Is It the Floss Itself that Makes So Many People Not Want To?

In case there was any question that Americans don’t like to floss, yet another study has come along that highlights the reluctance many feel about this necessary part of good oral hygiene.

To test patients’ flossing motivation and compliance, [registered dental hygienist Avie] Smith and colleagues enrolled 49 participants in their study. The participants used either regular floss or soft picks for 28 days. At the end of the study, 19 of the participants were interviewed about their behaviors and motivators.

Most participants said they lacked the motivation for interdental cleaning, a finding that will likely surprise no dental professionals. Patients most often cited lack of time, no tangible or immediate rewards, and lack of knowledge as barriers to interdental cleaning.

The study was presented at a recent meeting of the American Association of Dental Research.

dental flossWe’ve blogged before about the importance of cleaning between your teeth (here and here, for instance). After all, if you’re only brushing, you’re leaving plaque on a third or more of your total tooth surfaces.

And there are consequences beyond it just being a little, well, gross. Poor hygiene paves the way not just for tooth decay but gum disease. The latter has been linked to an ever-growing number of other inflammatory conditions, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, kidney disease, Alzheimer’s, and some cancers.

But here’s an interesting thing about this new study: The patients who used soft picks – small brushes for cleaning between teeth – were more likely to keep up with interdental cleaning than those who were told to use floss.

Soft picks were also significantly easier to use, more efficient, more convenient, and easier to hold, according to the study findings.

In fact, research has consistently shown that tools other than floss may be just as or even more effective for cleaning between the teeth and supporting good gum health.

cleaning teeth with proxy brushSoft picks or interproximal (“proxy”) brushes are one option. You can use them alone or dip them periodically in ozonated oil, coconut oil, or an herbal rinse such as Tooth and Gum Tonic to help control harmful microbes.

Another option is a Perio-Aid: a plastic handle that securely holds a toothpick tip at an optimal angle, making it easy to scrape debris and plaque from the sides of each tooth and along the gum line.

Dental floss picks offer yet another alternative. These are Y-shaped handles with floss strung across. Many find these much easier to handle than floss wrapped around their fingers. There are even battery-powered picks you can use to massage your gums while you’re cleaning between your teeth.

Oral irrigators such as Waterpik units can be quite effective for cleaning between your teeth, massaging your gums, and flushing periodontal pockets. (Some models come with special tips for the last task.) You can add an herbal antimicrobial tonic such as Under the Gums for extra disinfection.

Ultimately, choosing one of these options is largely a matter of personal preference – though if you have gum disease, it may be to your benefit to incorporate more than one. The main thing is making sure your home hygiene routine includes cleaning all surfaces of your teeth, not just the ones your toothbrush can reach.

Both your oral and overall health depend upon it.

Images by Stilfehler & Clairemeaker

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