When Flossing is a Challenge: Alternative Gum Care

Amy L. Cooper, RDH | 06.25.2015

When Flossing is a Challenge: Alternative Gum Care

Daily brushing, flossing and rinsing are three of the most important steps to having healthy teeth and gums.  However, older adults may have trouble wrapping floss around their fingers or keeping a steady hand. There are a few tricks that can help make flossing easier or help clean your gums in other ways.

First, an older adult or caretaker can use floss picks to clean under gums in between the teeth. Plaque and food work their way under the gums every day and lead to gum disease and flossing goes under your gums where your toothbrush can not reach. Therefore, it is important to brush twice a day and floss once before bed every day. With a floss pick there is no need to wrap a long piece of floss around your finger--you simply hold a handle with a short string of floss attached to it. Some floss picks have a short handle to hold and some have a long, toothbrush-like, handle which may be more ideal. Always dispose of the floss after each use.

A water flosser is also an easier alternative to floss, which cleans by flushing the gums out with water. A water flosser can be purchased at the drug store and is a small, countertop unit with a small water tank. Fill the tank with water and you can also add a tablespoon of antiseptic mouth rinse to help kill bacteria. The water flosser has a cord the water travels through and a handle with a stem that the water sprays out of. Hold the handle so the tip of the stem is angled toward the gums in between two teeth and let the water pulse a direct stream under your gums. Then let the water run out of your mouth while moving the handle around to each section of gum tissue. This should not be done with patients who are lying down or cannot stand over a sink. The water flosser should be used in addition to flossing and not replace it altogether.

Lastly, always see your dentist on a regular basis for cleanings. Always try your best to keep your teeth and gums healthy in between dental visits, but trust that the dentist will check  your teeth and gums and clean them much more thoroughly at their office. Be sure to follow their recall schedule for your appointments which may be once every three, four, or six months. Be sure to ask your dentist any questions you may have, including how you are doing with taking care of your teeth at home and how you can improve.