How to Clean the Fourth and Fifth Surfaces between the Teeth

You have to clean those fourth and fifth surfaces between the teeth. This is where you have a choice. You can either use dental floss, the interdental brush, or perhaps the medicated gum massage sticks.



Trying to learn how to floss by reading an article is as un­rewarding to the reader as listening to a juggler on the radio. There is something missing. In reality a video, or a personal demonstration, is needed. The simple way of flossing is to hold the floss between two fingers (or wind it around them), hold it taught and then push it (up or down) between two teeth and into the space between the gum and tooth (if it exists). It is then pulled back­wards and forwards, up and down along the side of the adjacent teeth. This dislodges food debris and removes plaque. With practice, floss can be inserted between almost all teeth, despite the initial feeling that some teeth are too close together. As with ordinary cleaning a routine needs to be established so as not to miss the spaces between some teeth.


Unfortunately, as dental floss is not easy to use, many people become discouraged by their failure. However, there are products on the market intended to help. They look like miniature catapults with the floss stretched across the two prongs of the Y acting as the fingers, but you only have to hold one stem. Even so, expert instruction will be needed to get the angles required for optimal cleaning between the back teeth. If you are keen to try the procedure we suggest you ask your dentist to arrange a demonstration for you. Expert flossing will always keep those fourth and fifth surfaces free from plaque.


Medicated Gum-Massage Sticks

Medicated gum-massage sticks are inserted horizontally between the teeth from the outer surface and moved backwards and forwards between the teeth. They both massage the gum where two teeth touch each other and clean plaque away from the inside (fourth and fifth) surfaces of the teeth and the gums. They need to be used with determination, although this may be at the cost of many broken sticks.


Bottle Brushes

Many people find bottle brushes the easiest to use of all the fourth and fifth surface cleaners. The tiny white Christmas-tree-shaped head is pushed horizontally between the teeth. The bristles should be touching the teeth either side (and resting on the gum between the teeth). It is pushed to-and-fro with some vigour. If there is a large gap between the teeth, one side should be cleaned, then the brush moved to the other side. You should try to insert the brush from the inner surface of the tooth, as well as from the outer surface, so removing all the plaque. The same procedure applies to single-tufted interspace brushes.


If you want healthy teeth and gums, cleaning between the teeth should be part of your daily routine. Plaque creates the gum troubles that lead to loose teeth, and you must clear it away. You may get bleeding and a nasty smell from this form of cleaning. The more inflamed (and unhealthier) the gum the more easily it bleeds. The smell comes from either plaque, decom­posing food, infection, or some combination of them. Regular use of floss, sticks or bottle brushes should lessen both the bleeding and smell over time. However, if your gums bleed or you have a continual bad taste in your mouth, you should consult your dentist.

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