A few years ago, I realized that I was thinking about dental care all wrong. Instead of listening carefully to my dentist and making the necessary changes, I assumed that he was ultimately responsible for making sure that my teeth stayed healthy. Unfortunately, I developed a few serious cavities because I failed to properly brush and floss my teeth, and I knew that it was my fault. I decided to start taking notes at my dental checkups and carefully abiding by the dentist's orders. The difference was almost miraculous. This blog is all about working with your dentist to improve your result.
If you've had cosmetic dentistry or are in the process of having work done, you might be stumped as to how to properly clean around and underneath your teeth and appliances. Since the goal of cosmetic dentistry is to make your smile look great, it would be counterproductive to skip flossing; doing so could put you at risk of developing decay and gum disease, which will do nothing to improve the appearance of your pearly whites. Here are some hints of proper flossing around teeth that have been (or are being) worked on.
Whether you have traditional, lingual or ceramic braces, flossing around the wires is an essential part of your oral hygiene routine. If you use regular floss and the technique you've been using for years, however, you'll find that you don't get very far! The wires will prevent you from getting the floss all the way to your gumline and unwaxed floss tends to get shredded by the process.
Use waxed floss, which resists shredding more than the unwaxed variety. Also, you'll need a floss threader. This contraption looks like a large needle threader and is used the same way to thread the floss through the space between your wires and your gums. Be patient, as this process can take a while, especially when your braces are new and you're still learning.
Veneers and Crowns
If you've had veneers or crowns placed in your mouth, you need to floss around them just as you would your own natural teeth. Sometimes your floss can catch in the margins of where the porcelain or metal touches your gums; this causes shredding and frustration.
If you notice this happening, see if your dentist can smooth out the margin. If there's just a tiny amount of cement stuck in the area, it can attract plaque and cause flossing troubles. Switching to waxed floss or dental tape can help, too. If you're still having trouble, ask your dentist whether a water flosser is a good alternative to using string floss in that area. This device shoots a tiny stream of water between the teeth and under the gumline to remove plaque, food debris and bacteria.
If you've had a tooth or teeth removed, you might have a bridge to cover the space or spaces left behind. A dental bridge is made up of crowns on the teeth on either side of the space, along with a "floating" false tooth that is permanently suspended between the two crowns. Although there is no tooth under the bridged tooth itself, there is still sensitive gum tissue that must be kept clean. Also, flossing out this area is how you will clean the gumline against the two teeth that have crowns on each side of the space.
You can buy thick, spongy floss for getting underneath your bridge. Using a floss threader will help you get it underneath, and you can move it back and forth and side to side to remove plaque and leftover food. This thick floss is probably not appropriate for the rest of your mouth, though, so be sure to use regular floss around your other teeth.
If you are having trouble flossing around your various dental appliances, it's important to let your dentist or hygienist know sooner rather than later. He or she can offer up some suggestions on how to make the task easier, which makes it more likely that you'll be able to effectively floss each day. Don't wait until your next appointment to bring this up; call to schedule a quick evaluation of your flossing technique as soon as you find that you're having difficulty.