It can be hard to find consensus these days. But the one idea we can all agree on? Flossing is the absolute worst. It’s burdensome. It’s uncomfortable. It can cause your gums to bleed. We’re convinced that flossing is likely a major component of the 7th circle of hell. Yet we all want a healthy smile. Well thankfully, we can turn to oral irrigators/water flossers.
Often referred to as Waterpiks (though that’s actually a brand name), oral irrigators are a great alternative for people who would otherwise avoid flossing. They work by directing a concentrated stream of water onto your teeth, gums and the small spaces in between, removing particles in the process. (We also have researched the best electric toothbrushes.
We wanted to know more about water flossers so we turned to a professional – Dr. Timothy P. Levine, DMD. Currently the Director of Orthodontics at Jacobi Medical Center (Bronx, NY), Dr. Levine is a graduate of the University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine. He was an orthodontics resident at St Barnabas Hospital and a Jacobi Medical Center Craniofacial and Surgical Orthodontics Fellow. He has been in private practice in both the Bronx and Manhattan since 2010 and is a Diplomate of the American Board of Orthodontics.
Before we delve any deeper, we should note Dr. Levine stresses that Waterpiks should not be viewed as a replacement for regular floss. As he explains, floss operates “on a finer scale and gets into the gums that are directly between teeth, which water flossers are unlikely to reach.”
Fortunately, they still have plenty of merit. Dr. Levine continues, “Water flossers use ‘pressurized irrigation’ [to]…remove plaque and food debris in the areas of the teeth that tend to be harder to get to with a toothbrush, even higher-end, powered brushes.” He states the main benefit is that flossers disrupt biofilm, a technical term for plaque and the material that lets bacteria adhere to your mouth. Water flossers can “break up [biofilm] and get rid of the bacteria’s access to the teeth and gums.” According to Dr. Levine, water flossers are especially useful for individuals who have implants or braces since they make it harder to give your mouth a thorough cleaning.
When shopping for a water flosser, you’ll quickly discover that there are three types available: cordless, countertop and attachable. As you likely gleaned from the name, countertop water flossers rest on your counter. They typically plug into an electrical outlet and often have the greatest number of features. Cordless water flossers are usually battery operated; you can find both rechargeable and disposable kinds. They’re also smaller and more portable than countertop flossers and tend to be less powerful. Attachable flossers connect directly to the sink or shower. Hence, they don’t need a power source. Overall, Dr. Levine recommends the cordless option for travel and the countertop for home use. He says that attachable versions are usually more trouble than they’re worth since they rely on the tap for pressure and are fairly restrictive.
We know you’re anxious to up your oral hygiene game and buy a water flosser. So we applied the information Dr. Levine shared (he doesn’t endorse any specific brand) and came up with our top “Piks.” We’ve included additional information about the benefits of water flossing for your oral hygiene below the product selections.
If you need a highly portable water flosser, look no further than the Philips Sonicare AirFloss Ultra. Its name derives from the fact that the flosser uses air to propel the water, requiring less liquid in the process. Hence a full tank can last for 1-2 flossings. And while the AirFloss doesn’t have too many bells and whistles, there is a control that allows you to choose whether you have a continuous stream of water or individual bursts. Finally, the Sonicare comes with two tips as well as a rechargeable lithium-ion battery.
If you place a premium on oral hygiene, you’ll definitely want to consider purchasing an Aquarius. A top-of-the-line model with a chic design, this particular Waterpik provides a deep clean below the gumline and between the teeth. Of course, that’s not surprising given the 10 pressure settings, 1 minute timer and 30 second pacer. The Aquarius also comes with a range of tips – 1 orthodontic tip, 1 toothbrush tip, 1 plaque seeker tip, 1 pik pocket tip and 3 classic jet tips. In other words, this is an ideal flosser for individuals with braces, crowns, implants or periodontal issues. And if all that isn’t enough to entice you, the WP-660 provides a relaxing gum massage that will have you looking forward to your nighttime dental routine.
Want to get your kids excited about oral hygiene? Consider purchasing the Waterpik WP-260! Its colorful and simple design is perfect for any child ages six and above. After all, the controls are easy to use; there’s just an on/off switch and three different pressure settings. Additionally, the reservoir is able to hold enough water for a 60-second session. And the WP-260 even comes with an orthodontic tip, making it ideal for kids with braces.
The Panasonic EW-DJ10 is a great option for individuals on the hunt for an affordable water flosser. Its cordless, collapsible design makes it perfect for travel, regardless of whether you’re just headed to the gym or jetting around the world. Importantly, the Panasonic offers two settings – high-speed for normal cleaning and low-speed for people with sensitive gums. Fortunately, no matter which you choose, the flosser’s pulsing, targeted jets are sure to remove debris and break up bacteria. And its reservoir is easy to refill and last for 40-60 seconds. You will, however, need to purchase two double A batteries. The Panasonic EW-DJ10 can’t run without them.
The Waterpik WP-900 is sure to be a welcome addition to both your bathroom and your dental routine. For starters, it comes with both a flosser and an electric Sonic toothbrush for complete oral care. The toothbrush itself is rechargeable and features two speeds along with a pacer/timer. Of course, that’s nothing compared to the WP-900 flosser. This bad boy has 10 pressure settings and rotates 360 degrees. It also comes with a variety of tips – 1 plaque seeker tip, 1 pik pocket tip, 1 orthodontic tip and 2 classic jet tips. Best of all, this Waterpik’s tank holds enough for 90 straight seconds of uninterrupted flossing joy.
Worried about excess noise? Then the H2Ofloss Water Flosser is the model for you. Beyond its quiet operation, this particular flosser provides total control. Indeed, there are five pressure settings (ranging from low to high) as well as a pause feature on the handle. You can ramp up your flossing and quickly start/stop whenever you desire. It also has a high volume reservoir that lasts up to 150 seconds. But perhaps the most impressive feature? It comes with an astounding 12 tips: 1 cleaning irrigation tip, 1 moisturizing mist spray tip, 2 orthodontic tips, 2 tongue cleaning tips, 2 periodontal tips and 4 jet tips. You’re guaranteed to have a clean mouth after using this flosser.
Get healthy teeth and gums with the ToiletTree Oral Irrigator. Incredibly portable, this flosser can easily be tucked into a bag and takes up minimal counter space to boot. It’s also a cordless model that operates via rechargeable batteries. You can use the ToiletTree 1-2 daily for a week or two without having to recharge. Even better, it’s made with three pressure settings: normal, soft and pulse (which gently massages your gums). Finally, for a cordless flosser, it has a relatively large reservoir. It holds up to 150 ml of water so you won’t have to refill mid floss. What a dream.
Additional oral hygiene benefits to water flossing
An important facet to consider is the size of a water flosser’s reservoir. Some cordless models hold less than 15 ounces while you can find countertop options that hold upwards of 35. The larger the capacity, the less likely you’ll have to stop part-way through flossing to refill your tank. For reference, 35 ounces should last for 90+ seconds. And Dr. Levine says that you should use your water flosser for “1-2 minutes per session.”
Additionally, some oral irrigators are designed with a variety of pressure settings. This can help with debris removal and/or individual comfort (especially if you have sensitive gums). Moreover, having a modicum of control allows you to slowly adjust to using a water flosser. Many cordless models typically have 2-3 different pressure settings while you can find countertop options with as many as 10.
As you shop around, it’s also a good idea to think about different flossing tips. More modest models are sold with a basic tip (meant for every day flossing and gentle rinsing). However, some manufacturers include a few extra tips – important if you’re sharing the flosser. Beyond pure numbers, there are also a variety of tip types. You can find orthodontic tips (for braces, brackets, permanent retainers, etc.), toothbrush tip (to combine flossing and brushing), periodontal tips (to clean below the gum line and periodontal pockets) and restorative tips (to help clean bridges, implants and crowns). Further, a handful of flossers are designed with rotating tips, making it easier to reach the back of your teeth and mouth.
While narrowing down your choices, you may also want to keep an eye out for water flossers that come with timers. According to Dr. Levine, “Timers are useful because it’s easy to lose perspective on how long you’ve been doing a monotonous task, even one that takes a short time.” You can find some Waterpiks designed to signal when you’re done flossing. Other, fancier models may even vibrate or pause when it’s time for you to move on to a different section of your mouth.
Finally, before you make your big purchase, you should consider noise level. After all, like many tools and gadgets, some water flossers are bound to be louder than others (especially if you have a countertop model). If you’re sensitive to noise, make sure the flosser you purchase is on the quieter side.
No matter which model you end up getting, we can all agree that water flossers are an integral part of your oral hygiene. Happy flossing!
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