Plaque is basically the bane of your mouth’s existence. This sticky film can accumulate on your teeth and lead to issues like cavities and sore, puffy gums. Is a water flosser the best way to prevent grody plaque from building up between your teeth? Blasting your teeth with an appliance that would fit right in at the dentist’s office seems like a good idea in theory, but you might be wondering if there’s any point in buying a water flosser when you can use regular ol’ string floss.

Just like string floss, a water flosser cleans between your teeth.

Removing little bits of gunk from your teeth is super important. When you allow food and drink particles to stew in your mouth, the resulting plaque releases acids that harm your enamel (the tough external portion of your teeth), according to the American Dental Association (ADA). These acids can eventually drill cavities into your teeth and cause gingivitis, the first stage of gum disease. Brushing your teeth twice a day helps you scrub away plaque so that it can’t hurt your teeth or gums. So does flossing, which can make sure you reach the little nooks and crannies a toothbrush neglects. You’re probably pretty familiar with string floss, of course, but water flossers are also an option. A water flosser is a handheld device that shoots a stream of liquid at your teeth hard enough to clean between them. You can call them powered interdental cleaners if you want to be posh about it. Some versions even allow you to use a mixture of water and mouthwash for an extra fresh experience.

A water flosser might be good for you depending on your teeth and preferences.

Using a water flosser is like hosing down a deck while traditional flossing is like sweeping it. They both get the job done, albeit in slightly different ways. Use whichever one makes you less likely to pretend flossing is a concept you’ve never heard of before. Here are signs a water flosser might be good for you:
  • You’re not diligent about using the correct flossing technique with string, so you could be leaving a lot of food behind. Shoving the string into each crevice, yanking it out, and moving on doesn’t cut it. You’re supposed to insert the floss, then use a C shape to scrape the string down both teeth, one after the other. You’re also supposed to floss the back sides of your last teeth, FYI. If you’d rather do your taxes than follow these steps, a water flosser might be better for you.
  • You have dental or orthodontic work that makes it tricky to floss traditionally, like braces or a permanent retainer of some sort.
  • Your teeth aren’t super straight. If you have trouble running floss back and forth between them, a water flosser could make your life easier.
  • You hate traditional flossing. Perhaps you’re not a fan of extracting chewed up bits of food from your mouth. Maybe every time you do it, you wonder if you have 357 teeth because getting between them all takes forever.

You don’t need to use string floss and a water flosser every time you clean between your teeth.

If water flossers pique your interest but you’re not sure you need one, let's chat about it at your next appointment. If there’s one area where dentists generally excel (besides, you know, keeping your mouth healthy), it’s brutal honesty. They’ll tell you if you’re doing a good enough job with standard floss, and let you know if a water flosser might be a better fit. Even if you decide to get a water flosser, don’t throw away your string floss. A water flosser may not do the job if something is really stuck between your teeth. Your future self just called after eating a poppy seed bagel and is really glad you followed this advice. Dig deeper: SELF Magazine Waterpik American Dental Association
Having chronic gum disease gives people a 70% increased risk of developing Alzheimer's, scientists have found. Research has linked gum problems and dementia for several years. These studies have usually been small in which a snapshot of people's health in time has been taken, rather than large studies tracking their likelihood of developing disease in the long term. One of the largest longitudinal studies on the topic has now found a strong correlation between gum disease, or periodontitis, and risk of Alzheimer's. The study, published in the journal Alzheimer's Research and Therapy, tracked 9,291 patients with gum disease and 18,672 control patients without gum disease over 16 years. After controlling for factors such as age, sex and whether they lived in a city or the countryside, having gum disease throughout the period led to the 70% increased risk. "These findings highlight the need to prevent progression of periodontal disease and promote healthcare service at the national level," study author Chang-Kai Chen and colleagues from the Chung Shan Medical University in Taiwan wrote in the paper. As well as an increased risk of dementia, people with chronic gum disease were also at a higher risk of depression and high cholesterol, among other conditions. These associations, as well as an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease found in previous studies, are thought to relate to the body's inflammatory response to gum disease. READ MORE FROM THE STUDY
[caption id="attachment_1911" align="aligncenter" width="584"] image via Unsplash[/caption] There's nothing like jamming a waxed piece of string between your tightest molars and sliding it back and forth. And who doesn't do that once a day, just as the dentist prescribes? Well, a lot of us. Twenty-seven percent of adults lie to their dentists about how often they floss their teeth, a survey released Tuesday found. Not only that, but more than a third of people surveyed would rather be doing unpleasant chores than flossing their teeth daily. Fourteen percent would rather clean the toilet. Nine percent would rather sit in gridlock traffic for an hour. And 7 percent would rather listen to small children crying on a plane. Actually, that 27 percent sounds awfully low. When we called up Dr. Joan Otomo-Corgel, a periodontist and president of the American Academy of Periodontology, which conducted the survey, she said: "Is that all?"
There's nothing like jamming a waxed piece of string between your tightest molars and sliding it back and forth. And who doesn't do that once a day, just as the dentist prescribes?
She's not the only oral health professional who thinks many patients are fibbing when they say they're flossing. "I am shocked," says Dr. Sally Cram, a periodontist and spokesperson for the American Dental Association, via email. "Given my experience with patients in my practice I thought it would be higher!" Indeed, a similar survey by the dentists' association found that only 4 in 10 Americans floss every day; 20 percent never do. Some people find it so repulsive that they'd rather be doing nearly anything else. "Cleaning the toilet?" Otomo-Corgel laughs. "I don't think so. Maybe ironing." So what makes us hate flossing so much? "It's a lot of work," Otomo-Corgel admits. Though the ADA says it should only take an extra couple of minutes a day, it can seem like an eternity. The floss is hard to get between your teeth. It makes your gums bleed. It's slimy. Tiny particles of food are flung onto your bathroom mirror. And there's no immediate payoff, like the fresh-breath feeling you get from brushing your teeth. The benefits of flossing may be intangible, but they're real. Flossing helps by removing plaque, a sticky film of bacteria and saliva. This goop collects below your gum line and can eventually harden into tartar. If the bacteria cause inflammation, well, that's periodontal disease. Untreated it can lead to receding gums, tooth decay and tooth loss. Periodontal disease is extremely common; one in two people have it, Otomo-Corgel says. But it's preventable with proper oral hygiene. Which means brushing twice a day, flossing once a day and seeing a dentist or periodontist regularly. Flossing correctly, Otomo-Corgel stresses. Bleeding is normal, because it means you're cleaning out infection; pain means you're doing it wrong. The ADA has a step-by-step guide, and even a video on how to floss right. What about alternatives to flossing, for those of us who would rather be in gridlock traffic? Proxabrushes are skinny brushes that fit between teeth. Stim-U-Dent picks or even regular toothpicks may work to remove plaque. But, Otomo-Corgel warns, if your teeth are close together, you'll need to use dental floss. "Flossing is simple once you've learned how," she says. And it's the best way to prevent gum disease, along with regular visits to the dentist. Who, by the way, can tell if you're lying. via NPR
Gingivitis is one of the most common oral health problems in Canada. It starts off with a little redness in the gums but without proper attention and care, the situation can worsen leading to bleeding, puffiness, bad breath, and over time, what is known as periodontitis, more commonly known as gum disease. The consequences can be dire with loosening or loss of the teeth. The main culprit behind the condition is bacterial growth, usually called plaque. Although several different types of species are detrimental to gum health, some are more troublesome than others. One particular enemy is known as Porphyromonas gengivalis . Having high amounts of this bacterium can significantly increase the potential for periodontitis. Researchers tried for decades to figure out what makes this bacterium so problematic. Back in the 1990s, studies revealed the bacteria had the ability to invade our gum cells. This led to the potential for bleeding and cell death leading to gum recession. This was bad news indeed yet the results only offered half of the story. As with many chronic infections, there had to be some involvement of the immune system. By 2001, the effect of this bacterium on immunity was finally discovered. Its presence led to a cellular form of inflammation in the gum area. What was worse was the fact the type of response prompted immune cells to destroy cells in that area. Even with this rather unsavory thought, there was still a missing piece to the puzzle. No one quite knew what was actually causing the inflammation. Some research had suggested the physical components of the bacterial cells was enough to cause this problem. Yet these results revealed only short term effects. Now the guilty party may have been found. An international group of researchers have used a combination of microbial and human cell cultures, they have identified a particular protein, aptly named Gingipain, as the source for the long term inflammation occurring in the gums. The results of this research suggest the bacteria are most troublesome not when the protein is active, but when it is dormant. The initial experiments behind this discovery were relatively straightforward. Cultures of immune cells were infected by the bacterium in the hopes of finding cellular markers of inflammation. Sure enough, the cells reacted to the microbial presence. But there was a surprise in store. When Gingipain was active, there was relatively little inflammation. On the other hand, when the enzyme was dormant, inflammation took off. This strange twist led the researchers to think there may be more than an infection going on. Answering that required a different type of experiment. The team had to add the infected cells to an artificial immune system to find out the effects of the enzyme on a systematic level. When they looked at the effect of infection on the immune system, the team was shocked to find the inactive or dormant form of the enzyme led to the most troublesome effects. In this case, inflammation was increased and sustained. This meant a lack of enzyme activity was making the situation worse. Though the results appeared to make little sense, the team persevered to identify a reason. They looked at the various proteins involved in inflammation in the hopes of finding one that might interact with the enzyme. The best candidate was a molecule known as interleukin six (IL-6). If the group was right, blocking this molecule might halt inflammation regardless of the enzyme's activity. Sure enough, when the group blocked IL-6, inflammation went down in all cases. The team had found the lynchpin of the periodontitis mystery. Perhaps more importantly, the results revealed the trouble wasn't being caused some previously unknown entity but a biological factor known for being involved in long-term inflammation. Based on the identification of IL-6 as the culprit, the authors suggest the potential to slow and possibly stop the progression of gingivitis may not be too far away. A pharmaceutical route to achieve this goal already exists although it only is approved for another IL-6 based chronic condition, rheumatoid arthritis. Still, the existence of an approved therapeutic means the potential for periodontitis treatment may be years rather than decades away. While we wait for medicine to catch up to the research, the best way to reduce the chances for this IL-6 based route of gum inflammation is to ensure your teeth and gums are healthy. This means brushing at least twice a day and making sure to visit your dentist regularly. While research may be able to help us find routes to resolve gum disease, these oral health professionals can help you prevent and manage troubles before they go too far. via HuffPost Canada
As far as my dental history goes, I've been pretty lucky. My parents always stressed the importance of taking care of my teeth and took me to the dentist on a regular basis. I never had to have braces and didn't even have a cavity for most of my 30s. Then, as they say, "go big or go home": at 39, I had my first cavity. I didn't even know I had one until my tooth chipped over dinner. An immediate trip to the dentist revealed I not only had a cavity, but I would need a root canal and then a crown. I made it through both those things and thought it was over. I swore to myself I would do a better at staying on top of things and went on with my life. From the day the crown was placed, it never felt "right": there was always an element of discomfort and my 24/7 awareness that it felt foreign and weird. After the first year, I started feeling more discomfort. Around year two, I began to notice gum inflammation around the crown.  Unfortunately, the dentist who did the crown work had gone out of business, so I had to find a new dentist. Many of my downtown/east Nashville friends had recommended Downtown Dental. Dr. Clark and his team were amazing from my first patient exam. Turns out I not only had a metal allergy to the original crown, but the deep placement of the crown had created significant gum infection. It wasn't the worst news, but as someone who is highly sensitive to antibiotics and tries to go the natural route whenever possible, I didn't look forward to the treatment that would clear up the infection/irritation. Enter "the laser". I soon happily learned that dentists can use lasers for a host of incredible treatments: not only for bacterial reduction (in this case, for my gums), but for pain management/anesthesia, fillings, tooth contouring/cleaning, and even cold sores. My three laser treatments were quick, absolutely painless, and best of all, I didn't have to take any antibiotics. The team at Downtown Dental is warm and wonderful, but even better than that, I'm thankful for a dentist who commits to painless technology as treatment versus standard pharmaceutical medication. Turns out there's a better way to do a lot of things without wreaking havoc on the body...even in dentistry. -D. Carson, 41: Dickson, TN
Though the link between dental health and heart health is not completely clear, experts say it’s important to take care of both. Claiming around 610,000 lives each year, heart disease is the No. 1 killer of both men and women in the U.S.1 Did you know that research has found a link between this deadly disease and the health of your gums? Having gum disease increases the risk of a first heart attack by 28%, according to a 2016 study by the Karolinska University Hospital in Sweden.2 “Although the findings indicate a strong link between gum disease and heart disease, it’s still unclear whether one actually causes the other,” says the American Heart Association. The two conditions have some of the same risk factors, including smoking, poor nutrition and diabetes. Researchers believe that inflammation caused by periodontal disease may be responsible for the connection.3

Prevention is the best medicine

Regular healthy habits can lower your risk of both gum disease and heart disease. And, if you already have one or both of these conditions, these strategies can help reduce their impact:
  • Brush and floss regularly. To remove plaque-forming bacteria, brush for at least two minutes, twice a day, and don’t skip the floss.
  • Choose a healthy diet, rich in essential nutrients (especially vitamins A and C). Reduce or eliminate sugar and starches.
  • Avoid cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. These habits can destroy your gums and increase your chance of heart disease.
    • 1CDC, NCHS. Underlying Cause of Death 1999-2013 on CDC WONDER Online Database, released 2015.
    • 2Rydén L, Buhlin K, Ekstrand E, et al. Periodontitis increases the risk of a first myocardial infarction: A report from the PAROKRANK study. 2016.
    • 3Jeffcoat et al. Impact of periodontal therapy on general health: evidence from insurance data for five systemic conditions. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2014;47(2):166-74.
    • 4Gum Disease and Heart Disease. American Academy of Periodontology. Dec. 2016.
    via Delta Dental