7 ways to get naturally healthier gums and impress your dentist.
Everyone knows that they should floss more. We’ve even stopped asking patients about it, specifically, when they are in our office. Questions like, “how are you cleaning between your teeth these days?” are more frequently heard by our patients. Primarily because about half of them have had more success with other methods, but also because we don’t want our patients to feel they aren’t their healthiest because they don’t use traditional string-floss. We know that there are other ways to clean between teeth, and for some people these alternatives are more effective than dental floss.
- Don’t floss. Shocked? Me too. It turns out that a portion of people who floss regularly, are completely or partially ineffective at it. What’s the point of working so hard, making yourself gag, and getting nowhere? Enter your new best friend, the SoftPick.
Made by GUM, the people who put rubber tips at the end of their tooth brushes, these little guys are easy to slide between teeth and have little nubbies to get where floss can’t.
- Floss one section at a time. We are trained professionals, and use floss many times in a day at work. It only takes us a minute or two to floss our own mouths. Don’t expect to start flossing for the first time and have it be easy. Pick an area like your front 6-8 teeth, and work on them the first day. The day after, pick an area like your upper right – all the way in the back. If you pick a different area each time, you won’t spend your whole evening in the bathroom, you won’t make your fingers turn blue, and you will floss enough to improve each day. I love the smell of progress..
- Quit flossing right before bedtime. If you are like me, you’re often up too late, and the last thing you want to do is floss when your eyes are half closed. Make a point to floss earlier in the evening. Try to find a time that works for you; right after work, during a halftime break, maybe when your kids are getting ready for bed. When you have a little more energy, you will be more effective, and have significantly better results because of it.
- Use plain, unwaxed, nylon floss.
One of our favorite periodontists relates dental plaque to bacon grease, and different kinds of floss to other kitchen armamentarium. Waxed floss is like waxed paper, teflon floss [Glide] is like plastic wrap. Neither of which do a good job of cleaning up a spill of bacon grease on your kitchen countertop. I’m truly happy with any floss you want to use, but if you want to be the most effective then plain floss it is. My favorite brand is POH, but any unwaxed floss will do. There’s a little learning curve, but I feel that it is superior in its ability to soak up all of the bad stuff.
- Floss every time you brush. If tip #3 doesn’t work for you, maybe this will. Some of our patients prefer the regularity of flossing each and every time they brush. When done properly, there’s no harm to flossing more than once per day. If it makes it easier to build the habit, floss before the toothpaste hits the brush.
- Baking Soda First. This tip really applies to those who are in the habit of flossing regularly, but aren’t seeing the results they would like. Make a paste out of baking soda and water, spread it on your teeth at the gum line, and then floss as normal. The floss will carry the baking soda between your teeth and gums where the bad bacteria hang out. SoftPiks and rubber tips are also good for pushing the baking soda paste gently into the gums.
- Floss in the shower. This is where we welcome the wonderful world of the WaterPik. Also a solution for those either not able to floss or where floss isn’t effective, the waterpik is available in several models – some which are water-proof! Use one in the shower until you learn how not to make a giant mess of your bathroom. Feel free to load the reservoir with plain water, or you can add a little of your favorite mouthwash for flavor and freshness.
In summary, if you haven’t been successful at flossing, please forgive yourself. We find that there is a greater amount of success in improving the health of your mouth and gums when we find a method [or methods] that best fits your life. Try as many of these suggestions as you can, and let us know what worked for you!
Daniel Balaze is a comprehensive restorative dentist practicing in Laguna Niguel, CA.