A Great Dental
Tool—Small Inter-dental Brushes
This cross between a toothpick and a
toothbrush is new to me but has been around for several years (and
may be an old friend for you). Since Mary and I have started using
this tool after every meal we have noticed a remarkable improvement
in the health of our gums and an overall clean feeling in our
mouths. Even though Mary and I floss and brush our teeth at least
twice a day, our big surprise was the small food particles still
left between our teeth, which were removed by using these small
inter-dental brushes. The real proof of benefits from using this
tool daily was the reduction in the size of the “pockets” reported
on the very next dental hygiene visit for Mary. Pockets are the
space between the tooth and the gum. Enlarging spaces are caused by
bacterial growth, resulting in gingivitis and periodontitis. It only
makes sense that small particles of food left between the teeth feed
the bacteria. Inter-dental brushing effectively removes this food.
Teeth can be loosened and lost due to
gum disease. Many of my patients have suffered with gum disease
serious enough for their dentist to recommend a deep cleaning
procedure called scaling and gum surgery. To prevent and even
reverse gum disease I recommend thorough cleaning with traditional
tooth brushing, inter-dental brushing, flossing, and regular visits
to the dental hygienist.
There are many brands of inter-dental
brushes. Choose the most for your money. Some are designed to be
used once, and then discarded; others have a holder, which is always
lost. Some bend with the slightest pressure. The brushes have
different shapes – square, round, tapered. Some are too thick to go
between the teeth. Personal preference is important. My copy
editor’s (Betty Bryant’s) current favorite is G.U.M soft-picks,
which are really inexpensive and have a convenient little
carry-case. They can also be used alone, in situations where you
cannot brush and floss. For example, out to dinner. You can always
excuse yourself to go to the restroom for 5 minutes and a quick
A healthy diet is also essential. A
sub-analysis of the largest diet and health study in the U.S., Third
National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (The NHANES III
study) representing nearly 100 million US adults, found “people with
fewer than 28 teeth had significantly lower intakes of carrots,
tossed salads, and dietary fiber (only found in plants) than did
fully dentate people, and lower serum levels for beta carotene,
folate, and vitamin C (all three nutrients come only from plants).”1
They concluded, “Dental
status significantly affects diet and nutrition.” Why not the other
way around? “Diet and nutrition significantly affect dental status.”
Poor dentition has long been known to
be associated with heart disease. A study of 83,104 US women
investigated dietary intake and the number of natural teeth present,
and found edentulous (no teeth) women had dietary intakes associated
with an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases (CVD), including a
significantly higher intake of saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol
and vitamin B12, and a lower intake of polyunsaturated fat, fiber,
carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B6, folate, potassium,
vegetables, and fruits, compared with women with 25-32 teeth.2 The
authors concluded: “Diet may partially explain associations between
oral health and cardiovascular disease.” Think about it this way:
The McDougall Diet will afford you the best chance to stay alive
long enough to enjoy your strong healthy teeth.
Examples of Inter-dental
Proxabrush by Butler (G.U.M)
Oral-B Inter-dental Brushes
TePe Interdental Brushes
1) Nowjack-Raymer RE, Sheiham A.
Numbers of natural teeth, diet, and nutritional status in US adults.
J Dent Res. 2007 Dec;86(12):1171-5.
2) Hung HC, Colditz G, Joshipura KJ.
The association between tooth loss and the self-reported intake of
selected CVD-related nutrients and foods among US women.
Community Dent Oral Epidemiol.
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