Water Pikin’

When we started re-designing the website I did a lot of looking at other dentists’ websites across the country to get a feel for the best way to arrange it. And one of the things I noticed was that most had a blog. When I clicked on most blogs they were either attention-grabbing-pre- packaged posts titled “Braces over 50!” or “The top 5 toothbrushes!”  Or there were a total of 6 posts and the last one was 3 years ago.

When I decided to commit to a blog I decided I didn’t want the pre-packaged stuff-  no one would probably read it and it just wasn’t very personal – so what’s the point? On the other hand, no one will probably read these either but at least it will be authentic, right?

So the reason I have the Water Pik on the brain is because I find myself recommending them more and more. Especially patients who are older, have had some recession of their gums and as a result increased spacing between their teeth where gum-tissue used to be, who have bridges or implants, or with patients who have dry mouth or who just can’t manipulate dental floss.

Several studies have been done over the years comparing oral irrigation to other methods of cleaning in between the teeth. Now I could bore you with statistics on bleeding points, pocket depths and scanning electron micrographs of biofilm thickness…but I won’t. If you’re super curious here is a link to a semi-recent study published in the Journal of the International Academy of Periodontology: http://www.perioiap.org/journals/13-1-2011-01.pdf

But the gist of nearly every study shows that patients who use an oral irrigator (aka Water Pik) daily have significant percentages of decreased inflammation, bleeding and periodontal pocketing versus patients who floss and especially versus patients who don’t floss at all. Another study showed that irrigating with just water showed a significant improvement over the use of rinsing with chlorhexidine which is the gold standard of rinses used to control the factors that aid to gum disease. In other words – it works better than anything else we have.

My other concern, and this may sound familiar to my patients because I say it a lot, but floss ain’t what it used to be. Back in the day we had that thick rope that was either waxed or unwaxed. It was hard to push down in between the teeth and once you made it through, it snapped down violently and pinched your gums… No wonder no one flosses! Now we have the ribbon stuff – it goes between the teeth easier because it is thin and slick, but in my opinion doesn’t grab the debris as well and leaves stuff behind. In fact I had a patient last week who came in with pain. Turns out they had been packing food around a back tooth. I flossed the area thoroughly with ribbon floss and got nothing out. When I used some other instruments I got a whole lot out and the patient felt much better. I know it gross, but the moral of the story is even if the patient was flossing daily, because of the nature of where the food was being packed between the gums, all that debris would have been missed. A water pik would have helped immensely and that’s what I recommended this patient go get.

If you have healthy gums already, then floss is great to maintain them because there isn’t that much room for debris to collect. But if you don’t, it doesn’t work as well. An oral irrigator can get in there and flush out debris your floss can miss.

So if you have large spaces between your teeth where food gets stuck, have a bridge or implant, have braces, have a history of gum disease, have dry mouth, or just hate flossing – definitely consider an oral irrigator of some sort.

To your happy and healthy smile – Dr. Schwab

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