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Cleaning Between The Teeth (or Interdental Cleaning)

  • Interdental cleaning refers to cleaning between the teeth.
  • Decay usually starts on the chewing surfaces of teeth and at the contact point between the teeth.
  • Plaque and food particles stick to the teeth in these areas.
  • The bacteria in plaque are able to convert these food particles into acids.
    • It is the major cause of tooth decay and gum disease.
    • You need to be aware of the fact that plaque is being formed continuously.
    • Plaque formation and growth cannot be stopped.
      It can only be controlled by regular daily brushing, flossing and the use of other dental aids.
      This must be accompanied by a six monthly dental scaling and polishing of the teeth.
  • There are two essential daily routines that will prevent decay and gum disease.
    They are to brush your teeth and clean between your teeth, at least twice a day.
  • Tooth brushing is necessary, but it cannot reach between the teeth.
  • Cleaning between the teeth is made possible by the use of the following:
    • Dental floss
    • Interdental brushes
    • Single tuft toothbrushes
    • Dental sticks
    • Rubber tip stimulators
    • Irrigation devices.
  • Why it is important to use dental floss.
    • Dental floss is the best way to clean the tooth surfaces between the teeth.
    • Different types of floss are available, such as regular floss, dental tape and super floss.
    • Floss is also available on a plastic holder, in the shape of a bow. It forms “the string of the bow” and it makes flossing very manageable.
  • Here are a few tips for flossing as demonstrated below:
    • Use a 12-15inch (30-40cm) length of floss.
    • Wrap the floss around your middle fingers.
    • Hold the floss between the thumb and forefinger of each hand.
    • Leave about 2 inches (5cm) of floss between the hands.
    • The floss must be taut when it is used.
    • Gently guide the floss across the contact point between the teeth.
    • When the floss is in position between the teeth, rub it up and down a few times against each tooth surface, one after the other.
    • This is then repeated for all the teeth in the mouth.
    • Be careful not to cut your gums with the floss.
    • A sharp downward thrust of the floss will damage the gum and make it bleed.
    • Your dentist will be happy to show you how to floss, and choose which floss is best for you.
    • The floss holders shown above are easy to use if you have difficulty using the conventional floss.
  • Interdental (inter-proximal) brushes
    • These are triangular shaped small brushes, like little bottlebrushes.
    • They are very useful for cleaning between the teeth.
    • They fit onto a plastic handle and are available in varying sizes.
    • Select the size of brush that is best suited to you.
    • Gently push the brush back and forth into the spaces between the teeth.
    • This interdental brush is best suited to teeth that have spaces between them, caused by gum recession.
    • Some degree of gum recession is seen in most mouths by middle age, and in those with gum disease, at any age.
  • End or single tuft toothbrushes
    • These are toothbrushes with only one tuft of bristles.
    • They are used where the normal, multi-tufted toothbrushes cannot reach.
    • These brushes are designed for brushing around crowns, bridges, displaced and rotated teeth.
  • Interdental picks or sticks
    • These are specially designed soft wooden wedges for cleaning between teeth. They can be used after meals or at any time.
    • The end of the stick should be moistened and softened in the mouth before use.
    • Gently insert the stick between the teeth, with the flat edge facing the gum.
    • Then move it in and out gently to clean the teeth and massage the gums.
    • Food trapped between the teeth can be removed with these sticks.
    • They are effective for mouths where receding gums have left spaces between teeth.
    • The sticks should only be used where there is sufficient space to allow the free movement of the stick between the teeth. Do not force them into position.
    • They should not be used if they cause any bleeding.
    • They are not suitable for children.
  • Interdental rubber tip stimulators
    • These are pointed rubber tips that are fitted to a toothbrush handle.
    • They are used to stimulate and toughen up the triangular soft gum between teeth.
    • Your dentist or periodontist will tell you if you need them.
  • Pulsating water or medicament spraying devices
    • Irrigating devices provide a steady or pulsating stream of water under pressure through a nozzle. They are especially useful in mouths with fixed bridges and for cleaning between teeth.
    • They should not be used as a substitute for toothbrushing.
    • Ask your dentist before you buy one.

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