When it comes to oral hygiene, one of the areas that are most overlooked is the health and condition of our gums. Our gums play an integral role in the stability of our teeth, protecting the root from decay and damage and supporting the teeth in the sockets so that they remain strong and functional. Unfortunately, our gums are just as likely to be affected by problems as our teeth are. One of the key consequences of failing to look after our oral hygiene is gum disease.
All of our teeth are individual, usually coming through one or two at a time. Even if your teeth are perfectly aligned – something which is rare – there are still microscopic gaps that form between them. These crevices are ideal spaces for bacteria and food debris to hide, and when the two come into contact with one another, they produce plaque. Plaque is a clear, sticky film that constantly forms on our teeth. When we brush using a toothbrush, we clear most of the plaque away. But since the gaps between teeth are often too small for toothbrushes to access, plaque here can be left untouched. Over time, it can harden into tartar, which can only be removed by your dentist using special tools, as well as a spread onto the gums, causing the onset of gum disease.
Signs of gum disease
Gum disease is a progressive condition that begins when the bacteria found in sticky plaque spreads onto the soft tissue of the gums. The bacteria cause irritation and infection, triggering a range of symptoms. Gum disease is usually mild, to begin with, causing red, swollen, and sometimes bleeding gums. However, if it is allowed to progress, it can cause gum recession, painful ulcers, deterioration of the jawbone, and even tooth loss.
Fortunately, floss can get into the space to remove food and bacteria, before plaque can cause damage to your teeth and gums.
What is flossing?
Flossing is the name given to an important but often overlooked part of a dental hygiene routine. Traditionally, it involves passing a special dental string or tape between the teeth to remove the plaque, food, and bacteria. This should ideally be done every day before bed so that the plaque doesn’t have the opportunity to damage your oral health while you sleep.
Options for flossing
Unfortunately, many people find using conventional floss tape/string quite tricky to master, especially if they have any medical issues affecting their hands or their coordination. Recognizing this, manufacturers have now created a range of alternative flossing devices, meaning that patients can still benefit from cleaner, healthier gums without having to resort to traditional flossing tape. Some of the newer flossing solutions include:
Interdental brushes. These tiny handheld devices are like miniature toothbrushes. They have very fine bristles at one end, which are small enough to be able to get into the tiny crevices between the teeth and remove plaque that may have accumulated there.
Floss picks. Floss picks are also a handheld device, with a piece of floss string being pulled tightly between two points to provide the tension. Using the handle, patients can maneuver the floss pick between the teeth to remove food debris and plaque.
Water flossers. Also known as oral irrigators, these clever devices don’t use string or brushes at all. Instead, they use high-powered jets of water to dislodge food particles, bacteria, and plaque to keep the area between your teeth clean and healthy.
Flossing regularly can help to reduce and even eliminate the effects of early-stage gum disease before it has serious consequences for your oral health. To find out more, or to schedule an appointment, please contact our dental team.