Cleaning between your teeth, or ‘interdental’ cleaning, is just as important as brushing the tooth surfaces. However, studies have shown that around 3 out of 4 adults don’t clean between their teeth each day, placing them at an increased risk of tooth decay, gum disease and halitosis (bad breath).
Why it’s important to clean between your teeth
Bacteria and plaque collect in the small spaces and gum margins where even the most thorough brushing can’t reach. Brushing alone only reaches around 60% of tooth surfaces, leaving two sides of every tooth untouched. Over time, a buildup of food and bacteria increases the risk of a range of oral and physical health problems.
Interdental cleaning requires very small, purpose designed tools which help to clean the spaces in between the teeth and around the gum margins. You have choices about which device works best for you – some people prefer flossing, others use interdental brushes, or even a combination of both. Over this Easter break, give yourself something which is likely to last longer than a chocolate bunny – improved oral health.
5 interdental cleaning facts
The best time to clean between the teeth is before brushing. Breaking up the plaque and left-over food helps brushing to be more effective and for toothpaste to reach the gaps between teeth. Ultimately, what’s important is that you do clean between your teeth, no matter which order you choose.
The spaces between the teeth vary in size. You may need to use a combination of floss and different sized interdental brushes to fit your ‘interproximal’ spaces. String floss, interdental brushes, water flossers and flossettes can help to make the job easier. Your dental practice and most pharmacies carry a range of interdental cleaning tools.
Be gentle when you’re cleaning and don’t snap the floss or force the interdental brush into your gums or tooth spaces. Avoid using toothpicks which can damage gums.
There are benefits for children in having their teeth flossed as soon as they have two teeth in contact. You’ll need to help them until they’re around eight years of age, when your children will be old enough to learn how to do this themselves.
Cleaning between the teeth can cause bleeding gums, especially when first starting. This is a sign that brushing and interdental cleaning needs to be done more, not less. It’s also a sign that you need to book an appointment to see your dentist. Bleeding gums can be a warning sign for more complex oral health issues.
How often do I need to clean between my teeth?
Dentists generally advise brushing at least twice each day and to clean between the teeth once a day. If you can feel there is food caught between your teeth, there’s no harm in flossing more frequently. There is also no specific time of the day when interdental cleaning is recommended, though many people find it’s best for them to do this before bedtime. What’s important is that you take your time, are thorough and don’t rush.
Remember, cleaning between your teeth is just as important as brushing. Your dentist can help you to learn the right technique. Book an appointment for a dental check-up.