Flossing is one of the cornerstones of good dental hygiene. Proper use of string floss can help to remove particles of food from between the teeth and can help to clean sticky plaque buildup from the surfaces between the teeth. Without flossing, plaque buildup can lead to decay in the tight spaces between teeth and can create inflammation to the gums that lead to the onset of gingivitis or advanced gum disease.
Flossing can be difficult or unpleasant for some patients. If teeth are tightly crowded, it can be challenging to get the string floss into the spaces between teeth to properly clean away plaque, residue, and food particles. Often the floss can become caught in extremely tight teeth and shred, leaving an unpleasant sensation for the patient. Some patients hesitate to floss at all even though they understand the need for flossing and the health benefits it offers to their teeth.
For patients who experience difficulty in the use of string floss, using a water flosser to clean the spaces between the teeth may be the best solution. Sold under different names such as the trademarked WaterPik, water flossers use a high-pressure stream of water that is directed at through a narrow tube to clean between the teeth and at the gumline. Water flossers are powered by electricity and include a water reservoir that is filled, then drained, for each use.
For patients dealing with inflammation of the gums due to plaque buildup between the teeth, adding a small amount of a dentist recommended mouthwash to the reservoir is sometimes suggested. The mouthwash should have antibacterial properties to help reduce the risk of infection to the inflamed gum tissues and remineralizing properties to help strengthen the tooth enamel on the spaces between the teeth.
For the best results, patients can combine both traditional string flossing with water flossing. String floss is designed to catch and scrape away sticky plaque buildup; while water flossers are excellent at removing lodged particles between the teeth, they may have trouble with the sticky buildup that is not fully removed by the water pressure. Patients who are in the early stages of decay formation on the spaces between their teeth may find the best results in reversing decay by using both string and water flossing techniques.
If you are a patient who experiences discomfort with string flossing, ask your dentist or hygienist about the benefits of water flossing and if it would be right for your dental health.