Brushing removes more than half of the plaque and food debris from our teeth. But it can not do much about the spaces between teeth. About 30% of our tooth surface is between the teeth, and this needs to be cleaned with floss, interdental brushes, or a water jet cleaning system. If we fail to clean the gaps between the teeth we risk serious tooth and gum problems.
If we suffer bleeding gums it is quite possible that we are not flossing enough. Some mouthwash and daily flossing will often remove the bleeding, usually in just a week or two.
This is the classic way to clean the teeth. It has been used for decades and remains quite effective. Sliding floss between the teeth removes plaque and food debris, reducing many dental problems.
- Use a length of floss about 50cm long.
- Wrap the ends of the floss around the forefingers of each hand, leaving about 15cm between the hands.
- Rub the floss up and down on the inside space of one tooth, and then against the adjacent tooth. Make sure to floss right up into the gum line.
- Do the next set of teeth, using a different section of floss.
- Repeat till all the spaces between the teeth have been cleaned.
We should floss once per day, preferably before bed.
It helps to use mouthwash before flossing, especially if we have bleeding gums. This prevents bacteria in the mouth from getting into our bloodstream.
Alternatives to Flossing
- Floss Sticks – These have a short length of floss (about 2cm) in a Y-shaped holder. Some people find this makes flossing easier. But we need to clean the length of floss after cleaning each tooth, lest we spread the bacteria around the mouth. Try rinsing the floss and dipping it in mouthwash. Floss sticks can only be used once, after which they are thrown away.
- Interdental Brushes – These are small round brushes, about the diameter of a pipe cleaner, which can be used to clean between teeth. They are useful for cleaning between the back molar teeth where the space is larger. But they are not really suitable for the smaller space between the front teeth. Interdental brushes can only be used once, after which they are thrown away.
- WaterPik – This is an electronic device, a little like an electric toothbrush, that uses a stream of high-pressure water to clean between the teeth. These work quite well and are convenient for people with limited dexterity in their hands. WaterPik is pricy, but it can be used for several years before it needs replacing.
We have far better dental health if we floss once, and brush twice per day.
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