Water flossers are a specialized, consumer-grade dental care device that is designed to replace string floss. They accomplish this job through the use of low-grade hydraulic jets of water, which effectively scrub both tooth surfaces and the spaces between said teeth.
Water flossers (also known as an oral pulsating irrigator, a dental water jets, or a water pick) are derived from a similar, professional-grade tool designed for dentists back in the 1960s. Since that time, many folks have adopted these affordable devices to enhance their oral care. A fair body of data has also emerged to prove water flossers’ safety, efficacy, and functionality.
To this end, researchers have found numerous benefits that make water flossers a wise investment for most individuals concerned about their oral health. For example, research has shown that industry-leading water flossers can remove 99.9% of plaque and biofilm after only 3-seconds of use (1).
Further research has revealed more promising results for these oral care devices. Recent research has presented solid evidence that using a water flosser and a standard toothbrush is “significantly more effective than a manual brush and string floss” when it comes to removing common sources of tooth decay (2).
Water flossers have even been found to be exceptionally productive when used by adolescents with braces. In one study, young orthodontic patients reported less gum bleeding and plaque build-up around their fixed dental equipment while using a water flosser when compared to string flossing (3).
Overall, there are plenty of positive health benefits that can result from using a water flosser. Even professional dental associations back up the use of some water picks and fully recommend them to their members’ patients. Even their affordable price tags make them a worthwhile addition to your daily oral cleansing routine.
If you’re currently evaluating methods of improving your oral health or are simply curious, then there has never been a better time to learn about the numerous benefits provided by water flossers. These handy devices can help keep your teeth free of undesirable particles, which may potentially prevent painful and bothersome decay from occurring in the future.
1Water flossers are easy to use. Among other primary reasons, folks tend to add water flossers to their oral care regimen because of their practical ease of use. When compared to string flossing – which can require a great deal of physical dexterity to accomplish – water flossers require only about a minute of time while still managing to maximize your proximal dental conditions.
Prepping a water flosser takes mere moments, as well. Like an at-home coffee maker, all you need to do is fill the water chamber and turn the appliance on. From there, water is pressurized as it sprays out of the attached nozzle (which resembles an electric toothbrush). Beyond that, you simply need to point the nozzle at each tooth and gap in your mouth to fully complete your daily oral cleaning.
It’s also fairly easy to customize most modern water flossers. Most consumer-grade models come with several nozzle heads that can be used to adjust the device’s end-point water pressure (usually between 50 and 90 pounds per square inch (PSI). Along the same lines, most standard models today also provide pulsation adjustment options (usually between 1,200 and 1,400 pulsations per minute) to provide versatility when it comes to maintaining the device’s coverage.
Overall, a water flosser can comfortably slot into any dental hygiene routine, regardless of whether or not you have flossed previously.
2Water flossers make use of innovative dentistry technology. A water flosser’s core active mechanic derives from technology traditionally reserved for a dentist’s office. Back in the 1960s, these oral irrigator tools (also known as dental water jets) were adopted by a Colorado dentist who worked with a hydraulic engineer to combine the best of both domains to improve his patients’ oral health.
After decades of refinement, these devices – today known as water flossers – maintain the hydraulic force of their predecessors to ensure efficient and effective oral coverage while greatly decreasing the risk for gum irritation. Even so, traditional string flossing has remained the primary method of periodontal pocket care recommended by American dentists.
But that trend is beginning to change. More patients are beginning to ask their dentist if a water flosser is appropriate for meeting their oral needs. As such, this innovative technology continues to become more user-friendly and affordable, due to increased competition.
3Water flossers remove plaque effortlessly. In terms of core performance, water flossers are most widely hailed for their ability to remove dental plaque from both the surfaces of teeth and the pockets between them. In fact, independent studies have all but concluded that water flossing is among the most effective at-home method of removing plaque. One 2009 study even found an industry-leading water flosser model to be capable of eliminating around 99.9% of plaque in just 3 seconds (4).
Along the same lines, water flossers are fully capable of eliminating all types of biofilm that tend to accumulate on teeth regardless of oral hygiene habits. If not addressed properly, these biofilms can cause undesirable teeth staining, which in turn can lead to dental degradation overtime. But here again, water flossers have been proven to remove stains efficiently and provide noticeably whiter teeth with regular use at a rate of 25% over standard toothbrushing methods (5).
To this end, a 2012 study even found that a single use of a water flosser could decrease whole-mouth plaque at a 75% higher rate than standard brushing alone. The same study further found that water flossers were able to target the following areas with a greater degree of precision: 66% for lingual surfaces, 59% for marginal areas, and 92% for approximal areas (6).
While regular brushing should be maintained while using a water flosser, water flossers are definitely a top pick for those looking to target their oral plaque.
4Water flossers lower the risk for gingivitis. As might be expected, this technologically advanced flossing technique has been proven to be more effective than traditional string flossing in several key categories, including in preventing the onset of gingivitis. This affliction – which is typified by the swelling and inflammation of the upper edge of the gums, known as the gingiva – can result from a variety of shortcomings in oral care, including the presence of plaque that calcifies at the gum line (becoming tartar in the process).
If left unaddressed, this affliction can read to regular gum pain and bleeding, as well as a receding gum line. Often, flossing is prescribed to prevent or mitigate this affliction. Water flossers, in particular, can tackle this task with precision, as one 2013 study demonstrated. In that study, researchers found that water flossers were around 80% more effective than air flossers when it came to decreasing whole-mouth gingivitis (7).
5Water flossers reduce gum bleeding. Though it can occur due to straight forward abrasion, gum bleeding can also be a noteworthy side effect of those suffering from gingivitis. Luckily, water flossers are, again, very capable of minimizing this painful side effect when used in place of abrasive manual flossing. This is because water flossers create less surface-level friction, allowing gum bleeding sites to heal appropriately while still keeping the afflicted area free of oral debris.
Even those presently suffering from bleeding gums can get some relief by using a water flosser. To this end, a pair of studies in 2008 and 2011 demonstrated a 26% decrease in gingival bleeding in patients using a water flosser – a factor nearly twice as high as standard brushing and flossing alone (8, 9).
6Water flossers are more effective than string flossing. Though it can be articulated in a variety of subcategories, the research clearly shows that water flossing (when used as part of a complete daily oral hygiene regimen) is more effective than string flossing. One recent study in 2013 made this fully clear, with researchers concluding that water flossing outpaced string flossing at a 29% pace (10).
Many of these studies used medium and extended length testing periods as well, with those long-term results showing an even greater effectiveness ratio when compared to manual flossing techniques.
7Water flossers are practical for individuals with braces or other dental appliances. Water flossers are also increasingly practical for use by specific types of dental patients, including those with braces or other similar types of fixed orthodontic equipment. Patients with braces are encouraged to floss regularly to prevent debris build-up around their equipment, so the fit is only natural.
Not only are water flossers compatible and gentle on these types of equipment, but they’ve also been found to be a productive upgrade compared to string flossing. A 2008 study summarized this conclusion in finding that water flossers were 3 times more effective at preventing plaque build-up and gingival bleeding in adolescent patients with braces (13).
8Water flossers can provide protection for diabetics. Diabetics can also benefit productively from using a water flosser regularly. Diabetics, in particular, are very susceptible to periodontal disease, requiring a more rigorous at-home oral hygiene regimen. Water flossers can slot into this need nicely, making this necessary oral up-keep a low-effort affair.
Studies have also shown water flossers to be more effective than regular flossing when it comes to diabetic patients. In fact, one study from 2002 (in the form of a clinical trial) found that the sort of coverage and cleaning methods provided by a water flosser are among the best methods for keeping a diabetic’s risk factors low (14).
1Water flossers can be expensive. Water flossers are very expensive when compared to string floss. They also require batteries or electricity, water, and ongoing maintenance; all of which are extra expenses. It may not be worth the hefty price tag for many individuals.
2Water flossers are not convenient. Water flossers require access to electricity and water, making it difficult to use outside of the home. Traveling with it can be an issue as well given its bulkiness.
You should use your water flosser 1-2 times per day. Maintaining your water flosser is an essential aspect of using it on a daily basis. With regular cleanings, you can ensure that your oral hygiene device remains in peak productive condition (not to mention fully sanitary).
In general, you can find maintenance and cleaning guidelines for your water flosser in your model’s owner’s manual. However, there are a few general-purpose tips that can help ensure that your new flossing appliance remains at the top of its game.
You should regularly clean (with warm water) all valves and attachment point through which water regularly passes. If applicable, wash your water holding tank on the top rack of your dishwasher.
Always air dry the tank afterward to prevent warping. Using a mixture of 2 tablespoons of white vinegar and 16 ounces of water, regularly flush out your entire water flosser system. Rinse thoroughly afterward. At least once a week, soak all water flosser nozzle tips in a solution of 2 parts water and 1 part hydrogen peroxide for 5 minutes. Replace tips every 3-6 months.
What is a water flosser? A water flosser is a consumer-friendly variant on a trusted dentistry tool that is designed to replicate the action of string flossing while minimizing the overall degree of effort needed to maintain one’s oral health. To do this, a water flosser sprays pressurized jets of water at the user’s teeth, allowing them to efficiently clean both the outer surfaces and spaces between their teeth.
Water flossers are currently among the most popular forms of dental self-care available to consumers. They provide numerous documented advantages over traditional manual flossing, including effective coverage and reliability when it comes to applying proper pressure to the gum line. As such, patients with a wide variety of general and specialized oral needs have begun to use these devices to supplement (but not replace) their manual tooth brushing regime.
How much do water flossers typically cost? Water flossers come at a variety of price points, with options available to fit most budgets. Basic, budget-focused models typically weigh in between $30 and $35. However, high-end models (including those that have gained endorsements from dental professional organizations) can cost up to $50 or more.
As with many personal care products, water flosser prices are generally connected to each respective model’s performance capabilities. This means that more expensive models tend to come with more special features as well as enhanced reliability when it comes to reaching their peak cleaning potential.
Also, pricier water flosser models occasionally come with added physical or financial benefits. For example, a given model may come with a set of specialized device heads for more detailed cleanings. In the same vein, a well-regarded model may provide a warranty or guarantee that raises the base price but provides assurance against financial loss due to subpar performance.
Are water flossers more effective than string flossing? Both anecdotal and evidence-based research has concluded that in many cases, water flossing a more effective solution for oral health when compared to string flossing. To this extent, one overarching study from 2009 concluded that an industry-leading water pick was able to remove nearly 99.9% of visible (both at the microscopic level and to the naked eye) plaque (1). So, in this regard, water flossing is extremely effective.
In terms of effectiveness, water flossers have also been found to be a viable option for individuals with fixed orthodontic equipment (such as braces). A 2008 study and 2011 study concluded found that those using a water flosser experienced 26% less gum bleeding compared to those using only string floss. In this category of effectiveness, water flossing passes the test once again (15, 16).
Does water flossing remove plaque and stains? If water flossing is maximally effective in any one category, it would be the removal of plague and similar types of so-called “biofilm.” Even recent research backs up this conclusion, with a well-regarded 2009 study showing that one popular water flosser was able to remove 99.9% of plaque from sample teeth (4).
Along the same lines, water flossers are very capable of removing undesirable teeth stains. A 2014 study points to this conclusion, with those researchers finding a 25% improvement in stain reduction when using a water flosser as compared to manual toothbrushing alone (which saw 0% reductions) (17).
Who should use a water flosser? Water flossers are particularly useful to individuals with heightened oral sensitivity or risk, such as those with pre-existing tooth or gum decay as well as those tooth implants. Along the same lines, individuals with orthodontic equipment have found water flossers particularly useful when it comes to preventing gum bleeding and gingivitis (18).
Also, diabetic patients are often recommended to use water flossers to counter their enhanced risk for periodontal disease. Some studies have found these personalized dental care products to be effective to this end, especially in terms of decreasing inflammation and the likelihood of oral infections (19).
Do water flossers require a great degree of maintenance? If used according to the manufacturer’s instructions, most water flossers can last for many years beyond their life expectancy. But to that end, most water flossers only require a basic degree of maintenance. Regular exterior cleanings are always recommended, though users are advised against submerging the device to remove built-up debris.
Because of their oral implementation, the most maintenance a user will need to perform on their water flosser will relate to its sanitation. This can usually be accomplished by running a white vinegar and water solution through the device (from the water chamber to the nozzle). With proper rinsing afterward, this process helps disinfect each component that may retain unsanitary debris as a result of regular use.
Are water flossers recommended by experts? For many years, water flossers were recommended by individual dentists to individual patients, without an overarching certification from a professional dental association. However, in 2017, the American Dental Association gave one industry-leading water flosser (the WaterPik) its Seal of Acceptance in recognition of its ability to remove plaque and reduce gingivitis (20).
With one popular line of water flossers receiving this recognition, it is expected that more companies will seek out a similar degree of certification in the near future. Accordingly, more individual dentists are expected to recommend water flossers to their patients for more general and specialized oral care.
When should I use my water flosser? Currently, the American Dental Association and the US Department of Health and Human Services recommends individuals to floss at least once a day (as well as brushing one’s teeth twice a day) (9). While the ADA and USDHH do not make specific recommendations for water flossers, the current once-per-day regimen is likely the best option for optimizing interproximal oral health.
Do I still need to use a toothbrush if I use a water flosser? Absolutely! While a water flosser is an effective method of removing plaque and dislodging particles trapped between your teeth, you should always continue your regular tooth brushing regimen while at the same time making a habit of using your water flosser. In accordance with current American Dental Association recommendations, this tooth brushing should occur at least twice per day, while your flossing (manual or water) should occur at least once per day (21).
When it comes to choosing a toothbrush, both manual and electric toothbrushes have been found to effective when used in conjunction with a water flosser.
Should I use my water flosser or toothbrush first? Overall, the pattern in which you care for your teeth is less important than the inclusion of both brushing and flossing as part of your daily oral care. The same goes for individuals using water flossers.
Generally, most individuals floss (manually or with a water flosser) after brushing to eliminate difficult-to-reach debris caught between their teeth. However, others reverse this order to remove surface-level plaque efficiently. In either case, flossing should not be left until a later time for risk forgetting the important practice altogether.
Through its innovative combination of hydraulic technologies, water flossers today represent one of the most practical and efficient methods for supplementing your daily oral care. While they excel at cutting down on plaque, gingivitis, and gum bleeding, they are also easy-to-use and customizable to meet a variety of specialized oral hygiene needs.
Those looking to take the next step forward with their oral health care should not sleep on the excellent potential exhibited by today’s water flossers. Study after study has vouched for their quality, so there are few reasons left to not insert this string flossing alternative into your morning and evening routine.