Comment / Dr Ros Davis
Many of you would have read the recent article in The Guardian - we know because we've been asked lots of questions about it! To put it simply, the article basically says that there is no good evidence that ﬂossing is beneﬁcial, and that the US government has dropped its recommendation that people ﬂoss their teeth.
As dentists we were blown away by this article because we see the eﬀects of ﬂossing (or not ﬂossing) in our patients' mouths every day! Those who ﬂoss have fewer cavities, ﬁllings that last longer, lower rates of gum disease and visibly healthy gums. It seemed ludicrous to us that something so eﬀective was being discounted by major organisations.
After some thought, we realised perhaps the issue highlighted here is that many people don't ﬂoss properly, thus making it hard to prove that it is an eﬀective tool for keeping the mouth healthy. If you spend 20 seconds ﬂicking the ﬂoss up and down between a few teeth, you're not going to improve your oral health.
How to Floss Properly?
Think of a tooth as having 5 sides - you've got the biting surface, the side closest to your tongue, the side closest to your cheek, the side touching the tooth in front and the side touching the tooth behind. Your toothbrush can only get to 3 sides of the tooth - do you want to leave the other 2 surfaces untouched? Wouldn't that be like washing your body in the shower but forgetting to do your underarms? Here are some pictures to help you understand how to ﬂoss properly to reach those extra two sides.
If you're thinking that looks like a lot of eﬀort, you're not alone. That is what the US government knows people are thinking, and that's why they are changing their recommendations; if people aren't cleaning between their teeth properly with ﬂoss, they want to encourage people to do something easier that is just as eﬀective. Use an interdental brush! These devices which look like a small bottlebrush or pipe cleaner are designed to be poked through the gaps between teeth to dislodge the plaque hiding in there. You can use the same brush for a couple of days before you have to chuck it out and start with a new one. Unlike ﬂoss which requires a fair bit of dexterity or eﬀort, interdental brushes are so easy to use you could do it with your eyes shut.
So What's the Take-Home Message?
If you're going to take the time to do it properly, ﬂossing is a fantastic way for keeping your mouth healthy. If you don't have the time, try an interdental brush to make sure you're cleaning all 5 surfaces of each tooth!
To book an appointment at Sailors Bay Dentistry please call (02) 9958 0400.