Flossing And Everything In Between; All The Ways To Clean

In between the teeth is a perfect place for bad bacteria to grow and cause harm.

Wherever bacteria can hide out in the gums it can become destructive. The areas I find bleeding with teeth cleanings is very predictable, in between and in the inside, where people are missing with their home care. I’m fully aware flossing has been removed from the federal dietary guidelines due to the lack of research. All that tells me is there was no incentive from any interested parties to secure corporate funding for flossing research, which could be based on manufacturer’s low priority floss sales, I don’t know, but it takes money to fund research.

You can ask any hygienist, any, and they will tell you how important it is to clean in between your teeth, with the majority insisting on flossing. Hygienists know where they can find plaque!!

On the other hand, I would like to be more specific about cleaning in between your teeth, and explore if you can get away with not flossing. The decay causing bacteria, Streptococcus Mutans, predominates in the primary dentition (baby teeth) until about the age of 25.

After the age of 25, the balance of the S. Mutans decrease as the potential for periodontal disease bacteria increases. This doesn’t mean either decay or gum disease will occur as other conditions must exist, however, it’s important to know what you’re preventing at what age. Obviously, a teenager with lots of plaque can have both decay and gingivitis, the years they are least motivated in the discipline of home care, but need it the most. Needless to say, to prevent decay in kids, it’s very important to floss in between the teeth, especially if the contacts are tight. See February: National Children’s Dental Health Month

If adults are suddenly getting lots of decay in between their teeth, whether around old fillings, or brand new cavities, there could be something much more going on than the need to floss. As one gets older, prevention of gum disease is the primary emphasis. Therefore, proper flossing technique is crucial to cleaning plaque from the gums.

The problem with flossers are it’s too easy to snap them between the teeth and pop them right back out without ever getting in the gums. The same snapping in and out can happen with string floss, and it’s too bad because it’s really like not flossing at all. If a patient says they’re flossing, and it appears they are, yet there’s still lots of plaque in the gums, I know they need a demonstration on technique. My thinking is, since they already are motivated to floss, they merely need encouragement on how to shape the floss along the teeth and into the gums. You also need to be sure you don’t hurt your gums in the way of floss tears which can permanently injure them. Some people really get flossing techniques down and for those who like to floss, keep flossing!!

One thing I know for sure, some people will not floss ( sometimes for good reason) and it could be futile to give the floss lecture. I do emphasize though, how brushing alone cannot remove all the plaque, not even the best battery brush users. Instead, there are so many tooth aids which can be offered to clean in between and it only takes a short conversation to figure out what might work. Perhaps, if things change down the road, at least I’ve helped a patient to start cleaning between their teeth, so if they need to floss, it’ll be easier. It’s really important to be honest with your hygienist about your home care so they may better understand what’s needed for improvement, or on the flip side, what you’re getting away with.

Every person is different and so are our mouths, therefore, everyone maintains a healthy status quo at their own unique level. For instance, I probably only floss at the most one to two times a week and I don’t have gum disease or adult decay…….shocking huh? I can think of tons of other patients that don’t daily floss while having a healthy mouth. My secret is I’m attached to Stimudents, but it takes lots of skill and experience to use these wood sticks (they break easily), and I don’t often recommend them to patients. I must pick my teeth with Stimudents at least two to three times a day. I say, whatever you find easier to use, you will use.

All The Ways To Clean In Between

Water Flossers (Water Pick) are great if you have a lot of dental work; crowns, implants, and bridges. I’ve noticed disciplined water floss users are rare though, but I really notice healthy gums when they do use it. You have to be willing to keep the water flosser out on the counter as the minute you put it away you run the risk of not taking it back out. Better yet though, they make portable hand-held water flossers which are easier to use, like the popular Waterpik brand.

Click on image to purchase Waterpik

Wood Toothpicks are really easy to use and work great. You can simply use the Forster brand round toothpicks or you can purchase wood picks made for dental picking. I was at my sister’s house the other day and tried her Auromere neem toothpicks and absolutely loved them. Wood is friendly to the environment as well.

Plastic Picks are not my first pick because the first time I saw a plastic flosser in a parking lot I wasn’t happy. Although, they work well, and I usually recommend the brush picks because they do a better job loosening the plaque.

Click on image to purchase Soft-Picks

Proxabrushes (Interdental brushes) have been around a long time and they’re great because if you keep them clean, they’re not as quickly disposable as other picks. The problem is the proxabrush may not fit between all of your teeth so they could be more site specific, for example in the molar areas, and sometimes, because of the metal they bend easily.

Click on image to purchase Proxabrushes

Stimudents are probably the oldest interdental aide and my personal favorite, but like flossing, there’s some technique involved as the wood breaks easily. I love them because they’re tapered like your teeth and can cover more surface area than toothpicks, but they’re getting harder and harder to find.

Click on image to purchase “My favorite,” Stimudents

Don’t worry if the plaque on your picks or sticks isn’t obvious because what matters is loosening the plaque out of the gums and away from the teeth. The key is, whatever you use to clean in between your teeth, much like brushing, you must be committed to it as a daily ritual. It’s obvious to me when someone is consistent with their home care routine, it shows in the health of their gums.

*This blog contains affiliate links for products Ask My Hygienist carefully recommends based on professional experience or personal use. These suggestions are to assist you in your quest for better oral health, and in turn, you're assisting our blog with the small commission we receive from your purchase.


Author: Cari

Cari has been a practicing dental hygienist for over 30 years. She received her degree with honors and was selected for a rare internship at Eastman Dental School, Rochester, NY. She then went on to receive a BS in Social Work from Nazareth College, cum laude. She has practiced in a variety of offices in Santa Fe for almost 25 years, with dental hygiene experience that has spanned from public health to holistic private practice, to specializing in dental phobic patients. Her commitment to research with a life-long desire to learn is combined with her genuine drive to provide patients with a whole health knowledge base. Cari also brings her experience as a published writer to her role as an oral health blogger. She has written blogs and web pages for Beyond Borders Dental in her role as Director of Dental Relations and Education.

2 thoughts on “Flossing And Everything In Between; All The Ways To Clean”

    1. Really glad you got something for yourself out of cleaning in between your teeth. I always thought it was neglectful and judgmental to generically tell all patients they had to floss as we are all individuals and have different needs. I love knowing there are options and hopefully you found out about something new. Thanks for reading.

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