Floss has traditionally been the tool for cleaning the tooth surfaces a toothbrush can’t reach. In spite of what you may have heard , floss still has a role in obtaining and maintaining oral hygiene and oral health. It’s role can be summarised in the statement released by the British Society of Periodontology (gum disease) following the media coverage that flossing was basically a ‘waste of time’. You can read the full statement here https://www.bsperio.org.uk/news/pdf/statement–flossing-198.pdf but the key part of the statement is this –
“Daily cleaning between your teeth using special interdental brushes is essential for treating and preventing gum disease. Floss is of little value unless the spaces between your teeth are too tight for the interdental brushes to fit without hurting or causing harm.” Therefore, floss is not a waste of time – it is a viable alternative to interdental brushing where appropriate. Public Health England makes a similar recommendation.” BSP 2016
You may well ask – where is appropriate? Where the space between your teeth is too tight for interdental brushes to fit. Usually this can be seen with children and young adults with relatively healthy mouths, where the triangular bit of gum between the teeth (the interdental papilla) , fills the space.
Gums bleeding when flossing is often the first sign of gum inflammation. Bleeding is the response to plaque biofilm (sticky gel substance that forms on hard surfaces in the mouth) lying undisturbed just under the contact point between teeth, in a little dip in the gum called the interdental col. If the bacteria in the plaque biofilm mature they will irritate the gums and cause inflammation and bleeding. The important thing to do is keep flossing! Healthy gums don’t bleed! Persevere! You should see a reduction in bleeding in a couple of weeks. If your gums continue to bleed in spite of your best efforts contact your dental team for advice.
Floss is also the tool of choice for interdental cleaning if you have crowded (crooked) teeth and there is not enough space to comfortably get a interdental brush to fit. Adults and kids can floss easily and quickly with Gumchucks – without losing the circulation in the end of their fingers or even putting their hands in their mouths!Find out how here.
When to start flossing and cleaning between your teeth? As soon as teeth are in contact with one another a toothbrush won’t be able to access the in between surfaces – yes, kids should floss! They may not be great at it but encourage once a day flossing ( and/or do it for them) – either before brushing or a different time of day to develop a lifelong habit. They will thank you later on!
For the rest of us who were brought up on the idea that no one used floss this side of the Atlantic, we may need a combination of floss and/or interdental brushes! Use floss, brushes or a water flosser, for healthy gums, teeth and fresh breath it should be a daily activity.
Your dental team or Growing Smiles coach can offer individualised advice on interdental cleaning to suit your needs.
Thinking of a water flosser? At Growing Smiles we tend to have a rule of three – if you need three different tools to clean between i.e. floss and 2 brushes of different sizes, a waterflosser is worth a look.
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