To Floss or Not to Floss – that is the question!
Flossing is universally recommended as part of our oral hygiene protocol! 30-40% of our tooth surfaces are between our teeth and not accessible with just brushing alone. Food can gather at the contact point where teeth touch each other and decay can occur. Also plaque that lies under the gum margin can cause gum disease. So flossing this plaque away on a daily basis is so important for healthy teeth and gums.
Patients ask- which one is the best? The type of floss used is a personal thing and we suggest using different types and finding out which one suits you the best. Dental tape is useful if the contacts are tight because it is a little stronger. Super-floss can be used for patients with bridgework or braces.
Flossing shouldn’t hurt so avoid sawing motion on the gingiva. The aim is to slide the floss between your teeth, gently through the contact point and then very gently slide the floss over the tooth surface and under the pink gingiva until you feel resistance. If the gum bleeds even though you have been gentle then this is a sign that you have inflammation of the gums. This doesn’t mean stop flossing- it means do it more often- the inflammation will only improve if the bacteria are removed from the gingival crevice on a daily basis.
And what about mouthwash – Do they work??
I feel that mouthwashes have their uses but rinsing should never replace good oral hygiene. I give all of my orthodontic patients a bottle of fluoride mouthwash because fluoride prevents tooth decay. Anyone who is prone to tooth decay should rinse with a fluoride mouth rinse. We advise a chlorhexidine mouth rinse (eg. Corsodyl) to patients who suffer from severe acute gingivitis which is characterised by bleeding, sore, swollen gums.
Alcohol Vs Alcohol-free mouthwash
Very often the anti-bacterial component of a mouthwash that is responsible for killing bacteria is an alcohol called Propylene Glycol. Most of the mouth rinses on our pharmacy shelves have this substance which is also responsible for the stinging sensation we experience when we gargle. But does this sting mean it’s doing a good job? Alcohol is a good antibacterial agent and that’s why it is used in alcohol wipes, hand sanitizers and also mouthwash. Alcohol, however is a dessicant (drying agent ) and therefore can reduce the amount of saliva in our mouths which may pose a problem for people with an existing dry mouth complaint. Also saliva is needed to flush out bacteria and other particles so we would not recommend over use of alcohol mouthwash.
Alcohol free varieties are available and research shows equally effective.
Happy flossing and rinsing folks!!