The Alternatives to Flossing
Flossing your teeth daily is among the most accepted recommendations in public health. Floss each day and you reduce the risk of cavities and gum disease. Dental organizations, government health bodies not to mention floss manufacturers have promoted the practice for many years.
But does it actually work?
It may surprise many of you to learn that there is very little evidence that it does.
A recent Associated Press investigation might have thrown a spanner into the works. In 2015, journalists from the AP had the audacity to ask for evidence that flossing actually works.
This prompted the US government to concede there was no scientific proof of its benefits and led to them quietly dropping the recommendation. Organizations in other countries including the National Health Service in the UK are now reviewing their own public guidelines.
The NHS website currently claims that flossing daily helps protect against gum disease by removing pieces of food and getting rid of plaque between the teeth. However, leading British dentists including Birmingham University’s Damien Walmsley admit the evidence is weak.
Professor Walmsley who also acts as the British dental Association’s scientific adviser stated that the expense and time necessary to complete reliable studies were prohibitive. This means that we have no definitive evidence whether or nor flossing is as effective as the claims have consistently made it out to be.
The Associated Press delved into the body of research conducted during the past ten years. The evidence in favor of flossing published in as many as 25 research articles turned out to have many weaknesses. They were found to be weak, unreliable and of low quality with a significant potential towards bias.
In a recent statement, the American Academy of Periodontology conceded that the majority of available current evidence was not satisfactory because it included insufficient participants and lacked the time necessary to evaluate the long term benefits of flossing.
These revelations that flossing may not be as effective as we were taught to believe may come as a surprise to the general public but have long been recognized by some experts.
Despite the lack of evidence, many dentists still believe that flossing is an effective way to prevent gum disease and protect against cavities. They point out that periodontal disease is very slow to develop and may not be apparent for up to 10 or 20 years.
Because of the time it takes for full blown periodontitis to develop, you may well be taking a major risk by not flossing each day.
It is also possible that we are not the best flossers. Even people who floss each day are highly likely to be doing it poorly. The aim of flossing should be to get right beneath the gum line hugging the neck of your teeth but many people are likely to be far less zealous in their technique.
Given that studies on the effectiveness of flossing are so unreliable, adding another factor like the technique involved may prove to be an insurmountable hurdle for researchers. It is apparent is that we do not know enough about the effects of flossing to make a firm recommendation either way.
What are the Alternatives to flossing?
There are several possible alternatives to flossing but like traditional flossing, there is not enough evidence to verify how well they work in the long term.
Water flossing, air flossing and small interdental brushes are all possible alternatives for getting rid of the food particles and making sure that your teeth stay healthy and free of plaque.
1. Interdental Brushes
These thin cone shaped brushes are a good alternative to dental floss. They come in various sizes designed to fit easily between your teeth so long as there is enough space.
The bristles on the small head connect to a wire which is attached to the handle helping you clean gently between the teeth.
The brush is designed to glide smoothly without being forced between the teeth. They are easy enough to use and work much like a regular toothbrush.
They need to be rinsed out following use and the bristles should be replaced as and when they wear out.
Unfortunately, even the smallest brushes don’t fit between everybody’s teeth meaning they have to go for another option.
- Interdental brushes are especially useful if you have large spaces between the teeth.
- They are easy to maneuver making them handy for people with dental bridges, braces and dentures.
- They are very easy to use and you only need one hand unlike regular dental floss.
- Interdental brushes are pricier than dental floss.
- They have to be lubricated prior to use which adds a little mire effort and expense.
- The central wire can damage your gums if you clean with it too vigorously.
- After its fist use, the brush is never entirely sterile.
2. Water Pick
A water pick which is also known as a dental water jet is a machine that employs a powerful stream of pulsating water to flush plaque and bacteria out of the teeth.
The device consists of a pump, a tank and a handle with a water release button. The flow of the stream can be accurately directed with the tip of the device.
- Water picks are a gentler way to clean your teeth.
- They are more effective than floss at reducing gum irritation and bleeding.
- They can effectively remove plaque and reduce the risk of gum disease.
- They are a good option for people with sensitive or diseased gums.
- Water picks are considerably more expensive than floss.
- The tips need to be replaced every few months.
- They can be cumbersome and messy especially when you are learning to use them.
- If the water pressure is too high, it can actually force food particles deeper into the tissue.
3. Air Flossing
The Airfloss is a device recently developed by Phillips which works in a similar way to the water pick except it uses air pressure rather than a water stream.
The compressed air pushes tiny droplets of water between the teeth and reaches areas that traditional floss cannot manage.
- The airfloss is a great option for people with dental bridges, dentures or braces.
- It provides a relatively gentle option compared with floss.
- It is the easiest way to get right in between the teeth especially for those that find flossing a chore.
- It is actually fun to use and even your reluctant children may enjoy it.
- It is not as messy as the water pick.
- They are expensive especially when compared to regular floss.
- They may not be as effective when it comes to cleaning the gum pockets as the water pick.
- They are not great at removing large pieces of food stuck between your teeth.
Whether or not you choose to continue flossing or plan to try out a different method of cleaning your teeth will depend on a variety of factors. All of the potential alternatives to regular flossing have their pros and cons.
We hope that this article has helped you to make a decision. If you have a favorite method and would like to share it, we would love to hear from you. Recent review has shown the benefits of Flossing are overstated. Flossing Alternatives include: Water pik, Air Flossing and Interdental Brushes.