Peridontics: Testing new interdental aids

Feb. 1, 2001
It's up to us, the preventive specialists, to seek out these [interdental] products and test them ...

In December, I spoke to a group of 300 dentists and hygienists in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. I present continuing- education courses all over the world, but this one was different. It was a gift to the dental community from two periodontists and a hygienist-owned, continuing-education company. That's right, a gift - a free gift! It was their way of saying thanks to colleagues.

The joint effort between periodontists Thomas McCawley and Nicholas DeTure and entrepeneur hygienists Juli Kagan and Jill Obrochta of Transcen DENTAL drew a huge crowd. I was honored to be the speaker at such a function, and was surprised to learn that these folks provide several free courses throughout the year. It's a great way to come together, share ideas, and discuss new products and treatment approaches.

In the morning, we talked about new research on plaque biofilms and the role of the dental hygienist as a primary preventive specialist. In the afternoon, we tried out lots of new products, specifically those for interdental plaque control.

Many new products come to market without the benefit of extensive clinical research. The financial investment needed for such research is prohibitive for small companies selling toothpicks, interdental brushes, or coated sticks. It's up to us, the preventive specialists, to seek out these products and test them ourselves, before our patients come to us with questions.

Next time you're in a drugstore, discount store, or even the supermarket, take a few minutes to wander down the dental aisle. When you lose count of the number of toothpastes, take a look at the floss selections and the other interdental aids. You'll often find a do-it-yourself scaling kit among the choices. Now check out the wooden sticks, plastic picks, and interdental brushes of various sizes and materials. More choices are available than just a couple of years ago, but not all the best interdental aids are sold in stores. Some need to be ordered directly from suppliers.

We're all familiar with Stim-U-Dents from Johnson & Johnson, but other wooden sticks are available. The triangular shape of the Stim-U-Dents is perfect for interdental spaces, but sometimes a smaller size and firmer wood is desired. Jordan Sticks fit that order and are available from Pearson Dental (800-535-4535). They offer both mint-flavored, loose sticks or fluoride sticks in rows of 19.

Even thinner wooden sticks are available from Prophy Perfect (877-387-2779), a company owned by a dental hygienist. Micro-Sticks are extremely thin, yet sturdy, and they fit into narrow interdental spaces.

Plastic picks also are available, with designs much more appropriate than the toothpick found in the Swiss Army Knife. The white Roto Points from Pro-Dentec (800-228-5595) are the most commonly known, but this category is growing daily. OraCare makes Brushpicks, with a tapered triangular tip on one end and a six-filament tip on the other end. Plastic-tapered, triangular tips with a textured surface are available as Proxi-Stixs from AIT Dental (800-876-4620), a company owned by a periodontist, or from Prophy Perfect as DentaStixs.

Coated plastic picks also are available. These coated picks provide friction for better plaque removal and a system for antimicrobial delivery. Flossbrush by Dentac Inter national is a pale green, tapered, triangular tip, with a piece of fluoride-impregnated fabric bonded to the bottom of the triangle and curled around the sides.

There are also conical-shaped plastic tips, coated with a fuzzy flocking material, called Brushpics. They are available from Prophy Perfect.

Interdental brushes are either miniature bottle brushes or brush-and-handle systems. An all-plastic interdental brush, the Proxi-TipTM, is available from AIT Dental. These white, conical-shaped, plastic brushes simply screw into the purple handle. They also have a travel model with three different tips stored in the handle.

Another interdental brush system by Curaprox® provides various brush sizes and an interdental probe to determine which brush will best fit in each interdental space.

The color-coded probe is inserted into the interdental space just as the brush would be. Based on color, the corresponding color-coded brush is used.

This interdental brush system is available from Prophy Perfect, and a similar one is the Proxabrush Snap-Ons by Butler GUM.

Although not a brush or a pick, we also looked at the newest Pic-Pocket® irrigation tip from Water ®. Water irrigation doesn't remove plaque biofilm from interdental spaces, but new research findings show that just two weeks of Waterpik® use reduced bleeding and inflammatory cy to kines, as well as increased anti-inflammatory cytokines. Oral irrigation is a valuable choice when considering interdental health.

Have I missed your favorite interdental aid? Let me know ... and remember this message to patients: Start in-between!

Trisha E. O'Hehir, RDH, BS, is a senior consulting editor of RDH. She also is editor of Perio Reports, a newsletter for dental professionals that addresses periodontics. The Web site for Perio Reports is She can be reached by phone at (800) 374-4290 and by e-mail at [email protected].