Interdental brush 101: what is it and how to use it

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Did you know that there’s an alternative interdental cleaning device to dental floss? Introducing: interdental brush. You may refer to it as a tooth floss brush, brush floss, or a flossing brush. Because its main purpose is to replace dental floss. These little fellas look like tiny dusters for your teeth. They have various sizes and angles. You are going to feel like you are deep cleaning your teeth as you would deep clean your house. But not to worry, it does not take as long as deep cleaning a house. It’s simple and practical.

Without further ado, let’s jump into the details of the interdental brush.

What is an interdental brush?

Interdental brush is an interdental cleaner. They have tiny bristles on their heads. They are designed to help make flossing easier. An interdental brush helps clean the food residue and dental plaque buildup between teeth. Just like floss, it helps clean the interdental areas that a toothbrush cannot clean. It is a perfect oral health tool to fight and avoid periodontal diseases, such as gum inflammation, and dental caries.

Why should you use an interdental brush?

Honestly, why not? According to a study, an interdental brush is better and more effective than dental floss at cleaning interdental spaces, decreasing interproximal caries, and plaque index. It is less aggressive on the gums, so gum bleeding should be minimum. It has been noted that string flosses have a hard time reaching tbetween the teeth. This may make people force the string and directly harm the gums. (1)

It is extremely hard to use a floss string if you have orthodontic appliances such as braces or retainers. Or you might have limited mobility that makes it hard for you to maneuver the floss string. That’s where interdental brushes come in most handy. You can use them easily to clean between your teeth without struggling with a floss string. Also, if you have large gaps between your teeth, floss does very little cleaning between them. An interdental brush can be your hero against periodontal diseases and help with plaque reduction and gingival health. Don’t forget, plaque causes bad breath, and bad breath drives people away!

How to use an interdental brush?

Now that we have talked about how great these little brushes are. Let’s move on to how you can actually use them. Thankfully, interdental brushes are very easy and intuitive to use, so we’ll give you some tips:

  • Bend the brush head if necessary for easier access.
  • Insert the interdental brush head between your teeth, right next to your gums.
  • Move the brush all the way, and brush the interproximal surfaces a few times.
  • If you are a baby interdental brusher or haven’t done interproximal cleaning in a long time, your gums may bleed. Do not panic and do not stop cleaning. They are bleeding because of gingival inflammation caused by plaque. It should stop bleeding after a few days of interdental cleaning. 
  • Do not force the brush between your teeth. If you are struggling to insert the brush, use a smaller size to clean that space.

When to use an interdental brush?

When should you use is more of a preference. But it is a sensible thing to do to use an interdental brush before brushing your teeth. Or you can rinse your mouth well if you prefer to use it after brushing. Using an interdental brush after dinner may be more comfortable for you. You will have plenty of time on your hands. If you have school or work, using an interdental brush might be an inconvenience during the day. Just make sure you are giving it the right amount of time to properly clean between your teeth.

How often to use an interdental brush?

Just like floss, you should use an interdental brush at least once a day. You should make using an interdental brush a daily routine of dental flossing. Regular toothbrushing is not enough. It cannot reach between your teeth. This can cause plaque to build up there. As long as you are not doing it excessively, you can use your interdental brush as many times as you like a day. 

How many times can you use an interdental brush?

How many times you can reuse an interdental brush depends on whether the bristles are worn out or not. This info changes from brand to brand. The brands include this information on the product’s package. Generally, they suggest using an interdental brush approximately 10 times.

How often should I change my interdental brush?

You should change your interdental brush once you notice the bristles are worn out. If you cannot tell if they have gone bad, it is recommended that you should change your interdental brush once a week. Overusing an interdental brush might do more harm than good.

I am at the supermarket, I don’t know which interdental brush to use

Relax, we got you. If you don’t have wide gaps between your teeth, start with the smallest one first.

Since not everyone has the same teeth gap width, these brushes come in various sizes. Manufacturers color-code the sizes of interdental brushes so that they are easy to choose and differentiate. The smallest size is colored pink, and the biggest size is colored black.

If it is hard to reach your molar teeth from the inside or outside, you can purchase interdental brushes with angled brush heads. These angled brush heads may not be replaceable. Instead, you can find them as a whole, with their handle, in packs. These packs may contain 5 or more angled interdental brushes.

Straight interdental brushes are considered to be more effective for interproximal plaque removal than angled ones. However, there are not enough studies on this matter to support this claim.

What size of interdental brush to use?

You should decide what size of interdental brush to use regarding your gap size. The important thing here is the metal wire in the middle of the interdental brush should not touch your teeth. If the wire touches your teeth, you will feel a bit of pressure. That means the size you are using is not correct for you.

If you have no idea about your gap size, we suggest you start with the smallest size. As we mentioned above, interdental manufacturers color-code their interdental brush sizes. From smallest to widest: pink, orange, red, blue, yellow, green, violet, grey, and black. Start with the pink one and if it is too small for you, try the orange one. Keep going until you find the right one.

Even with an interdental brush, you may struggle to reach your molar teeth. For that, there are also angled interdental brush products. You can use these angled interdental brushes for your front teeth as well. These products are disposable.

Now, if you move up a size and it’s giving you a hard time, do not force it. It means that brush size is too big for your teeth gap. If the previous size was easier to use, go back to that one.

Another tip: Not all the gaps between all your teeth are the same width. So, you may need more than one size to clean all areas.

What is an interdental brush head?

We are familiar with the electric toothbrush head. Just like that, interdental brushes also have various heads. So you can easily just purchase the different-sized interdental brush head for its handle. However, you cannot change the angled interdental brush heads. They are usually sold in packs. You can purchase the same-sized pack or mixed-size pack for your teeth if you have various widths of gaps between your teeth.

References:

(1) Poklepovic Pericic T, Worthington HV, Johnson TM, et al. Interdental brushing for the prevention and control of periodontal diseases and dental caries in adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. Published online April 24, 2019. doi:10.1002/14651858.cd009857.pub3

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(2) Hennequin-Hoenderdos N, van der Sluijs E, van der Weijden G, Slot D. Efficacy of a rubber bristles interdental cleaner compared to an interdental brush on dental plaque, gingival bleeding and gingival abrasion: A randomized clinical trial. International Journal of Dental Hygiene. 2017;16(3):380-388. doi:10.1111/idh.12316

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(3) Rasines G. The use of interdental brushes along with toothbrushing removes most plaque. Evidence-Based Dentistry. 2009;10(3):74-74. doi:10.1038/sj.ebd.6400666

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‌(4) Wehner C, Husejnagic S, Laky B, Rausch-Fan X, Moritz A, Haririan H. Effect of interdental brush design on plaque during nonsurgical periodontal therapy. Clinical Oral Investigations. Published online May 27, 2020. doi:10.1007/s00784-020-03337-x

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(5) Imai ∆ P. Comparison of interdental brush to dental floss for reduction of clinical parameters of periodontal disease: A systematic review. 2012;46(1):63-78. Accessed December 29, 2022. https://files.cdha.ca/profession/journal/2148.pdf

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