If you have a dental bridge, braces, fixed retainers or dentures with retainer bars, you might be wondering how you can still clean around them to keep your mouth and gums healthy. Unless your dental treatment appliances are entirely removable, like invisible aligners and removable retainers, cleaning thoroughly between your teeth with fixed dental work sometimes requires just a bit more effort – but is very important for the success of your dental treatment, as well as a healthy, cavity-free smile!
Why Is It Important to Clean Around Teeth With Fixed Dental Work?
Besides the fact that it is always important to clean between teeth, fixed dental work can make it easier for food particles and bacteria to get trapped between the dental work and the tooth and gums, and to get lodged further in between teeth as well.
If not thoroughly cleaned, the increased presence of food debris and bacteria significantly increases the likelihood of developing serious damage to your mouth, like cavities, gum disease, and receding gum lines. And though early to moderate stages of gum disease are often quite treatable, cavities and receding gums result in permanent damage to your teeth and gums.
How to Clean Around Teeth With Fixed Dental Work
Fortunately, there are several tools which can help make cleaning around your fixed dental work fairly simple. It might take a bit of practice to get used to using these tools at first, but once you get accustomed to them it should take about the same amount of time as it normally would to clean between your teeth with regular string floss.
Interdental Brush – A small brush consisting of a single soft bristle head and a handle. There are various types and widths of bristle heads, and they can be straight (best for cleaning between front teeth) or angled (to aid with reaching teeth towards the back of the mouth).
These little brushes are fantastic at very thoroughly cleaning between teeth at nearly any angle, as well as under and around dental wires and underneath dental bridges. Because they come in a variety of sizes and angles, some people may need to go through a bit of trial and error to find the brushes that work best for them. Interdental brushes need to be replaced frequently for effectiveness and hygiene, about once every 1-2 weeks.
Some people find that even the thinnest interdental brushes cannot go between their teeth comfortably, or that some teeth are simply too difficult to reach even with an angled interdental brush. If this is the case for you, we recommend using floss threaders or a water flosser.
Floss Threaders – A very thin, rigid yet flexible piece of plastic with a loop at one end, which allows patients to thread floss through the loop and pull the floss behind orthodontic wires, underneath dental bridges, and under denture retainer bars.
Using a floss threader is pretty simple, and similar in concept to using a needle to pull thread through fabric. If you can use regular string floss comfortably, you should have no problem using a floss threader!
Though floss threaders should make cleaning behind dental wires and retainer bars quite easy, some patients find even the thinnest floss threaders cannot comfortably pass through their teeth. If you find that even regular string floss often shreds or breaks in between tightly crowded teeth, please consider a water flosser!
Water Flosser – Also called oral irrigators, water flossers (like WaterPik) are devices that use jets of high pressure water to clean away dental plaque between teeth and below the gum line. Water flossers can easily and effectively clean behind, between and underneath any type of fixed dental work.
Studies are currently inconclusive as to whether or not water flossers are as effective as regular string floss at removing plaque between teeth and below the gumline. Using a water flosser is a bit messy to begin with, and the splash area will likely increase when used to clean around dental wires, retainer bars, and dental bridges. However, what is absolutely certain is that using a water flosser to clean between teeth is far better than using nothing at all!
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