Mail headline screenshot

Just Brushing Your Teeth Really Isn’t Enough

Maybe you’ve seen this article – or one like it – floating around Facebook recently:

Mail headline screenshot
Not exactly.

The most recent study, published this past spring in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology, analyzed nearly 400 studies on tools used for cleaning between the teeth – not just floss but oral irrigators (e.g., Waterpik), woodsticks and interdental brushes. What kind of effect do these tools have on controlling plaque and gingivitis (early stage gum disease) in addition to toothbrushing?

While it’s true that they found little good evidence for most of these with respect to reducing plaque, all seemed to help control gingivitis. And they found “moderate” evidence that interdental brushes helped with both.

It’s also important to remember that it’s not just using the tools that matters. They need to be used properly. If you just slide floss between teeth without gently scraping their sides, you don’t’ accomplish a whole lot. If you get too aggressive, pulling the floss down hard, you may damage your gums. (Here’s a quick tutorial on good flossing technique.)

Not only does technique matter, but according to new research in Oral Health & Preventive Dentistry, the sequence of cleaning does, too. Those who flossed before brushing had better plaque control than those who brushed and then flossed.

Yet it’s also important to realize that oral hygiene isn’t really about “removing plaque” or “killing germs.” What brushing and interdental cleaning do is break up the sticky biofilm (plaque) that oral bacteria form between cleanings. By “disorganizing” these bacterial communities, you keep them from gaining a stronger foothold and doing damage.

Even if you use antimicrobial toothpastes and rinses, it’s impossible to create an antiseptic mouth…as if such a thing were even desirable. After all, your mouth is home to many millions of good bacteria, too – microbes that help protect you from the harmful ones.

Bottom line: You need to clean between your teeth with something. If you’re only brushing, you’re only cleaning about 2/3 of your total tooth surface area. Floss will work, but those interdental brushes may be best of all. If you don’t find them at your local stores, you can always buy them online.

Here’s how they work:

While the dentist in this video suggests dipping the brush in toothpaste, you can also dip it in herbal rinses such as the Dental Herb Co.’s Tooth & Gum Tonic or Natural Dentist Healthy Gums Mouth Rinse.

Give it a try and see the kind of difference it can make for your smile!