Floss for healthier teeth and gums. By Joyce Teo

Make flossing part of your habit

Photo: Milan Markovic / www.123rf.com

The daily flossing of your teeth helps to keep them healthy. Despite recent reports that there is a lack of strong evidence showing that flossing can prevent cavities or severe gum disease, dental specialists in Singapore maintain that flossing is important for oral hygiene.

“Flossing helps to get rid of plaque and food debris trapped between teeth,” said Dr Helena Lee, a periodontist from Specialist Dental Group. “These cannot be removed by brushing, which works well only on exposed tooth surfaces. If flossing is not done and plaque accumulates, it would lead to gum disease and tooth decay.”

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Flossing is the use of dental floss or thread to clean between the teeth. Dr Lee said that, after 23 years of being a dentist, she is convinced of its benefits. Gum disease, for instance, occurs when the tissues that support your teeth become infected. It does not occur overnight, but progresses through various stages.

Bleeding gums is an early symptom that is often dismissed, said Dr Lee. “If left untreated, it may lead to gum disease.” This is when the infection destroys the bone that supports the teeth. The teeth will become loose and will have to be extracted, said Dr Jerry Lim of Orchard Scotts Dental.

These are some tools for flossing:

STRING FLOSS

Dr Lim: String floss products in the market are either waxed or unwaxed. When the space between teeth is tight, a waxed floss would help. Dr Lee: Unwaxed floss does not have a coating and is thinner than waxed floss. It makes a squeaking sound when used. Some people prefer unwaxed floss as it does not leave wax remnants on the teeth. Waxed floss can easily slide between the teeth. There are many different brands. The choice can be made based on factors such as the shape of your teeth or crowding in the mouth. Ask your dentist to advise what is best for you.

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DENTAL TAPE

Dr Lee: This is also known as wide floss and is recommended for people whose interdental gaps are wider than average . 

INTERDENTAL BRUSHES

Dr Lee: These are small brushes used to clean large interdental gaps. These gaps are usually the result of periodontal disease, where bone loss has occurred. These brushes are useful for those undergoing orthodontic treatment, as they can be used to clean the teeth between the brackets. Those with larger hands may find such brushes useful too.

TOOTHPICK

Dr Lim: A toothpick would work if the gap between the teeth is big. But if the gap is small, it is very difficult to use one to remove food that is stuck between the teeth. In fact, a toothpick might make it worse as it will push the gum and enlarge the space between the teeth.

ELECTRIC FLOSSING TOOLS

Dr Lim: The new alternatives to traditional string flossing products are the Airfloss and the Waterpik. The Airfloss uses powerful bursts of air to remove food debris that is stuck between your teeth, while the Waterpik uses a continuous stream of water to do so. However, these tools are not superior to manual flossing with string floss. Sliding the floss up and down the side of the teeth removes plaque much more effectively.

MOUTHWASH

Dr Lim: At the moment, the use of mouthwash cannot replace flossing as bacterial plaque can only be removed mechanically. Mouthwash helps to reduce the plaque but it does not remove the bacterial plaque effectively.

NEXT: HOW TO FLOSS PROPERLY

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