For people with extremely tight spaces between their teeth, have braces or implants or are just pressed for time, flossing is a chore they avoid. While there are alternatives to normal dental floss such as thinner, waxed floss and interdental (between-the-teeth) cleaners, many people find it too time-consuming and don’t use the right technique, so they’re not thoroughly cleaning their teeth and gums. Thankfully, oral irrigators offer a different way of cleaning the spaces between teeth and along the gum line that’s easy, fast, and safe.
Importance of between teeth cleaning
Great oral health depends on cleaning between your teeth every single day. Brushing twice a day is important, but without some flossing, you’re not removing the plaque that builds up between teeth and along the gumline. This plaque can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. Flossing is the best way to remove this plaque, but if you’re unable to floss effectively, your mouth can benefit from oral irrigation, which is a different method of interdental cleaning.
Oral irrigation explained
Oral irrigators, also called water flossers, have been available for use in the home since the early 1960’s and work by delivering water into the mouth in a high pressure, pulsating stream. The device is usually about the size of a power toothbrush, and the “wand” part of it has a special tip that delivers the water directly to between the teeth and gums, flushing out material. These water flossers sometimes come with different tips to address various dental issues and can work well for people with implants and braces who find flossing difficult.
Studies have shown that oral irrigators can be very effective at controlling plaque, especially for people who have difficulty maintaining good oral hygiene. People with traditional braces don’t like flossing because it’s hard to do with all the hardware, but this is unwise because it’s very easy for those wires and brackets to accumulate food debris and bacteria that brushing alone can’t remove. In 2008, a study showed that patients who used a water flosser with a special orthodontic tip after brushing removed five times the amount of plaque as brushing alone. That’s great news for people with braces and those who can’t/don’t want to floss.
Oral irrigation and gum disease prevention/control
Dentists sometimes use oral irrigators in the office as an aid in treating gum disease because patients with gum disease can have detachment between their teeth and gum tissue caused by inflammation from harmful bacteria. This loss of attachment leads to gum “pockets” between the teeth and gums that collect concentrated biofilm, and this plaque accumulates on tooth root surfaces. This accumulation causes inflammation and possible infection, and without removal in time, it can lead to the deterioration of tooth-supporting bone. Such serious cases of periodontal disease can cause loose teeth or even tooth loss, which is why proper brushing and flossing is so important.
The first step in treating even the mildest form of gum disease called gingivitis is great oral hygiene practices combined with regular dental exams and thorough professional cleanings. If the gum disease has progressed to periodontitis, deep cleaning called root planing might be required. During the deep cleaning, some dental offices use ultrasonic devices or oral irrigators (sometimes with prescription antimicrobial medication) to flush out the gum pockets and remove debris and bacteria during and after the procedure. To maintain the results of the deep cleaning, proper oral hygiene practices including brushing and a flossing method are essential. Oral irrigators used at home after deep cleaning can help with this maintenance.
If you’re having trouble flossing properly and need help, ask your dentist about effective ways to clean between your teeth and at the gumline. A dental hygienist can show you proper flossing techniques and use of oral irrigation to ensure the best results.
At Chianese Dental, we’re happy to offer oral irrigation options including the Philips Sonicare AirFloss. Contact us today to find out more.