Dental Hygienist Amy O’Brien explains the importance of interdental cleaning, especially in these unprecedented times.
What is the importance of Interdental Cleaning?
Did you know there are 800 different species of bacteria present in your mouth? These species consist of both good and bad bacteria which are partly responsible for causing dental decay, gum disease and bad breath.
During this current global pandemic, we have been all made aware of the importance of reducing the risks of disease and ways in which we can improve our health. Dental treatment in the U.K. has, unfortunately, come to a grinding halt. At present dental practices cannot offer face to face treatment patients may need, especially in emergency situations. By improving day to day teeth cleaning, you can reduce the risk of developing dental decay and help to avoid dental infections which can lead to pain and swelling.
As the mouth is the entrance to the rest of your body, we need to reduce the number of bacteria in our mouths to protect other bodily systems. This helps keep our immune system working in order to keep us healthy. One disease of the mouth that can cause other issues in the body is periodontal disease. There is even evidence linking this to other systemic disease such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Did you know brushing alone will only clean 60% of your teeth? Therefore cleaning in between the teeth (interdental cleaning) should also be in everyone’s daily routine. Interdental cleaning helps to remove the bacteria regular brushing does not remove, to prevent gum inflammation and dental decay. Once the bacterial biofilm has been disturbed it will take 24 hours to return. In patients with gum disease, interdental cleaning is vital as we tend to most commonly see areas of gum disease in between teeth. Leaving bacteria in between your teeth can result in loss of gum support, recession, and loss of bone around your teeth. These are all key supporting tissues which keep your teeth in place. Once bone loss occurs, it cannot be recovered, and teeth can become mobile which in turn can lead to infections and loss of teeth.
Interdental cleaning is a vital part of your daily oral hygiene routine. There are many interdental aids currently on the market and it can be very confusing on what to use and how to use it. Ideally in larger interdental areas an interdental brush is the most effective aid. I highly recommend Tepe interdental brushes. They come in several sizes to fit different sized gaps, and many of you who have regular hygienist visits will already be familiar with them as they are our interdental weapon of choice!!
For the tighter interdental areas, often around the front of your mouth, floss or tape can be used if interdental brushes will not fit. Again, there are several different types of floss on the market. I recommend using tape over floss as its easier to use and tends to be more robust.
Choosing the correct size of interdental brush
It is important to choose an interdental brush that fills the interdental space correctly. It should fit the space tightly and therefore more than one brush size if often required. If you are unsure of what size to use, you can purchase a mixed bag to find a suitable size or ask your dentist or hygienist for advice.
Interdental brush technique:
- Choose the correct size brush
- Insert gently
- Move brush back and forth in each space
- As the inflammation reduces in the Interdental area you will need to move up the sizes of brushes
- Change the brush when the filaments become worn.
- Starting with about 18 inches of floss, wind most of the floss around each middle finger, leaving an inch or two of floss to work with.
- Holding the floss taut between your thumbs and index fingers, slide it gently up and down in between your teeth
- Gently curve the floss around the base of each tooth, making sure you go beneath the gum line. Do not use a sawing action as this can cut or bruise your gum and wear a hole in your tooth. Always use a scooping action.
- Use a clean section of floss as you move from tooth to tooth
If you find using floss/tape difficult I would advise trying a floss pick. Oral B glide floss picks are my top recommendation.
A common concern I often hear from my patients is that their gums bleed and feel sore when using interdental brushes or floss. This is perfectly normal for the first 7-10 days. It is caused by inflammation, your bodies method of fighting the accumulation of this unhealthy bacteria by sending white blood cells to the area. After the first few days of interdental cleaning this bleeding will reduce.
Where can I purchase Interdental aids?
Interdental aids can be purchased online from Amazon, Boots or other major retailers. High street pharmacies and supermarkets sell a range of interdental aids; however, they cannot sell the whole range of Tepe’s due to stock limitations.