Should you consider a water flosser? While brushing your teeth twice a day is a good start to maintain proper oral hygiene, there are some areas of the mouth that brushing may not reach. Interdental cleaning, which removes food particles and plaque from between your teeth, is an important part of maintaining your dental health. Did you know that string flossing isn’t the only way to clean between your teeth? Find out more about water flossing and why it might be a good option for you.
A water flosser, also known as an oral irrigator, is a handheld oral care device that uses a stream of water to remove food debris, plaque, and bacteria from between your teeth and gums. A water flosser, when used in conjunction with daily flossing, improves your oral care routine.
There are many different kinds of oral irrigators, but they all have a reservoir to hold the water, an electric motor to power the pump, and a special nozzle. To remove plaque, food particles, and bacteria, the motor and pump force a stream of pressurized water from the reservoir, through the nozzle, and between teeth.
Type — There are generally four different types of water flossers: countertop, cordless or battery operated, shower flosser, and faucet flosser.
- Countertop — Heaviest and bulkiest of the four types. It sits on your countertop and plugs into a nearby electrical socket. They also come with an irrigation tank that you have to refill whenever it runs out of water.
- Cordless or Battery-Operated — Typically slim, small, and portable. This type provides the most flexibility and is Ideal for travelers. They may not be as powerful as countertop flossers, however.
- Shower Flosser — Attaches to your shower head so you can floss after (or before) you’ve showered. You don’t need electricity or batteries, and don’t have to worry about refills, but they’re generally more difficult to maneuver.
- Faucet Flosser — The most common type of water flossers, similar to shower flossers, but with a cord that attaches to the water basins instead of your shower head. Like shower flosser models, the drawback is maneuverability.
Pressure Settings — Most top-rated water flossers have adjustable pressure capability, perfect for those with sensitive gums, implants or braces. A pulsating water setting is particularly effective at loosening tough-to-reach food particles.
Size — A compact and cordless design allows for greater maneuverability.
What to Know to Choose Water Flossers
There is no single best water flosser because everyone’s flossing and oral care needs differ, but there are some common features that most people should consider when shopping for a water flosser that will be worthwhile.
The water from the nozzle’s pressurized stream enters the reservoir tank. When you fill the tank, the water flows into either a tube connected to the nozzle attachment or directly into the nozzle attachment (on cordless models).
That said, there are some pros and cons to keep in mind before settling on a large reservoir:
- Pro: You can use the water flosser for longer each session.
- Pro: You won’t have to refill it daily.
- Con: Larger tanks are usually not cordless.
- Con: It will take up more space on your counter or sink.
The best pressure setting is the one that you can use the most comfortably and get the most benefit from. It’s helpful to have a variety of options, so you can adjust the water pressure as needed; maybe you only want low-medium pressure 90 percent of the time, but the ability to turn up the pressure to blast away a stuck piece of food in the back of your mouth.
Particularly if you have sensitive teeth or gums, you’ll want to make sure there is a “low” pressure setting and that it’s actually gentle enough for you. Using a too-high pressure setting can leave you with a sore mouth and additional sensitivity symptoms.
Many water flossers come with a variety of nozzles that can be useful for different users, such as jet tips, orthodontic tips, tongue cleaners, and others. The classic jet tip is the most commonly used and recommended because it delivers a steady stream of water directly between the teeth to disrupt plaque, but the new specialized tips are also effective when used properly.
Alerts and Timers
Some water flossers, such as the Waterpik, have auto timers that tell you how long you’ve been flossing. Most of these products are set to notify you after one or two minutes of flossing, which is a good guideline for how long you should floss in a given session.
Ergonomics and Overall Footprint
Again, there’s no right answer here, but it’s worth it to spend a little more on a water flosser that’s easy to use—that way you’ll end up actually using it instead of just letting it take up space on your sink.
Speaking of taking up space on your sink, consider how much space you can devote to a water flosser before purchasing one. If you don’t have much space, a cordless or more portable option may be a better choice than a corded one with a large reservoir. The same is true if you intend to take your water flosser with you when you travel; a smaller option will undoubtedly be easier to pack.
Finally, make sure you like the way the water flosser feels in your hand. Many of our testers noticed when a product was easy to hold or had an ergonomic, well-balanced handle, and since it can be awkward fitting the nozzle into the hard-to-reach places of your mouth, you need a flosser that maneuvers smoothly as you twist and turn it around.
Water Flosser Benefits
Some of the best water flossers, like the Oral-B Water Flosser Advanced Cordless Irrigator, feature multiple modes—even one for sensitive gums—that are perfect if gum sensitivity is a problem for you. They’re also a gentle yet effective way to clean crowns, braces, bridges, and dental implants.
Another issue with daily flossing is that many people struggle to do it correctly. Most people simply place the floss between their teeth rather than making the recommended C-shape with the floss to ensure it contacts all surfaces of the teeth. Furthermore, improper flossing can cause gum tissue damage if done incorrectly. Water flossers require less technique than string flossers and do not require you to place your hands in your mouth or deal with used string floss. Because there is less technique and pain involved, many people are more likely to incorporate flossing into their daily routine.
How Effective is Water Flossing?
Water flossers work through hydrokinetics, the movement of water. According to research published in Dentistry Journal, this motion effectively removes loose plaque and bacteria while gently cleaning the gum line. Although this interdental cleaning method can help reduce bleeding in the gums, it may not remove dental plaque as effectively as traditional flossing.
A good oral hygiene routine includes brushing twice a day and interdental cleaning. If you have difficulty using traditional string floss, water flossing may be an option for you! With your dental hygienist’s help, you can determine the best way to clean between your teeth and achieve a healthy smile.
Should I Use a Water Flosser?
Water flossing should never be used as a substitute for regular brushing and flossing, but it is a great supplement to your daily routine. There are also instances where a water flosser may be an effective tool for you:
Bleeding Gums — There are a few common reasons why your gums would bleed. The first is gum disease. Gum disease, or periodontitis, is a bacterial infection in your gums. Left untreated, it could lead to tooth loss. Flossing too hard can also cause bleeding gums. Oral irrigators can be a great way to clean problem areas without the pain caused by regular string flossing.
You Have Braces — Food tends to get stuck behind brackets and underneath wires when you have braces. Water flossers are great for reaching those tough areas where food particles hide. Plaque around brackets can cause multiple dental problems, including gum disease if left untreated.
You Have Dry Mouth — Saliva naturally cleans your mouth and prevents sticky plaque buildup. However, certain medications and genetics can keep some people from producing enough. That could lead to gum disease and cavities. A water flosser easily adds moisture to a dry mouth and removes sticky plaque.
Food Always Gets Stuck in Your Teeth — Some people are more susceptible to getting food stuck in their teeth than others. It could be due to the shape of your teeth, or that they’re not perfectly aligned. Food can also get stuck around dental work like bridges and dental implants. A Water Flosser is the perfect tool to clean problem areas for people more prone to getting food stuck in their teeth, whether from genetics, bridges or implants. To continue to get your best clean, be sure to follow a thorough oral care routine consisting of:
- Brushing at least 2X daily: Switch to an electric toothbrush to further remove even more plaque. The Oral-B iO Series removes up to 100% more plaque than a regular manual while delivering a professional clean feeling every day.
- Flossing at least 1X a day: Use string floss at least once a day and supplement it with a Water Flosser for a more complete clean.
- Visit your dental professional 2X a year: Be sure to see your dentist or dental hygienist every 6 months for professional cleanings and checkups.
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