The 80/20 rule relevant to teeth: Get the Gap!
Most people find it very difficult and tedious to clean the gap between their teeth. It is much easier just to give a good old scrub, get it over and done with in 30 seconds and get out of there. The ‘good old scrub’ typically employs random movements primarily on the outside of the teeth – and occasionally on the inside if you’re lucky.
In truth this kind of tooth brushing – obviously two minutes would be better – does clean the outside surfaces of the teeth and often does a reasonable job of preventing decay and gum disease that starts in the areas that are fairly easy to get at.
However, and it is a big however , it is the gap in between the teeth that accounts for a huge percentage of the problems people get, such as decay and gum disease. You can think of it like the 80/20 rule – 80% of the problems start in 20% of the places.
Mathematically, the tooth has five surfaces – four sides and a top. Two of those sides touch adjacent teeth and form the gap – that’s 2 surfaces out of 5 or 40%. It is on those minority of surfaces that nearly all the decay starts and most periodontal disease. The other 60% of the tooth surfaces seem to get by fairly well with standard brushing especially if you have had fluoride in your drinking water when you are aged from 2 to 8 years old. Later on I will give you a hint about how to make the top of your tooth virtually decay proof… This is the other area that does need addressing. But without a doubt it is the gap between the teeth that is the source of the greatest number of woes for dental patients, and the area that used to be the hardest to clean. The times are changing and cleaning these gaps is now nowhere near as difficult or tedious as it used to be. Traditionally most Dentists and Hygienists have recommended floss but a surprising large percentage of the population (approximate 80 to 90%) never do it, or try it and give up because it is too tedious or manually difficult for them. So here are some tips on some time-saving and easy to use devices that clean the gap and can hopefully save you thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars fixing up the lifetime of problems caused by the initial weakening of the tooth cause by the decay in the gap and the drilling necessary to get it out and stop it, plus the issues of periodontal disease.
Oral Care Hint, Tip or Article
To make gap cleaning easier try three easy alternatives:
Option one, use a Flosspick. (if you have seen these before and know what rubbish they are, hold on, that was then) These Flosspicks have small threads of floss mounted on a plastic bow so you don’t have to wrap it around your fingers, you don’t need two hands, and you don’t have to get your fingers in your mouth …making it a lot easier. In the past, the problem with many of these devices was that the thread was too weak, it broke too easily, it frayed and often little bits of the floss would get jammed between your teeth, making the problem worse and much more uncomfortable than it was before you started, resulting in many people giving up in disgust. Those miserable little cheap Flosspicks you get on airlines were good examples of how not to do it. However, better Flosspicks are now available from a number of manufacturers that have more durable shred resistant floss so these problems hardly ever occur. Some of the floss is multi-filament and slightly twisted so it is less likely to fray, and some floss is monofilament and made of Teflon like material .Not only doesn’t it fray (because it is only one strand), but it goes down into the gap really easily without you fearing it is going to break or injure your gum when it finally snaps through.
Floss of any kind is the optimal way to clean the front teeth as it can slip down the fine crevice between the gum and the tooth without causing a bluntening of the little pink spike of gum in between the teeth, like toothpicks and interdental brushes can. This bluntening doesnt cause any health problems – it is just a minor cosmetic concern. Interdental brushes probably have a slight health advantage when cleaning back teeth.
Option two, use a plastic toothpick. The problem with wooden toothpicks is that the wood contains fairly abrasive particles and usage over long periods of time can actually wear a groove into the tooth, if used frequently. So by using plastic toothpicks correctly, it will not wear your teeth away. Also small bits of broken porous wooden toothpicks , if swallowed , maybe problematic if you’re unlucky. I actually had a patient who nearly died from it… The wood didn’t show on the x-ray and the doctors couldn’t figure out what was causing the worsening infection. They opened him up and finally found a small section of a wooden toothpick. If you use a plastic toothpick make sure the plastic doesn’t break when you bend it backwards and forwards. If you get a bit break off in between your teeth make sure you get it out just in case you forget and swallow it, because, unlike broken interdental brushes made from wire, plastic won’t show up on x-rays.
Option three: interdental brushes. There are many manufacturers of these and they come in a large range of shapes and sizes so there is going to be one that fits the gap between your teeth. They are simple to use and only require one hand , unlike conventional floss you have to wrap around your fingers . Some would say interdental brushes have an advantage over floss on the back teeth where there are little indents between the roots. These indents , or furcations as dentists call them, are not really cleaned by the floss because it travels over the tops of the two bumps on either side, and skips over the valley in between, whereas interdental brushes have bristles that spring out to flick away any plaque and food debris in those valleys or grooves between the roots. Spectacular improvements in the condition of the gum and the reduced propensity for it to bleed are often observed by dentists and hygienists when patients start using interdental brushes. As a result of this, they have become very popular alternatives to flossing.