Of Shredding Floss and Food Traps…..
“My floss always shreds in this spot.” “I have to floss after every meal because food catches here.” “I did not used to get food stuck between my teeth, but now I do. Why?” These and similar questions are fielded daily by dentists and hygienists. So why does floss shred in some places and food get stuck in others?
Teeth are meant to be in “contact” with one another - that is, they should touch each other. Not too tightly, not too loosely. Contacts that are too tight won’t trap food, but are difficult to floss. Contacts that are loose or completely missing are constant food traps.
Besides being irritating, loose contact food traps contribute to localized gum infection. One purpose of the contact between the teeth is to protect the delicate gum tissue between the teeth. When food is repeatedly wedged down on top of this delicate tissue, inflammation occurs. This is why these “food traps” are tender and bleed when flossed. In susceptible individuals, the inflammation can progress to serious gum disease.
A contact where floss “shreds” has one of three complications:
1) Crowded or otherwise badly positioned teeth.
2) A sharp edge of broken tooth or broken filling.
3) A “rough” filling.
Any of these issues can usually be easily corrected by your dentist. It may be possible to simply smooth the contact area or lighten it. Alternatively, placing or replacing a filling may be necessary to achieve a correct contact. In some cases, braces are needed for best results.
If you are finding that food is catching in places that it did not used to catch, it is possible that your teeth are shifting. Teeth are not set in concrete; they move in response to the pressures put on them. Another change that occurs over time in people with periodontal disease is that gums and bone recede and leave triangular spaces between the teeth. These can trap food, are challenging to clean and can be unattractive.
A couple of useful products are “Glide” floss and interproximal brushes. “Glide” is extremely shred resistant and can be purchased in most oral care departments. On the other hand, for large spaces, interproximal brushes are available. These are a bit like stovepipe cleaners redesigned for dental use. There are cylindrical ones and “Christmas tree” styled ones. Ask your dentist which type might be best for you or purchase a few different ones in the oral care isle and try them out.
In summary, food traps and shredding floss are common, but not normal. In most cases, you can be easily rid of food traps or shredding floss problems. Ask your dentist for advice about any of these contact issues that interfere with your dental health and pleasure.