Oral Hygiene Aids, (Part Two)
Dental Floss

Robert B. Stevenson, DDS, MS

Columbus, Ohio Fax (614) 451-2988

What is floss?

A nylon thread, also available as a tape, used to clean in the crevices between individual teeth, where the toothbrush cannot clean.

Why floss?

Careful brushing alone is not sufficient for most patients, simply because the bristles of the toothbrush cannot make contact all parts or sides of teeth. Little nooks and crevices between teeth are often too deep to reach with any sort of brush. When teeth are crooked or when missing teeth are replaced with bridgework or implants, the challenge to maintain good oral hygiene becomes even more difficult.

Personal instruction in proper flossing technique should be given by the dentist or dental hygienist, and patients must closely follow the directions. Careless flossing is the same as not flossing at all for the dental areas missed, and improper flossing techniques can damage gum tissue and wear-away tooth root surfaces.

Following are descriptions of special types of floss for certain situations. Please consult with your regular dentist before changing daily oral hygiene procedures.

One handed flossing

Amputees, stroke victims and people recovering from arm or hand injury may have the use of only one hand, which makes conventional flossing impossible. Floss picks are small plastic sword-shaped utensiles with dental floss forming part of the sword handle. Held between the fingers of one hand, the floss portion is used to floss between teeth.
A Swiss made version of sword floss picks is distributed by Caune & Caune, Inc, PO Box 88, Soquel CA 95073. Similar products called 'Lazy Floss' and 'Kid's Floss' are manufactured by Locin Industries Ltd in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Floss picks can be useful for flossing while driving a vehicle or other times when only one hand is free.

Tight tooth contacts

Dental floss comes in many different thicknesses from very fine thread to thick tape, and with varied amounts of wax. Your personal dentist can recommend which type of floss is best for you. Glide floss, (Gore & Asso. PO Box 1010, Elkton MD 21922), and Periotape, (Westone Products Ltd, 1A Frognal, London NW3 6AL) are two new types of floss which are composed of a single strand of slippery material. These flosses slide between tight tooth contacts much easier than conventional floss and do no shred or tear as quickly.

The non-stick factor helps the floss go between tight contacts, but has drawbacks in that it tends to slip off the fingers more than conventional floss, so a couple of extra wraps around the fingers is needed. Also, the plaque on teeth doesn't stick to the floss as well either, meaning more pressure must be used and it will take a little longer to floss adequately with slippery floss than regular. However, these are minor concerns compared to the annoyance of floss tearing and breaking.

Bridgework, implants, wide spaces bewteen roots

Replacement of missing teeth with fixed bridges or implants often creates places which cannot be flossed in a normal way. The floss must be threaded underneath artificial teeth or other prosthetic structures in order use it. Small plastic or metal 'floss-threaders' resembling sewing needle threaders can be used to guide the floss between such places. Super Floss, (Oral B Laboratories, One Lagoon Drive, Redwood City, CA, 94065) has a built-in threader at one end of the floss. Each piece of Super Floss is approximately two feet long. The first two inches at one end of the floss are very stiff and can be guided into areas of difficulty. Connected to the stiff portion of the floss is five to six inches of thicker, yarn-like floss, which is good for cleaning wides spaces like the underside of bridgework or exposed tooth roots. Connected to the thick floss is about eighteen inches of conventional floss.

Ordinary shoe string can also be used to clean around hard to reach areas. Select a size of shoe string that's not too big, especially checking the size of the plastic-coated tip of the string to make sure it's small enough to get through the spaces. Shoe string may be re-used over extended periods of time, as long as the string is rinsed carefully after each use. Also, the shoe string can be placed in a washing machine (with a load of clothes) from time to time.

In summary, special types of floss are available for use in difficult areas between teeth. Please consult your personal dentist or dental hygienist before altering daily oral hygiene practices.

The preceding material is for information only.
Please consult your regular dentist before changing daily oral hygiene procedures.

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