With nearly 50% of the U.S. adult population having some form of gum disease, it’s only right that I join in the celebration of National Gum Care Month. However, for me, a dental health professional, gum health is of utmost importance and is celebrated daily. Many people go for dental checkups yet fail to address their gum disease. There are several reasons for this disregard, but I hope this September you’re moved to take time to address this vastly ignored epidemic.
Why Gum Care Is Important?
Caring for your gums prevents oral diseases. These oral diseases are caused by plaque that is not remove from your mouth. Lack of regular dental hygiene care can cause periodontal disease or gum disease.
There are two times of gum disease gingivitis and periodontitis, which are caused by plaque bacterial infection in your gums. Gingivitis is the mild form of the disease of bleeding and sore gums. However, when left untreated, it advances into periodontitis, which is the deterioration of the foundation or bone that supports your teeth.
Periodontitis is the main reason for tooth loss in adults. So, yeah, preventing gum disease via adequate gum care increases your chance of having your teeth for a lifetime. It also helps prevent you from having other chronic systemic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.
Healthy Gum Without Floss???
Yes, there are other ways to achieve optimal gum health that do not include flossing. I’m sure you hear all the time “floss between your teeth every day.” I can envision the eye rolls and heavy sighs because I get them all the time. Let me tell you this, the pesky string dental floss is not the big man in these interdental cleaning aid streets. There are other effective methods for cleaning in between your teeth. Here are MY top recommendations that aren’t dental floss.
Interdental brushes help remove plaque and food from the sides and between the teeth. These mini brushes come in many shapes and sizes. The diversity in the size allows for cleaning between teeth no matter how big or small the space is. The bristles of the brush are usually shaped like a mascara wand and attached to a handle that can be like a toothbrush handle or shorter. The bristles are either on a straight or flexible wire. Some brushes are one-time use and others are reusable. Interdental brushes can also be used to clean around bridges, crowns, implants, orthodontics, and other dental appliances.
An oral irrigator or water flosser is a handheld device that sprays water using a combined mechanism of pulsation and pressure to clean between and around teeth. This pressure manipulates the gums flushing away plaque and bacteria from around and under the gums. This is perfect for those who lack fine motor skills in their hands or those who have lost dexterity. There are many options to choose from when selecting an irrigator. Options range from cordless, countertop, battery-operated, rechargeable, electric, and combination flosser and sonic brush. Some are even waterproof and can be used while in the shower. This is my recommendation whenever someone says they “don’t have time or forget” to clean between their teeth. There are varying types of tips that can be used to clean for gum health. These tips range from classic jet tips to orthodontic tips to periodontal tips. I recommend consulting with your dental health care provider to determine which tip works best for your oral health care needs. This will help in deciding which irrigator to purchase because not all irrigators are equipped with various tips. Water flossers are a great adjunct for cleaning bridges, crowns, implants, orthodontics, and other dental appliances.
Knowledge Is Power
In my years of practice, I’ve learned that my patients can’t properly care for their oral cavity if they don’t have the education as to why it’s important and how they can reach optimal health. My hope is that because I’ve provided some education on alternative interdental cleaning aids you will be more motivated to clean between your teeth. By knowing that there are other options, you will be moved to learn what is the best fit for you and your dental health needs.
I know that shopping for oral hygiene products can be confusing because the aisles at the stores are congested with so many options. I would suggest contacting your dental health professional and asking what they recommend as an alternative to dental floss. Based on your oral health history they can help you best.
Interdental aids are not one-size-fits-all. No single interdental cleaning aid works best for everyone. Choosing the right cleaning aid is based on the size of the space between the teeth, the person’s acceptability of the interdental cleaning aid, a person’s dexterity, and the individual’s motivation to improve their gum health through interdental cleaning.
I’ve listed a few suggestions for you to consider in your quest of kicking dental floss to the curb.