You know you’re supposed to floss each day, but have you ever thought about why it matters so much?
Your toothbrush alone isn’t enough. It’s great for cleaning large surface areas of your teeth, but no matter how fancy, it can’t completely clean between them or reach below the gum line. Disease-causing bacteria and other microbes remain, free to proliferate. And proliferate, they do.
Brushing without flossing is like taking a shower but washing only your legs, arms, and torso, and leaving the rest of you like…well, someone you wouldn’t exactly want to sit next to on a plane or bus.
And as research continues to show, interdental cleaning – cleaning between your teeth – is a real difference-maker when it comes to preventing gum disease (and quite possibly reducing your risk of developing other systemic health problems that have been linked to gum disease).
But there are lots of ways to clean between your teeth, not just flossing. There are interproximal (proxy) brushes, soft picks, wooden sticks, oral irrigators, and more. Is any one better than the others?
That’s one thing a new Cochrane review tried to find out, along with the effectiveness of interdental cleaning vs. toothbrushing alone.
The research team focused on a set of 35 randomized clinical trials they selected, which all together involved nearly 4000 adult patients. While the certainty of the evidence was less than ideal, it did show real benefits to interdental cleaning.
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.
Not sure how to use one? Here’s a quick lesson:
Ultimately, though, the best device for you to use is the one that you’ll use consistently.
Even better? Use a variety of tools – oral irrigation and soft picks, for instance, or flossing and proxy brushes. It doesn’t add a ton of time to your cleaning routine, while helping ensure healthy teeth and gums alike.
And a bonus tip: Clean between your teeth before you brush them, and you may just remove more plaque than you would by brushing first.
Image by Stan Zurek