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Cleaning between the teeth

The importance of inter-dental cleaning

We all accept brushing our teeth is a great way to prevent buildup of plaque/bacteria and tooth decay. But how many of us consider the space between our teeth?

This inter-dental space actually accounts for about 35 per cent of the surface area of your teeth – so it’s important to clean it daily.

What can happen if you don’t clean between your teeth?

Unfortunately, bacteria will tend to work their way between the teeth (and even under the gums), in places where a toothbrush can’t get to. Bacteri likes to form colonies, and in the mouth this in known as plaque, which can potentially irritate the gums. If left untreated it can stimulate an immune response, resulting in inflammation and bleeding.

If left undisturbed for 48 hours or more, plaque will begin to harden on the teeth, and this in turn is referred to as calculus or tartar. In the long term, untreated calculus can be associated with breakdown of the fibres that hold the gums tight against the teeth, potentially leading to irreversible bone loss and in extreme cases tooth loss.

While these are long-term consequences of leaving plaque in place, they do illustrate the importance of regular inter-dental cleaning, which help to remove bacteria before they form plaque, or remove plaque before it hardens into calculus.

In the event that calculus has already formed, we recommend a review with you dental hygienist to have this removed. Bleeding of the gums is also not normal, and if this is present when you brush or floss, your hygienist can help.

Benefits of daily inter-dental cleaning

  • Can reduce the risk of decay between the teeth.
  • Can help reduce bad breath caused by bacteria.
  • Reduces the risk of gum disease which is associated with tooth loss.
  • People with uncontrolled diabetes are at a higher risk of suffering gum disease. Good oral hygiene, including daily flossing, can help reduce the risk of gum disease and can also contribute to the stability of blood sugars.

Products to help you clean between your teeth

  • Floss – The most cost-effective way to clean between the teeth. There are many different types of floss, including waxed floss and floss tape, each having their own advantages. It is a matter of finding which one suits you best. Correct flossing technique is important to get the best clean between the teeth and under the gum line. Your dental hygienist will happily teach you the correct flossing technique.
  • Inter-dental brushes – These help to stimulate blood circulation in the gums and clean under the gum line. They are fantastic to use in conjunction with floss to keep the gums healthy and are particularly good for people who have gum disease. There are many different brands and sizes of inter-dental brushes on the market. Your dental hygienist can show you how to use the brushes effectively and recommend the right-size brush for you.
  • Floss handles – Can help get the floss back to the hard-to-reach places and is a great alternative to floss for people who have difficulty getting to the back teeth. Options include disposable floss handles or handles that you wind your normal floss onto.
  • Water jets – Can be helpful for people who have braces, bridges, large food traps or gum pockets to use in conjunction with other products. There are different brands available, and they can be used with a medicated mouth rinse for people with gum disease. Water jets are not recommended as a sole substitute for floss.
  • Superfloss – Is fantastic for people who have bridges or braces. The firm end of the pre-cut floss length is easy to thread underneath  braces wire or underneath the pontic of a bridge. Your dental hygienist can instruct you on how to use it effectively.

Please note that the use of toothpicks is not recommended, as they can damage the enamel layer of the teeth. Inter-dental brushes are a fantastic alternative!

If you’d like to know more about dental hygiene (including inter-dental brushing), please contact us.

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