Flossing is a universal burden that punishes all demographics equally — children hate it and, despite their preaching, parents do, too. It’s time consuming, uncomfortable, and 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, a more user-friendly alternative exists to keep your oral hygiene in top condition: oral irrigators/water flossers.
Often referred to as Waterpiks (though that’s actually a brand name), oral irrigators blast a thin stream of water on and around your teeth and gums, hitting your mouth less painfully than a taut piece of traditional floss. They’re a great alternative for people who would otherwise avoid flossing, in particular kids who gravitate toward anything fun and novel — like a water-gun toothbrush. If you’re interested in going fully electric via an electric toothbrush, we have researched that as well.
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.
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.
The Aquarius delivers top-quality performance while offering a chic design, but in particular it provides a deep clean below the gumline and between the teeth. That functionality is supported by its 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 age six and above. After all, the controls are easy to use since 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 lasts for 40-60 seconds. You will, however, need to purchase two double A batteries. The Panasonic EW-DJ10 can’t run without them.
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 times 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 upward of 35. The larger the capacity, the less likely you’ll have to stop part of the 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 to 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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