Dental professionals inform us that cleaning between the teeth is essential to good tooth and gum health but regular flossing can be at best time consuming and at worst painful. Philips has introduced a new member to its Sonicare range of dental care products at IFA 2011 that dislodges interdental plaque and bacteria with rapid bursts of air and water. The cordless Sonicare AirFloss is about the same size as a standard electric toothbrush and features an angled nozzle with guidance tip for precision placement.
Philips says that its new Sonicare AirFloss can remove up to 99 per cent more dental plaque from between teeth than brushing alone. The lithium-ion battery-powered device works by sending quick blasts of pressurized air and water droplets through an angled nozzle towards the teeth at anything up to 45 mph, forcing plaque and bacteria out from their respective hiding places. Benefiting from one button operation, it’s said that the whole mouth can be spring cleaned in less than a minute.
The power button also includes a charge level indicator light, which blink when the battery needs some juice. The cordless handle is compatible with other Sonicare charging cradles, like the Sonicare FlexCare+, and a full charge is said to last about two weeks of once-a-day use. The built-in reservoir holds two teaspoons of water, and conservationists will no doubt be pleased to hear that the system uses less than one teaspoon of water for two full cleaning sessions.
Only 10% to 40% of Americans floss on a daily basis. When a patient settles into a cushy operatory chair and a dental hygienist asks him that probing question about “between teeth” cleaning that generally results in a great deal of guilty embarrassment and fidgeting, maybe it’s time to pose the question in a different way.
Consumers today are overwhelmed with “between teeth” cleaning devices, just as they are with toothbrushes. A weirdo nerd like me first wants to know how the range of interdental cleaning devices compare, including some of the newer ones, and that’s no easy task.
Periodontal researchers don’t doubt the benefit of self-care measures to disrupt proximal/interdental biofilm, but there are still unanswered questions about the role of personal plaque control in the pathogenesis of periodontitis in comparison with other risk factors. In addition to looking at outcomes such as improvement in gingival health and visible plaque removal from frequency of self-care measures, efficacy (how adept an individual is in removing quantity and quality of plaque) is another risk factor that’s seldom taken into consideration.
Periodontitis is an inflammatory disease but it is induced by bacterial biofilms that set up residence in the gingival crevice. Gram negative periodontal pathogens (and maybe even viruses) in biofilm have numerous and very powerful “virulence” factors that neutralize host defenses and destroy periodontal tissues. Only a certain percentage of the population develops periodontitis (50% of the U.S. population) and it’s the “impotence” or “aberrance” of the immune response in susceptible individuals (smokers and people with diabetes, for example) that permits the organization of mature biofilms where these pathogens flourish.
In other words, it’s a complex, multi-factorial etiology related to an imbalance between the host and biofilm (parasite). As a practicing clinician who discloses patient plaque/biofilm on a regular basis, biofilm is always on my mind. Most of my patients get better with improved self-care and with more frequent recare. Biofilm removal with micro-ultrasonics on a low power setting is a lot of what I do in my operatory day in and day out. After periodontal maintenance, the professional disruption of hard-to-access biofilm almost always results in a reduction of red and orange complex pathogens and less inflammation with more frequent recare visits.
Sonicare AirFloss is the new interdental kid on the block. It is an effective alternative to traditional flossing with microbursts of water and air. A rechargeable unit with an easy-to-grasp, ergonomic handle and thin, angled neck, this slick-looking device has special eye appeal. In the handle portion of the unit, there’s an on/off button. There’s also a reservoir for about two teaspoons of your favorite mouthwash or water, and I have found that it uses about one teaspoon of water/mouthwash per full mouth interproximal use. Maybe now we can now combine an OTC antimicrobial or fluoride mouthrinse to AirFloss and get more than one desirable outcome! It’s easy to position between teeth and there’s a mouse-like clicker that you press to activate the slim, slightly angled nozzle.
The feature I like most is the ability to point/click (with one hand), which means I’m free to walk around the house while AirFlossing! What research has shown so far (and it’s still early in the research process because there are yet no completed clinical trials comparing AirFloss to other interdental devices) is that it improves gingival health by reducing gingival inflammation (independent of plaque/biofilm removal). But the company makes no claims about subgingival outcomes, nor does it make claims about removing clinically visible plaque/biofilm.
Could it be possible that daily AirFloss microburst flushing of the inflammatory infiltrate from the gingival tissue can help prevent tissue and alveolar bone destruction by stopping the activation of several pro-inflammatory cytokines? Is it the sheer air/fluid forces that detach biofilm fragments and/or is it possible that biofilm virulence factors, pyrogens, and other inflammatory toxins from the biofilm are diluted while leaving much of the biofilm bacteria inert? Future research may determine the answers to these questions.
AirFloss is also a great way to combine interdental cleaning and an antimicrobial or fluoride mouthrinse (undiluted). What a marriage with great potential! AirFloss as an interdental medicament delivery device is a great way for dental hygienists to customize medicaments for dental caries or gingival bleeding.
Floss is a generic term that refers to “between teeth” cleaning, but it doesn’t define the technique. Instead of asking patients the nagging question, “Do you floss?” replace it with a question that reflects the variety of interdental products on the market. Customize your message and recommendations, and keep an open mind about string floss alternatives. Also, for periodontal patients, consider combining mechanical cleaning with an interdental device that reduces gingival inflammation.
The Sonicare AirFloss is available now for a recommended retail of US$89.99.