Dental floss not for you?
With an estimated 80% of the British population showing signs of gingival inflammation – and with adults and children still suffering from caries and periodontal disease – the importance of interproximal cleaning and the need for preventive dentistry through the education of patients has never been so important.
It is known that general health factors have knock on effects on one’s oral health. For example, smoking affects the entire mouth increasing the danger of gum disease, as does having a poor diet. However, greater attention is now being given to the oral factors that lead to severe problems in the rest of the body.
This connection between oral health and general health is now so strong that, although dentistry and general medicine are usually considered separate professions, those in the field are now adopting the view that oral and general health should be seen as interchangeable.
General health problems that result from oral issues often originate with the build up of plaque. Although this is a natural process, with a small amount being harmless, it the process by which plaque is formed that is the cause for concern as it releases toxins into the mouth, which leads to the inflammation and bleeding referred to as gingivitis.
If it remains untreated, this can result in halitosis and can also lead to periodontitis.
The severity of periodontitis can sometimes be underestimated, although it is a serious condition, resulting in tooth loss through the weakening of the surrounding bone.
It also eats away at the gum barrier allowing oral bacteria to enter the bloodstream; the following reaction can cause or exacerbate lethal conditions, such as cardiac disease and strokes.
With the resulting effects being so fatal, it is no wonder that medical and dental professionals are trying to prevent the advancement of chronic illnesses as a result of oral problems, such as periodontitis, through encouraging their patients to maintain good oral health through interproximal cleaning.
Nevertheless, patient compliance is not always forthcoming. The interdental spaces can be the most difficult to keep clean, and subsequently, they are the most vulnerable to the build up of food particles and bacteria.
The most common method of removing plaque from these areas is with the use of dental floss. However, this technique has not been very popular, indeed the British Dental Health Foundation has shown that only a miniscule percentage of the British public regularly use it in their daily routine. Patients therefore need to be made aware of other viable and potentially more acceptable alternatives.
The most convenient and popular approach is the use of interdental brushes. These have the ability to get in between each tooth, in a similar way to dental floss, yet are better suited to the hectic lifestyles that many people lead as they save time and are uncomplicated in their operation.
These efficient brushes can be used alone or with toothpaste and either way, they are of great benefit to the general and oral health of the patient.
On the other hand, there have been recent studies undertaken in Sweden  that have focused on the advantages of using specially formulated interproximal gels.
This experiment sought to find out the effects of using an interproximal gel, containing chlorhexidine-fluoride, in conjunction with an interdental brush through comparing its prolonged use with that of a control.
The results found that those who used the gel had a lower Streptococcus mutans count and bacteria count in their plaque and saliva. Furthermore, those who used the gel had significantly reduced gingival fluid flow and bleeding of the gums.
These results have occurred due to the dual-action formula of fluoride and chlorhexidine, which reduces inflammation and strengthens tooth surfaces.
Chlorhexidine is an anti-bacterial chemical that forms the active ingredient within the gel, thereby allowing the fluoride to work with greater efficiency.
It is obvious therefore, that it is worth not only encouraging your patients to use interdental brushes, but to use them alongside an interproximal gel so that the combined process can combat bacteria in those areas hardest to access.
In addition, patients should be advised to protect their tooth enamel from demineralisation by using a non-abrasive, alcohol-free formula alongside chlorhexidine-fluoride.
Professionals trying to persuade their patients to embark on a rigorous oral-healthcare routine should not only recommend brushing, but also stress the importance of interdental cleaning with interproximal gels, such as Tandex gel.
These gels are an essential weapon in the protection of the patient’s oral health and are the most viable solutions in the struggle to find successful methods of dental hygiene.
For more information on Tandex’s range of products, visit www.tandex.dk.
 Kelly M, Steele J, Nuttall N et al. In: Adult dental health survey: Oral health in the United Kingdom (1998), Walker A, Cooper I Eds. London: The stationary office, 2000.
 “Effect of a Chlorhexidine-Fluoride-Containing Gel Applied with an Interdental Brush for 3 weeks on Dental Plaque, Gingival Fluid, Bleeding Index, Pocket Depth and Bacterial Counts” – Mari Svensson, Stefan Renvert and Dowen Birkhead. School of Dental Hygiene, University College of Health Sciences, Kristianstad, and Department of Cariology, Goteborg University, Sweden.