A natural way to floss

The aim of flossing is to help control bacterial plaque - it sounds so simple. We constantly ask our patients, "So, how's the flossing going?" They mumble the response, "It's going."

by Karen Kaiser

The aim of flossing is to help control bacterial plaque - it sounds so simple. We constantly ask our patients, "So, how's the flossing going?" They mumble the response, "It's going." We can tell exactly how well it's going by the interproximal hemorrhaging and by the appearance of the plaque laden lower arch. We think, "It sure is going ---- it's going, going, gone!" Flossing does not always come naturally to many of our patients, and they struggle with finding a tolerable technique. When a patient's home care does not reflect stellar flossing performance, incorporate a power flosser and watch flossing become - "second nature."

In many respects, power flossers can be compared to hummingbirds. For instance, the battery-operated devices search for deep interproximal debris much like a hummingbird searches for nectar. These winged acrobats are able to reach the deepest part of a flower to extract their nourishment. As it flits about, the hummingbird's tiny forehead rubs against the delicate flower petals. Comparatively, the pulsating tips also rub against the interdental tissue providing a gentle gingival massage.

One can't help but notice that the size, shape, and coloring of the Hummingbird flosser by Oral-B closely resemble the real thing. The markings on a real hummingbird are an hour-glass design with white feathers adorning the gorget of the bird's underside. At only 4 inches tall, the Oral-B unit fits in the palm of your hand, making it very convenient for "on the go" flossing. The flosser also has a white resin midsection on the handle - perhaps white by coincidence but it still reminds you of the bird. The Waterpik Flosser by Waterpik Technologies has a larger, more rounded handle.

Additionally, these units are as light as a feather and can be used by simply pressing a button. Patients that are all thumbs with regular flossing will find these devices easier and less frustrating to use.

A faint humming sound is generated by the power flossing units, just like the wings of a hummingbird. Amazingly, their wings beat anywhere from 50 to 75 times a second during normal flight. The human eye only perceives a blur, especially if the bird is in shuttle flight, which is a swift back-and-forth motion. The very same rapid movement occurs as the Hummingbird flosser vibrates at 135 hertz, which is about half the speed of a sonic toothbrush. The Waterpik Power Flosser impressively vibrates at 10,000 times per minute to help stimulate periodontal health.

Birds can fly in many patterns: up, down, left, right and even upside-down. One will find equal maneuverability when using power flossers. These tools can be angled in many ways and still maintain the same powerful and stimulating strokes. Patients will be able to reach all of their hard-to-reach areas, including those requiring tricky angles with a toothbrush and those that large-fingered flossers have difficulty maintaining.

Likewise, the tightest of contacts will welcome the replaceable tips and an extra-long Hummingbird attachment easily reaches the molars. The Waterpik Power flosser also has unique flossing tips, which are coated with a mint-flavored whitening agent for interproximal stain removal.

The battery-driven flossers (powered by included AA or AAA batteries) can be used as an internal marketing tool for the office. Patients are surprised by the modest price and opt to add a power flosser to their nest of homecare supplies. Consider all the different ways to introduce the flossers into the practice. First, because of the pocket-sized packaging, flossers are excellent stocking stuffers and make a delightful holiday gift from any hygienist. In our office, we hold a "color the hummingbird" contest. Our younger patients are encouraged to color the hummingbird picture and enter for a chance to win the tool and a fun gift basket. You could even try a dramatic display by suspending the flossers from an actual hummingbird's nectar feeder. Also, the Waterpik Flossers will hang nicely from a hook in a patient retail center and, for added convenience, keep the display stocked with replacement tips.

To generate more interest, try using the power flossers to remove residual prophy paste. Furthermore, use the power tool with the vibrating pick to demonstrate how a powered home-care tool could fit nicely into their daily routine. Patients will comment, "I don't like to floss, but I think I would at least use this more often." Compliance with a novelty flosser is certain to be greater than with conventional flossing.

Aside from their cellular phones, your patients won't find anything as handy as their own power flosser. Just imagine if the devices could be customized like a cell phone, with interchangeable faceplates. How about a personal flosser that's sporty, a neon plate, flames, or an animal print? Perhaps flossers would become as appealing as cell phones, and everyone would want their own!

For many patients, conventional flossing is still challenging. Now, thanks to a simple push of a button, flossing is easier and a lot less messy. The gentle vibrations offered by power flossers could be the ideal way to restore a patient's oral habitat to health. No matter which interchangeable attachment is chosen, the teeth and tissues will naturally feel cleaner, fresher and like they've just enjoyed an invigorating massage.

Karen Kaiser, RDH, graduated from St. Louis' Forest Park dental hygiene program in 1994 and currently practices at the Center for Contemporary Dentistry in Columbia, Ill. She has written several articles for RDH and other publications, sits on dental hygiene panels, and is an evaluator for Clinical Research Associates. She can be contacted at hygienetouch@yahoo.com.

The author did not receive compensation from Oral-B or Waterpik for product endorsement. For more information or to see the Hummingbird flosser take flight, visit www.oralbhummingbird.com or check out the Waterpik Flosser at www.waterpik.com.


On Thursday, July 21, 2005, Karen Kaiser will present a seminar at the RDH Under One Roof conference in Chicago. The course is titled, "The Dental Hygiene Diner: Select Products From a Menu of Exciting Hygiene Cuisine." The course will offer information about products presented by exhibitors who are attending the conference.

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