Don’t like to floss? We get it. But you still need to clean between your teeth and along your gum line. Even the highest tech toothbrush can’t reach those areas effectively.
And because those areas are less accessible, pathogens can really thrive there. As they do, pockets around the teeth grow deeper, offering even more space for harmful bacteria to proliferate. Gum disease is a progressive disease.
The good news? Floss is hardly your only option for cleaning. In fact, a recent study of studies found that among all tools designed for cleaning between the teeth, floss and toothpicks ranked last.
What ranked first? Oral irrigators like Waterpik and interdental brushes, also known as interproximal or proxy brushes. This echoes earlier research, which showed not only that proxy brushes were better than floss for removing plaque; they also reduced the depth of periodontal pockets.
But all proxy brushes may not necessarily be created equal.
A recent study compared standard brushes to brushes with rubber bristles, sometimes referred to as “soft picks.” Forty-two adults participated. All were systemically healthy and weren’t currently using interdental brushes.
Each had their teeth cleaned and was taught how to use their randomly assigned brush, standard or rubber bristled. They were also told not to brush their lower teeth for three weeks, so the researchers could look at differences between the two arches.
For four weeks after that, patients brushed daily with both a regular toothbrush and their assigned interdental brush. Then they each had a dental exam.
Overall, the researchers found no significant difference between the brushes when it came to plaque control and bleeding upon probing. (If gums bleed when probed – or when you brush or floss, for that matter – it’s a sign of disease.) Both worked well.
But there was less gingival abrasion with the rubber bristled brush. Patients also liked it more, finding it more pleasurable, and perhaps easier, to use.
For these brushes tend to be much more flexible than standard proxy brushes. This makes them easier to move along the sides of the teeth and along the gum line, encouraging more thorough cleaning.
They may also be more hygienic, since they’re intended for single use. There’s less likelihood of reintroducing pathogens from a multi-use brush. Of course, single-use isn’t exactly the most environmentally friendly option. If that’s a concern for you, going with an oral irrigator may be the better choice.
The main thing is to use something to clean between your teeth safely and regularly. Not only do you help keep gum disease at bay but also may lower your risk of all the chronic systemic health problems that science has linked to it – heart disease, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and more.
Top image by Clairemeaker