Many patients today are opting for dental implants to replace missing teeth. However, dental bridges are still a sound solution for others who are not good candidates for, or simply do not want dental implants. Keeping a dental bridge clean is critical to your oral health and the lifespan of the restoration. One of the questions I often get with regard to dental bridges, from my North Hollywood patients, is how to floss properly. It isn’t difficult – it just takes the right tools and a little practice.
Flossing a dental bridge
- Brush your teeth, bridge, and tongue thoroughly but gently. Use a soft toothbrush and non-abrasive toothpaste.
- Because the dental bridge consists of several attached “teeth,” it is impossible to slide floss between them in the usual manner. A floss threader is a loop of stiff nylon thread with a soft, blunt tip. Threaders are inexpensive, and readily available at drug and retail stores.
- Position yourself close to a mirror so you can see what you are doing.
- Pull about half of an 18-inch length of your usual dental floss through the loop of the threader.
- Place the tip of the threader just below the contact point of two of the teeth in the bridge, at the gum line.
- For a bridge in the upper arch, aim slightly downward by raising the loop of the threader just a bit. Do the opposite (aim upward) for a bridge in the lower arch.
- Push the threader through to the inside of the mouth.
- Remove the threader, leaving a single thickness of floss in place.
- Move the floss under back and forth to clean the underside of the bridge, and up and down at the sides.
- Slide the floss out of the opening.
- Floss remaining teeth, including those adjacent to the bridge, normally.
- Some patients find added benefit from use of a water flosser (oral irrigation device) such as a WaterPik. Be aware, though, that this treatment does NOT eliminate the need for conventional flossing.
Why worry about cleaning a bridge?
The pontic, or artificial tooth, in your bridge and the crowns that hold it in place are made of porcelain, so they cannot develop cavities. Natural tooth structure under the crowns, however, is susceptible to tooth decay. Negligent oral hygiene could lead to the need for more extensive dental work in the future. Plaque traps bits of food debris under the bridge, providing a feast for oral bacteria. Without thorough daily cleaning, gum disease may begin in this area and eventually spread to the rest of the mouth.