Electric interdental cleaning – a good alternative …?
PD Dr. Kristina Bertl, PhD MSc MBA
“Dental floss cuts into your fingers …”, “Flossing is laborious …”, “Flossing is tedious …” – successfully convincing a patient about interdental cleaning and possibly even dental floss is always a challenge and, just like for toothbrushes, at some point it is inevitable that they will ask, “isn’t there a simple, electrically-powered alternative?”
This is not a new idea, and oral irrigators have been available on the market since the 1960s in the hope of improving interdental cleaning compliance among patients. Since then, lots of different products have been launched and then disappeared from the market again, including oral irrigators with low or high water pressure, electrically-powered interdental brushes, vibrating dental floss and combinations of mechanical cleaning and water pressure, to name a few. It is difficult for even dental health professionals, let alone patients, to keep track of it all.
Recently a systematic review of this subject was published with the aim of providing an overview of the effectiveness of electrically-powered interdental cleaning devices for patients with gingivitis (Edlund 2022). The study focussed on the effectiveness of these devices for gingivitis patients, because for periodontitis patients the interdental brush should always be the first choice.
In total it was possible to provide a review of 16 studies with data from almost 1,300 patients. They tested the most wide-ranging devices based on water pressure, electrically-powered mechanical interdental cleaning or a combination or water pressure and mechanical cleaning. The following interesting results were produced:
- Devices based on water pressure and electrically-powered mechanical interdental cleaning have a comparable effectiveness to dental floss in terms of plaque and bleeding indices.
- While devices that use water pressure do not improve the plaque values in comparison with no interdental cleaning, they result in significantly lower bleeding indices.
- The majority of the studies displayed a clear preference among patients for electrically-powered interdental cleaning devices.
As a result, while it is true that electrically-powered interdental cleaning devices are not the most effective in terms of plaque removal, in comparison to tooth brushing alone they result in a significant reduction in signs of inflammation and seem to have a comparable effectiveness to dental floss. Apart from this, however, they seem to be more popular and therefore will hopefully result in longer-lasting compliance among patients.
- Edlund, P., Bertl, K., Pandis, N., & Stavropoulos, A. (2022). Efficacy of power‐driven interdental cleaning tools: A systematic review and meta‐analysis. Clinical and Experimental Dental Research, 1–14.