Much like everything else that is good and healthy in life, flossing is somewhat time consuming and not too much fun to do. Don’t get me wrong, it is not a tedious task, such as shaving every morning. But, it is one of those little routines that we always try to cut short, or just cut (period).
The only time most people get the rush and feel motivated to floss is usually the evening of the day they went to the dentist. The same day you had to listen to a short lecture by your dental hygienist about the importance of flossing.
The triggering mechanism for a late night floss after the visit to the dental office are usually remarks, such as “oh wow, I’ve never seen such poor teeth hygiene before”. Shaming always works, at least for me.
So, you come home the evening after your dentistry lecture and you are motivated to floss. And you floss away. But, then as the days pass by, you get too lazy, you forget to floss. Not only that, but you also can’t seem to remember why flossing is important.
Why Should You Floss?
- Floss is an interdental cleaner.
- Flossing removes up to 40% from bacteria and plaque from your teeth.
- Flossing goes where brushing doesn’t.
- Protects your gums.
- Can save you money.
- Helps prevent other diseases.
- Prevents tartar buildup.
But Doc, I brush my teeth twice a day. My teeth are white as the snow, and my mom says that my smile can brighten up even the dimmest of rooms.
Brushing your teeth is great for whitening, fresh breadth, and cleaning the outer surfaces. However, unlike what late night electric toothbrush infomercials claim, you need the extra floss.
Being an interdental cleaner, flossing is designed to clean the tight areas between teeth, and the miniature gap between the gums and the teeth. No advanced brushing technique can get to those places. Also, no mouthwash can completely remove the tartar and bits of food stuck between teeth.
The plaque and tartar that builds up between the teeth is mostly invisible to the eye. This is why people often ignore flossing. However, each tooth has five surfaces. If flossing is disregarded, two of those five surfaces remain unclean.
Not flossing can also attribute to a variety of diseases. Periodontitis is one such ailment that is currently affecting approximately 34% of US population aged 30 and older. This particular disease begins as gingivitis before it develops into a serious and destructive inflammatory disorder that extends all the way to the periodontal tissue. This is how you lose a tooth or two.
Furthermore, the latest clinical studies show that unhealthy mouth bacteria can potentially harm other parts of the body. Heard disease, diabetes, and respiratory illness are to name a few.
Needless to say, flossing can save you money. On one hand, there are the ever increasing costs of health care. On the other hand, there are the continuously shrinking dental insurance benefits. The way things are going, dentist visits should be brought down to a bare minimum. In order to do so, you need to undertake oral health in your own hands.
Latest statistics show that dental emergency visits in the US can cost as much as 10 times more than regular checkups.
But, wait, finish reading this guide and then go floss.
What Is Water Flossing?
Water flossing is an oral health-care process. The purpose, like with any other flossing technique, is to remove plaque, tartar buildup, and food particles from between your teeth and gum line.
In order to be able to floss using water, you need a dental device. Such gadgets are known as oral irrigators or water flossers. Here you can check out our top ten list of water flosser reviews.
Benefits of Water Flossing
- More gentle on the teeth and gums then string floss.
- Easy to floss technique.
- Healthier teeth and gums.
- Natural whitening.
- More effective than brushing.
- Prevents oral diseases.
- Ideal for people with braces.
The Anatomy Of A Water Flosser
There are 3 types of oral irrigators for use at home: countertop, cordless and attachable (shower and faucet).
The practical idea behind each type is the same. They all shoot out thin streams of pulsating water in order to clean the space between the teeth and gums. However, they all differ in size, functionality and usability.
Cordless and attachable types of irrigators are great for travelling. They are small and compact. Allowing them to easily fit into your luggage. Let’s review the parts construction of each type.
Countertop Water Flossers
This is your most equipped and powerful of the 3 types of water flossers. It is also the one that usually stays home and does not travel with you to the highest mountain tops of the Alpes, or the deepest parts of the Amazon jungle.
If asked to describe this type with no more than three words, I would say, big, heavy and loud. But, also powerful and long lasting. So, if asked again, I would say that I need five words to describe it, not three.
Each countertop water flossers consists of:
Reservoir – also known as water tank. Not surprisingly, this is where the water for your flossing needs goes.
Reservoir lid – this is an important component that keeps out dust and debris out of the water tank. It is pretty standard nowadays with all models from all brands. It is also recommended that you keep it closed at all times.
Tip compartment – this is where you can find a variety of water flossing tips. The minimum you can get is usually two tips, some models come with as many as 10 tips. Not really sure what you will used them for, but it is always good to have spear ones.
Flossing tips – this is the final frontier. Different tips offer different kind of floss. For example, the “pik pocket tip” is best for delivering water into periodontal pockets. While, an “orthodontic tip” is used best if you have braces.
On/Off switch – if your unit is missing this one, you are in trouble.
Pressure settings – different to most countertop units. This is how you regulate the power of the water stream. You should always base this on your gum sensitivity, and should always start from a low setting and working your way up towards the more powerful pressure settings.
Handle – attached to the model with a cord. Most modern models come with handles that allow you to turn on and off the water stream. This makes the entire process of flossing more convenient. Also, the handle is where you attach the flossing tips. In that sense, every handle should have some sort of “eject” push button to help attach and remove the tips.
Cordless Water Flossers
Most cordless water flosser come pretty standard. They usually differ in water tank capacity, pressure settings and batter life. Also, some don’t come with rechargeable batteries. But, here is what you should expect when you are unpacking a cordless unit:
The actual water flosser (water reservoir included)
Water flosser nozzle – this is the equivalent of the flossing tips. Some units come with only one, some come with two.
Batteries – usually standard AA batteries.
Charger – this is specific to some models. Not every cordless unit offers this extra. Preferably you should shop for a device that has the ability to recharge its batteries. As well as to work when directly plugged into the outlet.
Unlike countertop oral irrigators, in this case, everything is located on the handle. This entire unit, is basically a handle with a water tank attached to it. Pressure settings, on/off button, and nozzle attachment are all located on the main part of the unit.
Attachable (Shower/Faucet) Water Flossers
These models are quite convenient for travelling as well. They do not need an energy source, except for an already existing stream of water. That’s why you just attach them to your shower head or kitchen/bathroom faucet and they start working immediately.
These are also the cheapest type of oral irrigators and in most cases rightfully so. They take less effort and money to manufacture. They also do not use any fancy electronics. Unless, you buy the Waterpik WP-480 model, which is not on our recommended list.
This, and some other models, are pretty much the same as cordless units. They only lack a water tank. This device is still attached to the shower head. It still has batteries, and the pressure stream can be regulated from the handle.
It does not have a water tank, because it does not need one. It is using the direct water stream from the shower.
Other units, like the ShowerBreeze, also come without water tanks. So, you’ve got nothing to clean after usage. You also don’t have to worry about bacteria building up if you haven’t washed the device right after using it.
In a matter of fact, you get less of everything with this type of flosser. So, in a way, there is less fear of breaking anything.
Both types of attachable water flossers are easy to install. You certainly do not need an engineering degree.
How Often Should You Floss?
The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends oral flossing once a day. This doesn’t mean you should not brush. It rather means that flossing needs to be done together with brushing. Well, not at the same time of course. But, if you do manage to pull this off, make sure you get it on video and send it to us!
So, do you floss before or after you brush? Who was first, the egg or the chicken? Let’s just stick to the first question, for a lack of expertise on the second one.
In 2015 a research poll demonstrated that 53% of people brush before they floss. Respectively, 47% of people floss before they brush. So, who is right and who is wrong?
Nobody, really. As long as you floss, you are on the right side. It also does not matter if you do it during the evening or in the morning. As long as you are doing it once a day. Work around your schedule to determine when you have a couple of minutes to spare and floss away.
How To Floss Like A Boss
No matter the oral irrigator you have decided to use, first you need to make sure that you have a source of water. If you are using a cordless or a countertop device, make sure the water tank is filled up. There is a little line that says “max” and it indicates how much water you should fill in. If you are using a shower or faucet device, go ahead and attach it.
Whether or not your teeth are sensitive, warm water is always recommended for flossing. Also, tap water is just fine. No need to use distilled water for flossing.
If you are using a flosser that has more than one pressure setting, set it to your desired level. I recommend you start from a lower level and test it against your gums and teeth to see how it feels. Based on the tip that you are using, and the sensitivity of your teeth, you can adjust the pressure afterwards.
When you commence the flossing procedure, make sure your thumb is always near the “pause” button. Usually located on the handle of the device.
To avoid splashing and making a mess in your bathroom, keep your lips slightly closed while cleaning. Also, try and stay over the sink. This will allow the water stream to run down and into the sink. Unless, you are using a shower flosser. In that case, splash all you want.
Make sure you clean both sides of your teeth. It does not matter whether you start from the bottom or the top. It also makes no difference if you go clockwise or not. Just make sure you work your way around each tooth and carefully spray between them.
The following image should give you a good idea how to properly floss around each tooth.
Here is a how to use video for one of Waterpik’s products.
Water flossers offer a comfortable and inexpensive in-home way to maintain good oral health. Now that you are familiar with all four types, it is time to choose what best meets your needs.
Think about the following criteria when making a decision:
What are your needs? Do you travel a lot? Are you planning on using the flossing device only at home, or do you like bringing it with you to the office?
Answering the above questions can easily help you decide if you need a cordless device. Even though they are great, they are not as powerful as the countertop units.
It is also worth considering your surroundings. Countertop models have electric motors, and most of them are rather loud. Let’s just say that people in close proximity might be awoken by it.
Having said that, faucet and shower flossers are like ninjas sneaking through to steal your cookies, compared to countertop units. The only noise they make is by default the actual stream of water that comes out from the tip.
Solo or Multi-Use
If you are looking for a family solution, countertop flossers are the best. They usually come with at least 4 different color coded tips. This allows for different members of the house hold to use the same water flosser.
If you don’t like sharing, get a cordless device. They usually show up at your doorstep with two tips.
The price difference between a low tier faucet flosser and a high end countertop flosser can be up to $80. Know your budget, know your needs, and read the reviews on the individual products.
Author: Peter Mayhew
Peter is a dental hygienist in the city of Chicago, IL. In his free time he likes to write blogs and product reviews on anything dental health related.