Interdental brushes and why they are important

Monday, 10 February 2020

 

Interdental brushes are small brushes that are designed to clean the gaps between your teeth (interdental spaces). Interdental spaces are a haven for the deposition of plaque and these areas cannot be cleaned effectively with a regular toothbrush. If plaque is allowed to build up in these hard to reach places it can lead to oral disease and tooth decay.

The most common reason that gums bleed is the presence of plaque on the teeth and around the gum line.

Plaque is the soft, sticky and colourless substance that builds up on your teeth throughout the day. Plaque, or ‘biofilm’ as its called in the dental profession, is a thin layer of bacteria.  Some of the bacteria in the plaque are harmless, but others feed on the sugars we eat creating acids which then attack the enamel of the teeth leading to tooth decay. Plaque that is not removed can build up and produce tartar. Tartar, called calculus in the industry, is clacified plaque. It starts forming within 48 hours and bonds strongly to the enamel. Tartar can only be removed by a dental professional. If left on the teeth, tartar and plaque will inflame the gums causing swelling, soreness and bleeding. This is called gingivitis and it is reversible at this stage. If left untreated, plaque migrates downward on the tooth until it reaches the bone inside the jaw. It then becomes a more serious infection known as periodontitis which can lead to damage to the bone and loss of teeth.

Plaque on the teeth can easily be removed by adopting a good oral cleaning routine that involves both tooth brushing and interdental cleaning, twice daily.

What size of brush?

There are many different sizes of interdental brushes and it is important you use the correct size for the interdental space. The brush shouldn’t be too small nor too big but should fit snuggly in the gap. Interdental spaces vary around the mouth so more than one size will be required to do a thorough clean.

You can ask a professional to determine what size brushes you need, or you can do this yourself using a variety of different sizes and starting with the smallest to the biggest.

How to use an interdental brush?

It is recommended that the teeth are brushed twice a day to maintain good dental hygiene and the same applies for the interdental space.

Start by holding the interdental brush at 90 degrees to the interdental gap and push it in gently. There should be no pain, just gentle pressure. Gently pull the brush out again. This action is all that is required, any more and you risk injuring the gum. The brushes should not be moved up and down, they are not meant to clean the contact point of the teeth, this is a job for dental floss.

If you encounter any resistance, you may be pushing against the tooth. Pull out the brush and try a different angle and if it still doesn’t fit then try a smaller brush.

For people with implants, it is important that you chose interdental brushes that have plastic coated wire to prevent scratching the implant.

When you have finished using your brush, wash it carefully and leave it to dry in a clean place.

The first time you use interdental brushes, you may experience a small amount of bleeding. This may indicate some inflammation of the gum but by cleaning between your teeth every day the inflammation should subside and the bleeding stop. If bleeding continues, you should visit your dentist.