped reduce gingival bleeding and control plaque. However, the rubber tipped brushes – soft picks – were less abrasive and were “considered more pleasurable to use by the participants.”
You can find soft picks and interdental brushes in the oral hygiene aisle of any drugstore.
But if you prefer flossing, go on doing it. Just be sure you’re using the right technique.
And if you’ve not been cleaning between your teeth regularly, the time to start is now. One trick you might try to make the practice into a habit? Do your interdental cleaning first, before you brush. While plenty of folks find it easy to “forget” to floss or otherwise clean between their teeth, few “forget” to brush. Cleaning between first can help ensure you do both.
Some research even suggests this may help control plaque even better than brushing, then flossing.
Regardless, the most important thing is the fact that you clean all of your tooth surfaces, not just the ones that show.