Flossing is the most neglected preventative measure available to people, yet it is one of the most important in your regime. Floss gets where the toothbrush cannot reach: in the warm, dark, moist spaces between the teeth where bacteria thrive.
Floss is merely a cord which helps loosen and dislodge the bacteria and food debris from between the teeth. It also acts to increase the blood circulation to the gum tissues, allowing natural healing agents to arrive at the scene of infection.
Dr. Moore recommends that you practice flossing once a day. The ideal time is at night just before you go to bed, as this is when your mouth tends to dry out and be most susceptible to bacteria. However, anytime of the day is better than never!
Dental floss comes in a range of thicknesses, materials, colors and even flavors. As a general rule, the thinner the floss, the more easily it will glide through the tooth contacts. Wax is added to some flosses to aid in passing tight contacts. Also available are teflon tapes and super-flosses for flossing under bridges. There are even mechanical flossers which do most of the work for you. Visit any drug store to see the vast array of tools available to you.
As mentioned, electric or mechanical flossers are available if you do not have the dexterity, finger movement, patience, or tolerance for fingers in their mouths. Alternatively, you can try tying the floss into a tiny loop on either end, making it easier to grasp and control the floss with your fingers.
Try to do the following:
While there are alternatives to flossing, they do not come close to being as effective in controlling the effects of plaque. However, there are some people who need a “something is better than nothing” alternative.
The water pick, or irrigator, can be used to debride the tooth of large particles of food and plaque. A water pick uses powerful bursts of water to remove food particles and other debris in hard-to-reach areas of your mouth. Studies have shown that consistent water pick use can decrease gum tissue irritation and inflammation, but does not actually reduce the amount of bacteria present. It is therefore better as an adjunct to flossing than as a replacement. It can be ideal for someone with braces where food can get caught in the brace mechanism.
Antibacterial rinses (over-the-counter and by prescription) are somewhat effective. Despite claims that Listerine is as good as flossing, there is no substantiated scientific evidence to support that claim. Listerine has been shown to be bacteriocidal (bacteria killing) but it has limited effect on plaque build-up.