If You Want to Keep Your Teeth, Don’t Floss!


by Maggie Jackson MPhil EDH Dip DHE FAETC


It is accepted by the dental profession that tooth cleaning, at home, will help to maintain gum health. However, less attention is paid to cleaning between the teeth than to brushing.


Many people feel very guilty because they don’t floss - take comfort, those that do floss tend to use it incorrectly. Most people find the use of an interdental brush easier than flossing and this has driven the market to produce finer interdental (baby bottle type) brushes that will fit into almost any interdental space.


For those with no gum bleeding, using these is probably safe even when using small sizes of ‘bottle brush’. The biggest problem often is that very fine ones bend and break so do not last long. Others who find bleeding on tooth-brushing or when using floss (even occasionally) need to try bigger sizes that are held closer to the teeth and fit snugly without bending. This method may provoke bleeding for a few days until health is returned to the gum between the teeth.




Others worse off are those who wake to find the apparent evidence of a visit by an unwelcome visitor. There on the pillow is a trail of blood - strong evidence of uncontrolled gum disease!




The incidence of periodontal disease is on the increase with the World Health Organization suggesting that the incidence of periodontal disease in adult patients stands at 89% with 10% per cent of those affected having deep ‘pocketing’, indication of bone loss - usually worse between the teeth and often on the big teeth at the back that are hardest to reach.


These disease figures are likely to be reflected in your own family or friends. Sometimes the evidence of this is a constant ‘bad breath’. This tends to gets worse as we get older and the regular dental visit is only part of the remedy. Effective home cleaning between the teeth is essential. Although this needs to be carried out only once a day it must be thorough and effective to root out the bacteria between the teeth completely and research has shown floss is less good at doing this than a really snug fitting interdental brush.


Often people with ‘spongy gums’ are also unaware of the danger of pocketing and bone loss until teeth feel loose and cannot be saved. The tendency all too often can be for us to use nothing to clean between teeth, use floss ineffectively and occasionally, or use an interdental ‘bottle brush’ that is too small. This will have an effect more like a toothpick removing some food and failing to completely remove the harmful plaque.



Size Does Matter

Effective cleaning can only be achieved with a snug fitting brush (without using force) to slightly squeeze the point of gum between the teeth and clean the tooth surface that the gum tip rests against. Like a ring on your finger, one size is not suitable for all! A brush that is too small will only push out food, not the ‘germs’ that grow and feed under the gum tip. These bacteria are firmly holding on, growing like weeds against the tooth surface. They irritate the gum and are the cause of pockets and bone loss. This is called periodontal disease.



For more information on periodontal diseases, check out these websites:

British Society of Periodontology
Vision Interdental Periodontal Brushes


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