Interdental cleaning

26 March 2019

Tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease are the two most common oral diseases worldwide. Periodontal disease affects around 50% of the adult population, with severe cases affecting upto 15%. The build-up of plaque around the teeth is the most important risk factor in the development of periodontal disease, making good oral hygiene essential in both the treatment and prevention of disease progression. Studies show that manual toothbrushing alone only reduces plaque by 42% as it doesn’t reach in-between the teeth. Consequently, additional aids such as floss, toothpicks or interdental brushes are needed in order to clean these surfaces.

Since as early as 1970, interdental brushes, toothpicks, and dental floss were compared with respect to plaque reduction in wide interdental spaces. The interdental brush was reported as the most preferred device for plaque removal. Since then, a large number of scientific articles have been published investigating the efficacy of interdental brushes and other interdental cleaning devices, such as floss and toothpicks. The conclusion is that interdental brushes, compared with other manual cleaning devices, are the most effective at removing plaque.

It is always best to check with your dentist or hygienist on your interdental cleaning needs, in particular the frequency and areas of your mouth that need special attention. For most people, interdental cleaning once a day is enough to greatly reduce your risk of gum disease. The sizes and shapes of the interdental spaces must be considered on an individual basis for every patient and then appropriate devices recommended. Floss can be an alternative to interdental brushes when sites are too narrow.

Current research emphasises the importance of good oral hygiene in maintaining oral health and preventing oral disease. There is growing scientific support for a link between periodontal disease and several systemic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. In addition, research has shown a significant association between periodontal disease and oral health-related quality of life. Oral diseases are no longer seen as problems affecting just the mouth, but rather diseases with consequences on your overall health.

In order to achieve optimal plaque control, toothbrushing must be complemented by interdental cleaning. The interdental brush is the preferred device for most adults worldwide. However, evaluating your individual needs will allow your dentist or hygienist to create a tailored approach to you, so that you can maintain good oral hygiene habits long term.


What does it mean when gums bleed after interdental cleaning? – Often if you are new to flossing or do not floss regularly then your gums may bleed. This is a sign that the gums are inflamed due to the presence of plaque. As you start to floss daily with the correct technique, the bleeding should reduce and then stop altogether.

Can flossing/interdental cleaning damage gums? – No, not if you floss properly. This is why it is important to ask your dentist or hygienist for a demonstration. When flossing, remember to be gentle and not to move the floss too vigorously in-between the teeth. If you experience pain when flossing, it probably means that you are pushing the floss too far underneath the gum line.

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