By Jennifer Wallace
In my line of work, I hear a lot of confessionals on a daily basis. No I’m not a priest, but a dentist! I hear over half (and that’s being generous) of my adult patients admit before I even take a look in their mouth, they hate or refuse to attempt to floss.
In addition to brushing, flossing has been the gold standard of care for preventing cavities between the teeth. It’s also an important and effective way to remove plaque and biofilm from below the gum line that causes periodontal disease. The patient’s ability to perform regular and effective self-care is important to the long-term success of therapeutic and restorative treatment and overall mouth/body well-being.
Not to stray too far off the original subject, I’d like to say that your dentist isn’t just interested in looking at the health of your teeth. There is a significant reason why the dentist also asks about your medical history, medications you may take or any other changes/concerns since your last dental checkup. It’s because of the mouth/whole body connection. Systemic “whole body” problems can be detected or worsened when bacteria forms a biofilm under the gums resulting in gum pockets that further trap bacteria and debris. That bacteria not only inflames the gums but kills cells and can invade connective tissues and blood vessels. Your body’s immune system creates white blood cells to fight this but the combination of the bacteria and those blood cells along with toxins and proteins can line the arteries.
According to The Journal of Dental Research, severe periodontal infection (gum disease and bone loss), if untreated, may increase the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke, complications of diabetes, adverse pregnancy outcomes and respiratory disease. So in essence, it’s hard to treat the mouth effectively without a healthy body’s immune system to deliver positive results.
Now that I have your attention, I understand that lots of people find flossing difficult, and some don’t really have the dexterity to do it well. I hear patients say “It is so time-consuming, and I don’t seem to be very good at it or I know I should be flossing but my teeth are too tight.”
What if I told you that I can introduce you to a way of flossing that has not only been proven as more effective than traditional string flossing in the professional journals but also in my own practice on Lady’s Island. The water flosser is significantly better than brushing alone, which most children and young adults do, or they brush along with string flossing. Additionally, research has demonstrated that patients who present with gingivitis, mild to moderate periodontitis, diabetes, and good oral hygiene can benefit from using a water flosser. A healthy pocket is 1-3 mm in depth with no bleeding. Traditional brushing and string flossing can reach 1-2 mm below the gum line. Water flossing can reach up to 6 mm!
Need the scientific proof? A study was done to compare the plaque removal efficiency of the Waterpik® Water Flosser to string floss. Seventy subjects participated in this randomized, single use, single blind, parallel clinical study and had not used any form of oral hygiene for 23-25 hours prior to their dental appointment. Patients were put in two groups: WaterFlossers or waxed string floss. Both groups were instructed to manual brush for two minutes. Group 1 used the Water Flosser with 500 ml of warm water and group 2 used waxed string floss cleaning all areas between the teeth. Subjects were observed to make sure they covered all areas and followed instructions. Scores were recorded for the whole mouth, marginal, interproximal, facial, and lingual regions for each subject. Results proved the Waterpik® Water Flosser was more effective than string floss for overall plaque removal on all surfaces of the teeth.
I would suggest you ask your dentist or dental hygienist to recommend tools that can tailor your at home hygiene regimen to not only improve your overall health but make your dental visits easier.
Jennifer Wallace, DMD, is at Palmetto Smiles of Beaufort: 843-524-7645.