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What is an Interdental Brush?

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  • Written By: K.G. Spangler
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 05 December 2016
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An interdental brush is a miniature brush designed to clean the spaces between teeth, called interproximal spaces. Designed like a tiny bottle brush, an interdental brush is often placed on the end of an angled hand-held instrument for easier access to rear teeth. The brush makes it easier to remove food from these tight spaces. Although they perform a similar function to dental floss, brushes are sometimes preferred. They are generally found to be gentler on gums and may clean more effectively.

The shape of most teeth, which tend to narrow at the top and bottom and widen in the middle, is the perfect spot for food particles to get caught. Many toothbrushes remove food and plaque from the surface of the teeth and the widest spaces between teeth, but can often miss the tight areas. People generally have teeth that touch, almost touch, or have some clearance. Interdental brushes are available in varying sizes, and one person may find it helpful to have several different brushes for the various regions within the mouth.

There are typically two types of interdental brushes. Disposables are designed to be used once and discarded. They are often conveniently packaged in matchbook-like booklets, which are highly portable. Other brushes are designed weekly or monthly use, and are often not as conveniently packaged.

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Plaque is often the cause of gingivitis or periodontal gum disease. Regular use of an interdental brush can cut down on the amount of plaque left to form between teeth. Food particles left between teeth and at the base of the tooth at the gum line are often a source of bad breath. Using interdental brushes to help reduce the number of particles remaining in the mouth can help with this.

Brushes should be easily inserted between teeth, with only perhaps a slight twisting motion. If they are too narrow, they will not clean teeth; if too large, they may get stuck between them or damage the protective enamel coating due to abrasion. Once the proper size is found, gentle forward and back strokes should dislodge particles. The brush should be rinsed before moving to the next interproximal space. Rinsing both the mouth and interdental brush at the end of the cleansing will help remove any lingering debris.

It is a good idea for people who want to use an interdental brush to ask a dentist to demonstrate how to use it. This will ensure that the spaces between teeth are cleaned properly, without damaging the teeth or gums. The dentist may also provide suggestions on the right size brush to begin with.

An interdental brush is also useful for cleaning the tools used by infants and children. Both the nozzle portion of sippy cups and the valves can be cleaned using an appropriately sized brush. Additionally, baby bottle nipples, pacifiers, and small crevices on toys and eating utensils can often be easily cleaned using an interdental brush.

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