Why Cleaning Between Your Teeth Matters So Much – & the Best Way to Do It

man flossing teethYou’ve been told time and again: Make sure you floss your teeth. Maybe you’ve felt a little guilt when a hygienist or dentist has asked if you floss, and you could only respond with a mumbled “no” or “once in a while.”

But we don’t ask to embarrass or shame you. It’s just that cleaning between your teeth is really, really important. A new Cochrane review of the science says why.

Researchers analyzed 35 studies involving almost 4000 patients to see the impact of interdental cleaning compared with toothbrushing alone.

Using floss or interdental brushes in addition to toothbrushing may reduce gingivitis or plaque, or both, more than toothbrushing alone. Interdental brushes may be more effective than floss.

It only makes sense. After all, if you only brush the areas your toothbrush can reach, you’re leaving a lot of biofilm (plaque) stuck to your teeth – 57% of it, according to one study.

For biofilms – colonies of harmful bacteria – thrive in hard to reach places like between your teeth and at the gumline. Not only are the conditions ideal for these microbes (dark, wet, and exposed to less oxygen), but their favorite food – sugars and other fermentable carbs – tend to stick there.

It’s everything oral pathogens need to thrive.

More surprising is that other home hygiene tools seemed to be more effective than the old standby of floss, particularly interdental brushes. A variety of styles are available, from single-use soft picks to slim, disposable brushes you set in a handpiece. You can explore some of the possibilities here.

Dr. Y’s preferred method for cleaning between teeth, though, is oral irrigation – using a Waterpik or similar device to gently jet water between your teeth and flush the pockets (sulci) between your gums and teeth.

water flosserClean, fluoride-free water alone can work wonders, but you can ramp things up even more by adding a bit of baking soda or sea salt, both of which have antimicrobial properties. And if you have a home ozone generator, you can ozonate the water for even more antibacterial punch.

Ozone is such a powerful tool in holistic and biological dentistry today, but it’s been around for quite a while. It was first put to use in 1840 for treating infections and has played a role in medicine ever since. In dentistry, we use it mainly for treating gum disease, caries (cavities), and other oral infections.

Ozone is basically supercharged oxygen. Unlike the oxygen you breathe, which consists of molecules made of two oxygen atoms, ozone has a third – and the molecule wants to lose that third atom badly in order to become more stable. That extra atom gloms on to harmful bacteria and other toxins, neutralizing them so they can be cleared by the body.

That includes the pathogens that cause gum disease and tooth decay. Research has shown that flushing periodontal pockets with ozonated water results in improved gum health, with harmful bacteria kept in check. Plaque was reduced and pockets weren’t nearly so deep by the end of the 30-day study.

Home ozone units can be found for less than $100. If you decide to invest in one, just be sure it includes features that allow you to ozonate water or other base substances (such as oils for topical use).

Whether you use ozone or not, the main thing is to keep up with your home care, regularly brushing and cleaning interdentally. You wouldn’t bathe and only wash 60% of your body, would you?

Why treat your mouth any differently?

Water flosser image by yourbestdigs.com

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