If we were to play word association with the term "oral hygiene," you would probably answer "brushing your teeth." And you'd be right - brushing cleans the surface of the teeth of accumulated bacterial plaque, the thin biofilm most responsible for dental disease.
But brushing is only half of the oral hygiene equation: you also need to remove plaque between teeth where brushing can't reach. And that requires another practice - brushing and flossing.
Unfortunately, brushing is more popular than its hygiene counterpart because many people find traditional flossing more difficult and messy than brushing. Because of this, it can be tempting to stop flossing, but then you only get half the benefits of oral hygiene in terms of reducing the risk of tooth decay or gum disease.
However, there is a way to floss without using a spool of floss: oral irrigation . This form of flossing uses a countertop device that directs a pressurized jet of water between your teeth through a hand-held wand. The directional spray loosens and then rinses away accumulated plaque.
(also known as water flosser
s ) have been an important tool in dental offices for decades and have been available for home use since the 1960s. In the past few years, however, the devices have become more compact and easier to use. More importantly, studies have shown that they are just as effective at removing plaque as regular dental floss.
Oral irrigators can make brushing your teeth easier
These irrigators are especially helpful for people who wear suspenders. Attached braces and wire make it extremely difficult to move the floss between your teeth. Because of this (as well as similar difficulties in brushing), patients are more susceptible to dental disease during orthodontic treatment.
But a 2008 study found that oral irrigator
s are quite effective for those who wear braces in removing interdental plaque. It found that those who used an irrigator after brushing removed five times more plaque than those who brushed only with a brush.
Even if you don't wear braces, you can still find an oral irrigator
as a helpful alternative to brushing and flossing. Talk to your dentist to find out what to look for in a mouth irrigator and learn how to use it. It can have a positive impact on your dental health.
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