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Effective cleaning is achieved with an effective form of inter-dental cleaning between the teeth. Normal healthy gum tissue fill the space under the contact points of adjacent teeth. This gum tissue protects the area between teeth. If the teeth are displaced or rotated the gum seal could be broken and disease introduced under this gum.

The slightly wider gum area between back teeth is particularly prone to disease. Many people never clean these areas of the gum with either floss or inter-dental brushes. The result is periodontal disease which causes loss of the bone designed to support the teeth.

Brushing alone only cleans about 60% of the surface of your teeth, so it is important that you also clean between your teeth every time you brush. Flossing is necessary for people who have tight contacts between their teeth since such contacts trap food and it is difficult to clean. Flossing should be done before brushing.

Dental floss is either a bundle of thin nylon filaments or a plastic ( teflon or polyethylene) ribbon used to remove food and dental plaque from teeth. The floss is gently inserted between the teeth and scraped along the teeth sides, especially close to the gums. Dental floss may be flavored or unflavored and waxed or unwaxed. The waxed and flavoured varieties of flossing thread are easier to use and give a greater feeling of freshness.

Advantages of flossing

Proper flossing removes plaque and food particles in places where a toothbrush cannot reach- under the gum-line and between the teeth. Daily flossing is recommended because plaque build-up can lead to tooth decay and gum disease . It stimulates gums, polishes tooth surfaces, reduces gum bleeding and prevents gum disease.

Flossing technique

  • Start with about 18 inches of floss, wind most of the floss around each middle finger, leaving an inch or two of floss to work with.
  • Hold the floss tautly between your thumbs and index fingers, slide it gently up-and- down between your teeth.
  • Gently curve the floss around the base of each tooth using a seesaw motion, making sure you go beneath the gum-line. Never snap or force the floss, as this may cut or bruise delicate gum tissue.
  • Curve the floss around the side of one tooth, forming a 'C' shape and rub the floss up and down to clean the tooth. Repeat the procedure in the opposite direction i.e. on the adjacent tooth.
  • Use clean sections of floss as you move from tooth to tooth.
  • To remove the floss, use the same back-and-forth motion to bring the floss up and away from the teeth.
  • Floss holders are also available and can be used in the difficult to reach areas.

History of floss

Levi Spear Parmly, a dentist from New Orleans is credited with inventing the first form of dental floss. He recommended that people should clean their teeth with silk floss in 1815.

Dental floss was unavailable to the consumer until the Codman and Shurtleft Company started producing human-usable unwaxed silk floss in 1882. In 1898, the Johnson & Johnson Corporation received the first patent for dental floss. Other early brands included Red Cross, Salter Sill Co. and Brunswick.

It was after the introduction of nylon floss by Dr. Charles C. Bass that flossing became popular. Nylon floss was found to be better than silk because of its greater abrasion resistance and elasticity.

Inter-dental brushes

To clean the small gaps between your teeth you can also use wood sticks or special inter- dental brushes. Inter-dental brushes are suitable for people who have spacing between their teeth. It is important to keep the under area bridges clean, as it is your natural teeth. You may trap food and plaque there. Floss threaders may help guide the floss under the bridge. Some floss has a thicker spongy centre which may also help to clean under the bridge and gum area. Special brushes are available to clean under the bridges.

There are two types of these brushes either a tufted or spiral wound brush.

  • Spiral wound brushes pass between the teeth to allow cleaning in a way that flossing cannot. To get into all those awkward areas the brush should be used from both tongue side as well as lip and cheek side.
  • Tufted interspace brushes pcannot clean between the teeth but are ideal for cleaning just below the gum edges by splaying the bristles.

Both of these brush types must be used gently as any excessive pressure may cause injury and damage the gums.

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Indian Dental Association
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