September is National Oral Health Month
Following on from the international news reports last year that flossing is no longer necessary, should you still clean in-between? According to local dental professionals – absolutely! Says Stella Lamprecht, President of the Oral Hygienists’ Association of South Africa, “We can honestly say you only have to floss those teeth that you would like to keep. There are a lot of conflicting messages out there, but as oral hygienists, we recommend that you floss.”
The South African Dental Association (SADA) shares a similar view, “It is essential to floss or to use interdental brushes,” says Dr Nosipho Mzobe, SADA’s Head of Education. “The aim is to minimise the bacteria and micro-organisms that build up in the mouth causing tooth decay and disease. Brushing alone cannot remove it all, particularly in-between the teeth.”
Each tooth has five surfaces and brushing can reach only three. The other two surfaces are usually in close contact, allowing food debris and bacteria to get stuck and build up, above and below the gums. If this is not removed properly it will irritate the gums and eventually cause disease.
Although daily flossing or interdental cleaning is recommended, less than a third of South Africans floss on the recommended daily basis. Many people cite a lack of time or finding floss difficult to use. “It’s important to use floss correctly, otherwise you it may be ineffective or even damaging,” says Dr Mzobe. “Ask your oral hygienist or dentist to show you the correct method.”
“Cleaning in-between can be quick and easy if you have the right tools and know how,” says Ivohealth’s oral hygiene advisor Dirna Grobbelaar. She recommends using traditional string floss or a special tool. “Interdental brushes are excellent at cleaning bigger gaps, around braces, bridges or crowns. Floss on handle, like disposable GUM Easy Flossers are great for children or people with limited dexterity. If budget allows, consider power options like the Panasonic Oral Irrigator or the Sonicare AirFloss which jets a microburst of air and water between the teeth. Any of these tools can be effective; the main thing is to find a floss or tool that suits you, your mouth and your lifestyle,” says Grobbelaar.
How to ‘floss like a boss’ for a clean, fresh, healthy mouth:
- Take about 30cm of floss
- Wind the floss around your middle fingers
- Hold it floss between thumbs and index fingers
- Slide the floss in-between teeth using a gentle back-and-forth sawing action
- Fold floss around the side of a tooth in a C-shape
- Slide the floss up and down, against tooth and just under the gum line
- Repeat on the neighbouring tooth
- Pull out and repeat using a clean section of the floss
Watch the 30 second ‘how to floss’ videos, for people with normal teeth, implants and braces. There’s even a video on ‘alternatives to floss’.
Says Cape Town oral hygienist Elna van der Ham, “A clean tooth cannot be diseased. Discarding the use of dental floss would be irresponsible to say the least.”