To have a healthy body, you need to have a healthy mouth. To have a healthy mouth, you need to practice good oral hygiene. That means more than just cleaning your teeth, of course. “Hygiene” includes everything you do to help keep your mouth healthy, such as eating healthfully and getting enough exercise and quality sleep. (Yep, a lack of those can mean a higher risk of gum disease. Really and truly. Science says.) Of course, cleaning matters, too, and not just brushing. In fact, brushing cleans only about 70% of the surface area of your teeth.
Now, imagine what you’d look and smell like if you were to wash only 70% of your body each day. Kind of gross, right? So why would you treat your mouth that way?
To clean your teeth completely, you need to clean interdentally, as well, between your teeth and along the gum line. Skipping that part is more than just gross. It leaves you more vulnerable to oral diseases (not to mention the systemic health problems linked with poor oral health).
According to a 2018 study in the Journal of Dental Research, the more regularly people both brushed and cleaned between their teeth, the lower their risk of decay, gum disease, and missing teeth. The more often they cleaned interdentally, the better their periodontal (gum) health.
Together, the data support the use of interdental cleaning devices as an oral hygiene behavior for promoting health.
Flossing Is One Option for Interdental Cleaning – but Not Your Only Option
Most Americans don’t do so well, though, when it comes to cleaning between their teeth. Only about one third floss daily. Nearly 15% say they never floss at all. That’s about the same number who say they’d rather clean the toilet than floss. Amazingly, 7% say they’d rather listen to a crying child or nails on a chalkboard.
Happily, dental floss isn’t your only option. Other tools have proven at least as effective – and sometimes even more effective – than traditional string floss. Interproximal, or “proxy,” brushes are one option. Another? Oral irrigators such as Waterpik devices.
Also known as water-flossers, oral irrigators do more than just remove debris and clean between your teeth. They also stimulate the gum tissue, which helps strengthen it and increase blood flow to it. More blood means more oxygen, and oxygen is an enemy to the typical bacteria involved in tooth decay and gum disease – pathogens that thrive in dark, moist, low-oxygen environments, such as the periodontal pockets around each tooth.
More, an irrigator is the best tool for flushing those pockets on a regular basis, clearing out pathogens and the acidic waste products they generate.
Here’s a short tutorial on how to use an oral irrigator without making a mess:
Choosing & Using the Best Oral Irrigator for Your Needs
There are a number of good oral irrigators available through Amazon or any big box retailer, though the one we recommend most often is Waterpik. For our periodontal patients, though, our hygienists commonly recommend a HydroFloss unit, as it actually changes the polarity of the water, which helps inhibit harmful bacteria.
Oral irrigators can be effective using just filtered, fluoride-free water, although if you have a home ozone unit, you could use ozonated water for an extra boost.
And if you want to up your game even more, you can add botanical products such as the Dental Herb Company’s Under the Gums Irrigant or a bit of herbal mouthwash to the water. These contain ingredients known for their antimicrobial power: thyme, cinnamon, eucalyptus, and more.
However, do NOT add pure, undiluted essential oils or iodine to the water reservoir, as these can damage your device.
Above all, use your irrigator – or other interdental cleaning tools, as you choose – once a day, every day, in addition to brushing. In fact, some dentists recommend using a variety of interdental tools, especially for those who struggle with periodontitis (severe gum disease, which destroys both soft tissues and the bone that supports your teeth).
After all, the most effective cleaning tool in the world is only effective when you use it, right?