Cleaning the interdental area of the teeth removes about 40% of the sticky plaque and bacteria and reduces the risk of tooth decay, cavity formation, and gum disease. Flossing is one of the most tedious task people find to do every morning. However, it is the best oral health practice to preserve the health of the teeth and gums. Not everyone prefers to floss their teeth regularly. Moreover, some people may have spaces between the teeth, which doesn’t make flossing effective.
In such situations, you can choose from a wide range of interdental health aids. Some of the popular interdental cleaning devices include floss pick, interdental brush, and water flosser. Each of the products mentioned above serves a specific purpose and are designed to suit the needs of every dental condition. It is essential to know about all the available products to select the best device for effective tooth cleaning.
Let’s read the article further to find out the importance of interdental cleaning and the different interdental health aids. Moreover, we will also look at some key points to keep in mind while selecting the best interdental cleaning device.
What do you mean by interdental aid?
Often, an efficient tooth brushing technique fails to remove all the plaque and deposits from the tooth surface. Interdental health aides are cleaning devices that are designed to better clean between the teeth and gums. (1) Some of the commonly used interdental cleaning devices include –
- Dental floss
- Interdental brush
- Floss pick
- Water flosser
- Rubber tip
Interdental cleaning devices are beneficial for people with extensive filling, crown or bridge, braces, periodontal problem, and gum inflammations. Children are usually not recommended to floss as they can damage their gums by improper usage of the device.
What is the importance of interdental tooth cleaning?
Plaque is a thin biofilm that is made up of food debris and bacteria. Plaque can accumulate on any surface of the tooth, gums, and tongue. One of the prime locations for plaque build-up is the interdental area between the teeth.
Regular toothbrush bristles cannot access the area between the tight tooth contacts. For this reason, interdental cleaning devices hold great value. Failure to clean the interdental area increases the risk of two significant dental problems –
- Dental caries
Interdental cleaning devices like floss, proxy brush or oral irrigators help to flush out the hidden plaque and bacteria from between the teeth and add beneficial value to your oral health and wellbeing.
What tools are used for interdental cleaning?
Floss is a worldwide known interdental cleaning device which comes in the form of a chord. It is usually made from nylon filaments. The Food and Drug Administration classifies floss as the most efficient and low-risk cleaning tool. (2) Dental floss effectively cleans around 80% of the plaque and bacteria from between in the teeth. However, it can be challenging to use a string of floss correctly as it requires a great deal of manual dexterity.
Usually, floss is used after brushing the teeth. It comes in a plastic dispenser with 10-100 meters of floss chord. There is a wide range of dental floss that a person can choose from according to their oral health requirements. It can be waxed, unwaxed, monofilament or multifilament and flavored. Let’s take a closer look at the types of dental floss –
Waxed floss is similar to a piece of dental floss. However, it is coated with waxes like natural bee wax or microcrystalline plastic wax. The wax coating allows smooth sliding motion of the floss between in the teeth. Moreover, the wax leaves a polished coat on the tooth surface after cleaning, which prevents the bacterial acid attack. (3)
Usually, waxed floss is thicker in size and may also contain flavoring agents, essential oils, vitamins, or fluorides. Waxed floss is an excellent tool in the following cases –
- Tight tooth contacts
- People with braces
- People who prefer flavored floss or thick floss
Unwaxed dental floss as the name suggests does not contain wax coating. These thin filaments are made from nylon or Teflon, which makes it less sturdy as compared to the waxed floss. Unwaxed dental floss is suitable for the following situations –
- Regular tooth contacts
- People who prefer thin non-coated dental floss
- Presence of dental crowns
- Pregnant women
Unlike the thin chord of dental floss, dental tape is characterized as a strip of nylon or polythene fiber, which easily fits the area between the teeth and cleans it effectively. It usually has a flat surface which helps to remove the food particles and plaque between the teeth.
Benefits of regular flossing
- Regular flossing prevents tooth decay and reduces the risk of gum disease and periodontal inflammation.
- Often flossing addresses swollen or inflamed areas of the gums. Diseases like HIV can cause many of these conditions. (4)
- Flossing removes the plaque and bacteria, which effectively helps in treating gingivitis and reduces the risk of tooth loss.
- Other benefits of flossing include the elimination of bad breath
To use the floss effectively, follow the instructions given below –
- Pull out the flossing chord from the dispenser box that measures approximately the length of your arm.
- Firmly hold one end of the floss around your thumb and wrap 5-6 folds around the middle finger.
- Straighten the floss between the two fingers and stretch it to fit between the teeth
- Slide the floss gently between every teeth and curve the floss against the surface of the tooth. This ensures cleanliness around the gums as well.
- Once you have flossed all the teeth, rinse your mouth with water
- Use a fresh thread every time you floss your teeth
Dental floss pick is a variety of floss which consists of a small plastic holder with a curved end that holds a piece of dental floss. Floss picks are disposable. However, some varieties may provide refillable heads. The specially designed handle of the floss picks gives a firm grip to make smooth, gentle strokes of cleaning. (5)
Interdental brush or proxy brush
An interdental brush is a thin round or tapered brush which consists of bristles that can easily access the interdental space between the teeth. Usually, these brushes come in a wide range of shapes and sizes to fit all types of tooth alignments. (6)
Often, the interdental space between the front teeth may be less as compared to the space between back teeth. For this, people prefer to buy two different sizes of interdental brush for effective cleaning. The interdental brush, also known as proxy brush, had several benefits. Some of the mare listed below –
- It is an excellent choice for people who find flossing very difficult. The interdental brush comes in handy in such situations.
- Wide spaces between the teeth cannot be adequately cleaned using dental floss. The unique design of the interdental brush allows for easy accessibility and effective cleaning.
- Uneven tooth alignment or presence of gum recession may be a suitable case for the use of an interdental brush.
- The proxy brush is an excellent choice for people with braces. The thin sized interdental brush can easily fit into the spaces between the tooth and wire, which ensures thorough cleaning around the braces.
- Older adults who have limited manual dexterity find interdental brush much more manageable and comfortable to use. Moreover, the interdental brush is a great tool to clean spaces between the dentures, bridges, and gums.
Interdental brushing technique
Unlike flossing, an interdental brush can be used either before or after tooth brushing. It is essential to choose the right size of the interdental brush. For proper cleaning of the teeth using the following technique –
- Always start brushing from the front teeth as they are easily accessible. Move slowly towards the back, covering every interdental space.
- Insert the brush gently between the teeth.
- Do not put too much pressure as it may lead to irritation of the gums.
- Move the brush back and forth along the entire length of the interdental brush.
- After cleaning all the spaces, rinse the brush with water.
- Replace the brush after two to three months or whenever the bristles worm out.
A water flosser is an advanced oral healthcare device which specializes in cleaning the interdental space using water pressure. Typically, a water flosser consists of three main parts –
- A water reservoir which allows storage of freshwater for cleaning the teeth
- A motor wit ha pump which activates the device and creates a pressurized and pulsating water stream. (7)
- A water floss tip which pushes the water pressure out and directs it between the teeth.
This unique device is an excellent substitute for traditional flossing, and it helps to remove the plaque, bacteria, and food particles comfortably and effectively. Another advantage of using a water flosser is that it stimulates the gums with the pulsating motion of the water stream. Moreover, it helps to reduce gum swelling and inflammation.
Rubber tips are effective gum stimulators that consist of a metal handle with a pointed rubber tip. Some varieties of gum stimulator may include silicone tips. The firm tip of this interdental tool helps to clean the teeth and gums by removing plaque, bacteria, and food particles. (8)
Moreover, rubber tip has proven to reduce periodontal infections by cleaning between the teeth and removing trapped food and debris from the deep gingival pockets. Rubber tips are an excellent tool for people with ample spaces.
A technique to use a rubber tip
Rubber tips are one of the easiest to use interdental cleaning tools. However, it is essential to remember that these devices are not a replacement to tooth brushing or flossing. Usually, a rubber tip is used after brushing your teeth. Let’s look at the instructions to use a rubber tip properly –
- First, place the rubber tip between the two teeth. It is best to angulate the device at 45 degrees to the gums.
- Use gentle circular motions to massage the gums and move around the spaces between in the gums and teeth.
- Repeat this step to massage each space effectively.
- A rubber tip can also be used under the gum line or gingival pockets to remove food and debris from the infected space.
- If you are skeptical about using a rubber tip, you can always ask your dentist to demonstrate the technique during a regular check-up.
Factors involved in selecting the best interdental health aid
Typically, the prime factors involved in effective cleaning of the interdental area and selection of cleaning devices include –
- The type of gingival embrasures – usually gum recession or deep gingival pockets may require the use of an interdental brush for effective cleaning.
- Alignment of the teeth – uneven tooth alignment may usually require thin unwaxed dental floss or water flosser for effective cleaning.
- Presence of fixed prosthesis such has orthodontic braces – use an interdental brush or a water flosser
- Tight contacts – waxed dental floss is an excellent tool for such conditions.
Overview of interdental cleaning aid
Interdental health aides are a crucial tool to maintain the health of the oral tissues by effectively cleaning the interdental area between the teeth and gums. There are several types of interdental cleaning devices such as dental floss, floss pick, rubber tip, a water flosser, an interdental brush. The choice of selecting a particular cleaning aid depends upon the dental condition of the patient and their personal preference.
Regular use of interdental cleaning tool along with tooth brushing ensures thorough cleaning of the teeth and improves the health of the gums. Although some of the flossing techniques may seem to be complicated. But regular practice will help you to master the technique. Follow a good oral health routine which involves tooth brushing followed by proper interdental cleaning to maintain healthy teeth and gums for a lifetime.