Flossing is so important. It’s an essential part of your daily oral hygiene routine, following a good brushing and followed by a suitable mouthwash.
Toothbrushes have been upgraded to electric master brushes and our mouthwashes get more precise and carefully balanced with each passing year… so it makes sense that flossing should get an upgrade too.
That upgrade is called water flossing, usually with a Waterpik device. But is it actually better for your teeth than traditional string flossing? We put both flossing methods to the test to find out…
What Is Water Flossing?
That super clean feeling you get when leaving the dentist is usually due to the wand tool that sucks and washes your teeth with superb efficiency.
Water flossing is like the home version of that.
With your own little flossing wand, you can shoot streams of pressured water very precisely around, on and in-between all of your teeth to get a super clean, plaque-free feel.
Most water flossers come in 2 types – cordless and reservoir/plug-in. Either way, you need a source of electricity and water to start the magic. A mirror is also essential. Beyond that, you can pick from a wide range of features designed for all kinds of mouths and preferences. To begin with, pick a low-pressure water flosser that’s easy to use until you get used to the feeling.
The biggest and most well-known manufacturer of water flossers is Waterpik, but there are other flossers available out there for you to try. What draws many people to Waterpik is their ADA (American Dental Association) seal of acceptance. The American Dental Association don’t just endorse any old dental product.
How to Water Floss
First, you need to unpack and set it up to your water flosser. Check if the device needs charging first! Most plugs are for normal wall sockets, so you may need to charge or store your device in your bedroom, rather than the bathroom.
Next, fill up your reservoir with water. You don’t want to use stone cold water, especially if you have sensitive teeth. Lukewarm water is perfect.
Start with the tip of the flosser in your mouth, and part your lips slightly to allow water to seep out into the sink. This will stop splashes from going everywhere.
Move the flosser along the line of your teeth, aiming just above the gums. It’s most efficient to floss just like you would brush – go from one side to the other, flossing around all sides of each tooth before moving on.
Move slowly and increase the pressure if your model allows that. When you’re done, it’s best to empty the reservoir of any remaining water, just to avoid any damage to the stand while you’re going about your day. You can floss once or twice a day, after eating difficult foods, or simply when your mouth feels like it needs a thorough cleaning.
Benefits of Using Waterpik
Regular dental floss could be challenging to use. The string is usually somewhat slippery. Wrapping it up around your index fingers is the only way to go. But, even then, you need to wrap it a few times just to make sure that it does not slip out at first contact with your teeth.
In addition, you should not use the same string for different teeth. If you do, you will simply transfer bacteria from one place in your mouth to another. Remember, floss strings do not kill bacteria, the simply remove it from between the teeth.
Navigating and coordinating the cord within your mouth is also not an easy task. Flexing the string beneath the gumline and moving it up and down can be quite dubious. Not to mention, all of this maneuvering needs to be done very carefully, so you do not cut yourself.
Water flossing is far less intrusive and easy to use. Different devices come with different power settings and flossing tips. For example, some tips are better for crowded teeth, others are better for braces. Regulating power settings allows for more relaxed flossing. As a matter of fact, some water irrigators come with gum massage settings.
Various clinical studies show that water flossing is very beneficial to dental healthcare. Some findings include:
- Using water flossers can be up to 51% more effective in reducing gingivitis, compared to other methods.
- Gingival bleeding can be reduced up to 2X when using a water jet device.
- 29 percent more effective in destroying bacteria and plaque.
- 5X more effective than brushing for cleaning around braces.
- Up to 3X more effective than string floss for cleaning around braces.
Your mouth will be up to 3x cleaner from flossing with a water flosser – according to Waterpik. Other models may vary, but the benefits are still the same.
- Easy cleaning between the teeth
- Quicker than with traditional flossing methods
- Effective removal of plaque
- Gentle on your gums
- No training required!
It’s also very simple to set up and maintain, which is a great bonus. Something that puts many traditional flossers off is the skill needed to really get that string between each tooth, which takes dexterity that not everyone has.
The Waterpik is also pretty good for people with braces and sensitive teeth – with more advanced Waterpiks available for very gentle cleaning, you’re undoubtedly going to find a device that works for you.
The biggest problem that we have with Waterpiks is their price. They are much more expensive than traditional string floss. In theory, you will only need to buy one water flosser, compared to regularly buying traditional flossing thread… but there are always accidents that happen and general wear and tear. Plus, there’s bound to be a better model available in a few years that you’ll end up buying.
If you’re on a tight budget, the cost of an electric toothbrush might already be pushing you to your limit. A water flosser is considered by many dental non-dorks to be an extra. Why spend lots of money when traditional string floss works with a little elbow grease?
Why People String Floss
Flossing with waxed string is the traditional method, invented 199 years ago, that many people rely on. It is certainly effective, there’s no denying that. Dentists recommend it all over the world. The ADA actually state that flossing is an essential part of your daily oral hygiene routine, not just an add-on when you have time in the morning.
You can pick up floss thread almost anywhere, and with no need for a sink or water source, you can floss whenever and wherever food gets stuck in your teeth.
By twisting and pulling the thread between each tooth you dislodge any food remnants and lingering plaque. There’s a certain skill needed to really twist and reach all your teeth, especially the molars at the back.
There are few flaws – while you may dislodge and move plaque about, to really push or pull it out from under your gums and between your teet,h you need more force. This is where the water flossers are a huge improvement.
Waterpik vs Floss – Who Wins?
The majority of researchers tend to agree the Waterpik is the more effective way to go. In the Waterpik VS floss battle with the Dental Dorks, Waterpik was a clear winner too. Here’s why it’s better:
- Easier to manage
- Quicker to use
- Reaches more places
- Reduces waste (no string to throw away)
- Suitable for sensitive teeth and braces too
But there are a few areas where traditional flossing wins:
- More convenient for travelling
- Cost effective and won’t break down
- Tried and tested for decades
- Fits easily in the cupboard
- Doesn’t need charging or wall socket
So, we recommend trying out a Waterpik for yourself. They are far more effective and convenient for everyday life, even for people with braces and sensitive teeth. It’s worth saving up the money to buy one, especially as you won’t be buying traditional floss regularly again. You can always stash away a roll of string floss for when you need to travel light, alongside a manual toothbrush.
Where to Find a Waterpik
Picking the best Waterpik model is not always as straight forward. Check all our Dental Dork reviews to find the best model for you! Some, like the Cordless Advanced, are pretty self-explanatory. Others, like the epic Ultra Professional, comes with a range of different features including a massage mode for your gums and 7 different tips to choose from.
You might also want to venture away from Waterpik to try other brands of water flossers on the market – just make sure to check the quality and Dental Dork review before buying!
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.