The interdental brush and its use

Fortunately, more and more is heard about the importance of using interdental brushes and they are increasingly more frequently available at pharmacies and chemists. At first sight, this little device resembles a kitchen glass roller brush, and it hardly differs from one as far as its use goes.

Interdental brushes are manufactured in several diameters. The different sizes are assigned different colour codes as per their bristle width (image credit: internet)

Interdental spaces account for roughly 30% of the dental surfaces to be cleaned, which is a proportion of dental care to be reckoned with. This also includes the gum edge which borders the teeth and the cleaning of which is essential. Interdental spaces and interdental gum edges should be thoroughly cleaned at least once a day (preferably in the evening). In such areas bacteria may easily accumulate and propagate leading to dental caries and gum inflammation (gingivitis). No wonder, most dental issues arise from neglected interdental spaces.

Most dental problems stem from neglecting the cleaning of the gum edge and interdental spaces (image credit: internet)

How to use an interdental brush?

Interdental brushes are available in a vast variety and sizes. The diameter of the suitable interdental brush is determined by the size of the interdental space. Narrower interdental spaces will require brushes of lesser diameters. It is advisable to buy a multi-colour package containing brushes with varying diameters. When selecting the right size for our teeth we have to make sure that the brush fits relatively snugly into the interdental space as thus only can effectively it sweep out deposits. Once we are satisfied of the brand and colour that best fits our interdental spaces, under the bridge or between the crowns, we should remember the colour to be purchased next time around. Also see that the brush is not over-exerted, and as need be, bend its end so that it slides under the bridge at a proper angle from down under. If it does not slide into the interdental space after several attempts, you will probably need a brush with smaller diameter or you may want to use Super Floss instead, complemented with an irrigator.

Choosing the correct size may also be entrusted to an expert who can quickly and easily determine the correct brush sizes required for thorough brushing. Since each interdental space is of different size, there is a great likelihood of several brush sizes being necessary. Our colleagues will happily assist you with such matters.

Initially, an interdental brush feels unwieldy and its use time consuming, but bear with yourself and brush in front of a mirror to oversee the process. Once you get the knack of it, you will be more adept at, and faster, using the brush than you were at the beginning. You may at first experience gum bleeding which may not solely be down to the wrong technique but also to a mild gingivitis. Such bleeding will likely resolve in a short time.

The correct use of an interdental brush (image credit: internet)

Steps of using an interdental brush:

  1. With front teeth use a straight brush and bend the brush 90° with rear ones.
  2. If right handed, pull the lip aside with the left forefinger at the level of the tooth where you want to use the brush, holding it in your right hand and introducing it between the two teeth close to the gum, where the interdental space is the widest, rotating and twisting it back and forth. The same can be performed proceeding from the inside, starting from the tongue, or from the outside, that is, proceeding from the cheek.
  3. With wider interdental spaces, brushes of thicker diameter should be used and applied vertically too, with twisting and sweeping strokes. With upper teeth the process is applicable from top to bottom, and with bottom teeth, from bottom to top.
  4. The interdental space should then be cleaned horizontally. With bridges, we should “walk” all the way through with twisting strokes applied back and forth.
  5. Once done with one interdental space, rinse the brush and proceed to the next interdental space.

The cleaning of a molar with an interdental brush proceeding from the cheek (image credit: internet)

The cleaning of a molar with an interdental brush proceeding from the tongue (image credit: internet)

The cleaning of a front tooth with an interdental brush proceeding from the tongue (image credit: internet)

Further use of the interdental brush:

  • For wearers of fixed orthodontic devices the interdental brush stands in good stead with spaces inaccessible to dental floss due to the device as well as spaces alongside the cemented brackets where the bristles of a normal brush cannot reach. Interdental brushes designed explicitly for orthodontic devices are now available on the market, which are of higher density and thicker than their conventional counterparts.

  • The cleaning of a retention arch cemented in place following an orthodontic treatment.

  • Interdental brushes are of good use in cleaning interdental spaces and the gum edge in the event of periodontitis following the splinting of teeth.

  • It is the FOREMOST device for cleaning crowns and bridges. At the junction of the crown, bridge and the gums plaque, tartar and a number of bacteria may easily build up, making it imperative to clean such spaces to prevent the development of inflammation due to neglect of hygiene.

  • In cleaning a dental implant and replacement tooth mounted in place, interdental brushes are all-important. The life expectancy of implants is subject, to a great extent, to our oral care routines. An appropriately cleaned implant can be complaint-free for decades, as opposed to one where basic hygiene was neglected (scaling, regular dental check-ups). In a neglected mouth, dental foci may form including inflammation, gum bleeding, swollen, red gums, bone resorption, periimplantitis and foul breath (halitosis). Neglect will cost a lot of money and pain since in such cases the implant is frequently rejected and the crown or bridge mounted on the implant is often lost.

The cleaning of a fixed orthodontic device with an interdental brush (image credit: internet)


The cleaning of implant-retained replacement teeth with an interdental brush (image credit: internet)

How frequently do we need to replace interdental brushes?

This varies from one brand to another, but, overall, an interdental brush needs to be replaced every one or two years. Replacement is required when our interdental brush becomes crooked or its bristles defective. Such brushes are no longer effective, let alone the fact that they are dangerous.

Cleaning a screw-retained implant crown with an interdental brush. The bristles should be guided with gentle twisting, pressing and pulling strokes underneath the crown and the bridge and into the interdental space.