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Which oral hygiene products are best at preventing gum disease?

Experts say it’s important for consumers to have a toothbrush, waterpik, and mouthwash in their daily routine

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Photo (c) Blanchi Costela - Getty Images
A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Buffalo unpacked which dental hygiene tools are a must-have to prevent gum disease -- and which may not be necessary. 

Their findings showed that having a full arsenal of dental tools isn’t required to have healthy gums. Instead, having the top products -- a toothbrush, interdental brush, waterpik, and mouthwash -- is the best way to go about preventing gum disease

“It is my hope that this piece consolidates the relevant evidence in a way that is comprehensive, readable, and uniquely helpful to all oral health professionals as well as patients,” said researcher Dr. Eva Volman. 

What to use and what to avoid

The researchers analyzed available data on dental hygiene tools to compile a comprehensive list of which items can benefit consumers’ long-term gum health, which should be avoided, and which are still unproven in protecting against gum disease. 

For starters, the team determined that toothpastes and mouthwashes that contain triclosan should be avoided. While previously believed to be an effective way to reduce the risk of gum disease, triclosan has since been linked with an increased risk of cancer and reproductive concerns. 

On the other hand, there are several products that consumers should keep in their medicine cabinets. They include mouthwashes like Listerine, mouthwashes that contain chlorhexidine gluconate (CHX) and cetylpyridinium chloride (CPC), toothbrushes, waterpiks, and interdental brushes. The researchers explained that consumers have the best chance at ridding their gums of bacteria and plaque when all of these products are used on a regular basis. 

The jury is still out on some products

The last category included products that have yet to be proven effective or ineffective. The list includes probiotics, floss, electric toothbrushes, and several other types of mouthwash. When it comes to floss, the researchers say there are certainly benefits to keeping up with flossing, but they may not be tied to gum disease. 

“While there are few studies available that specifically examined toothbrushes or floss alone, both are still essential,” said Dr. Scannapieco. “Floss is especially useful to remove interdental plaque for people who have tight space between their teeth. Floss also likely reduces the risk for cavities that form between the teeth.” 

As for the other products, no studies have conclusively determined that they’re beneficial in preventing gum disease. When it comes to mouthwash, the data strictly points to Listerine and CHX- and CPC-based rinses, as opposed to those that contain ingredients like sodium benzoate, green tea, or hexetidine, among others. For toothbrushes, standard brushes were found to be just as effective as electric toothbrushes at reducing the risk of gum disease. 

Staying consistent

The researchers hope consumers understand that consistency is key when it comes to preventing gum disease. While the tools mentioned in this study are effective, using them on a regular basis is the best way to get results. 

“Patients can be confident that oral care tools and practices supported by research, as described in the paper, will prevent the initiation and progression of periodontal disease, if they are performed regularly and properly,” said researcher Dr. Frank Scannapieco. 

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