Water flossers are a great alternative to string flossing because they are easy to use, result in less gum inflammation, reduce periodontal disease and easier for people with braces. They are also more effective at removing plaque, better for diabetics, they can clean deeper, are backed by research and have a myriad of options available in the market.
For those of you who like to stay on top of their dental hygiene (and avoiding unnecessary trips to the dentist), a water floss (also referred to as a waterpik or an oral irrigator) would be a great addition to your daily dental routine.
Flossing should be an integral part of your oral hygiene. According to the Canadian Dental Association, by not flossing, you are missing out on cleaning one third of each tooth!
This is why getting a water flosser may be beneficial to those looking for an effective alternative to traditional flossing.
But what is a water floss and how good is it for your oral hygiene? This article will cover some of the benefits of water flossing and how it can greatly contribute to the overall health of your gum and teeth.
What is a Water Flosser (Waterpik)?
A water flosser (also known as an oral irrigator) is a home dental care device which uses a stream of pulsating water to remove plaque and food particles stuck between your gums and teeth. Similar to brushing, the primary goal of a water flosser is to remove plaque and prevent gingivitis. Unlike a toothbrush, a water flosser tends to remove stubborn plaque and food particles from hard to reach areas in your mouth that brushing may miss. In addition, a water flosser can remove plaque from under the gumline, which traditional brushing cannot reach.
Dental plaque left in the mouth for more than 24-48 hours hardens into tartar (also referred to as calculus). Once hardened, tartar can only be removed by a dentist and this hardened substance is the number one cause of gingivitis. By flossing daily, you are able to prevent plaque from forming into tartar and thus preventing gingivitis (a disease that causes severe swelling and inflammation of the gums).
A water flosser (just like mouthwash) should be used in conjunction with brushing and is not meant to replace or substitute it. To maintain healthy gums and teeth, your regular dental routine should include proper brushing (lasting at least 2 full minutes), flossing followed by a mouthwash. For those wondering which comes first (flossing or brushing), according to the American Dental Association, the order has very little impact as long as both are done in conjunction with each other.
However, newer research states that one should floss first for maximum effect as it loosens up food particles that can be brushed away afterwards. But again, the order of brushing and flossing really depends on your personal preference.
9 Benefits of Using a Water Flosser
If you’re like most people, traditional flossing with a nylon string can cause your gums to bleed. This happens when you apply unnecessary pressure on your gums or if you have overly sensitive gums or do not floss often.
One of the greatest benefits of water flossing that I have personally seen is that it does not make your gums bleed. The overall process is far less invasive on your teeth and gums because it removes the use of nylon strings that can damage your gums if not done properly or regularly.
Research conducted also suggests that a water flosser results in much less gum bleeding than traditional flossing. Randomized groups were selected over a period of 14 and 30 days. Group A used a water flosser and a manual toothbrush. Group B was given a different type of water flosser and a regular toothbrush. And lastly, Group C was given a wax string along with a manual toothbrush. All three groups were instructed to brush twice daily and floss once in the evening.
After 14 days, the two groups using water flossers were twice (2X) more effective than traditional flossing at reducing gum bleeding. After 30 days, the results were even more dramatic than the initial 14 day period.
Easier for People with Braces or Other Orthodontic Appliances
Since water flossers are less intrusive than traditional string flossing, they are much easier to use with braces, dental implants and other orthodontic treatments. This makes water flossers an ideal solution for those going through or having orthodontic treatments such as implants or braces.
Clinical studies conducted by Tufts University’s Dental School in Boston showed that water flossers were significantly more effective at preventing gingivitis around implants.
The study was randomized among two groups. Group A used a manual toothbrush and a water flosser. Group B used a manual toothbrush along with a string flosser. there were 22 implants in each group and the primary outcome was the reduction of bleeding. Subjects brushed twice daily and flossed once a day.
After 30 days, 81% of the implants in the water flossing group showed a significant reduction in bleeding on probing compared to 6 of the 18 in the traditional flossing group. Overall, the water flossing group experienced a 145% better reduction in gingival bleeding around implants vs the strong floss group.
A 2008 study conducted in Canada on adolescents with fixed orthodontic appliances found water flossers to be significantly more effective at reducing bleeding than traditional string flossing.
More Effective at Removing Plaque and Reducing Gingivitis
The goal of flossing is to remove food particles and prevent the build of plaque and biofilm (that causes gingivitis).
Recent research at the University of Amsterdam has shown that water flossers and waterpiks are twice (2X) more effective than regular brushing and flossing to prevent gingivitis. In the study, two groups were selected. One group used a regular toothbrush with a water flosser. The second group used a regular toothbrush and a string flosser. At the end of 14 days, the group using a water flosser displayed a 2X reduction in gingivitis compared to the group using the strong flosser.
Another study showed that oral irrigation with water had an improved benefit for adult periodontitis over that of normal oral hygiene. The study was conducted over 0, 7, 14 and 28 days.
Adult periodontitis is a common oral disease of the oral cavity consisting of chronic inflammation of the periodontal tissue, which is caused by the accumulation and build up of dental plaque. Regular use of a water flosser will prevent periodontal disease from occurring.
Better for People with Diabetes
If you or someone you love have diabetes, then they can be at risk of periodontal disease since they tend to have more severe gingival inflammation.
Since diabetes increases an individual’s blood sugar levels, this can cause a higher risk of tooth decay and gingivitis. Clinical studies have shown that using a water flosser can significantly reduce the plaque biofilm, gingivitis, and bleeding for patients with diabetes
A randomized study of 52 individual with either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes was conducted over a 3 month period. All individuals in the study had scaling and root planing at baseline and were either assigned a water flosser or were asked to continue with their regular oral routine. Progress was then measured via clinical metabolic parameters.
The group using the water flosser was superior to normal dental hygiene in reducing the normal precursors of periodontal disease such as biofilm, gingivitis and bleeding upon probing. The water flosser also reduced serum levels as well as the reactive oxygen species, which is a bacteria that can cause tissue destruction.
So for those suffering from diabetes, a water flosser may be a much better and superior option than traditional flossing to reduce periodontal disease.
Water Flossers Tend to Clean Deeper
Traditional string flossers tend to go about 3mm deep into your gum pockets. Studies have shown that water flossers go about 90% to the depth of your gums pockets (depending on how deep they are). In studies, this meant depths of about 7mm, while traditional flossers go only 3mm deep.
Convenient and Easy to Use
Most people hate traditional string flossing because it’s painful and takes an extraordinary amount of time to do the whole mouth. And if you’re like me, I use unnecessary pressure, which constantly causes my gums to bleed.
This is why a water flosser is so much more convenient and easy to use. It’s quick, less invasive on the gums and the whole mouth can be cleaned in less than a minute. It’s also easier for those with arthritis or manual dexterity as it’s much easier on the hands and the arm itself.
Overall, people tend to look forward to using a water flosser compared to a traditional string flossing. This alone means there is a higher adoption rate, which results in more regular use (which is key for effective oral hygiene).
Clinically Tested to be an Effective Alternative to String Flossing
Water flossers have been clinically tested to be an effective alternative to string flossing. Two separate studies were conducted comparing the effectiveness of water flossers to traditional string flossing.
One study conducted in 2005 (by the University of Nebraska) over a 4 week period showed that water flossers were 93% more effective at reducing bleeding and 52% more effective at reducing gingivitis than traditional string flossing.
Another study conducted in 2011 (by the University of Amsterdam) over the same 4 week period showed that a water flosser was at least twice as effective at reducing bleeding as a string floss.
Water Flossers are Backed by Years of Research
Unlike gadgets you see on late night infomercials, water flossers are backed by years of research and studies The device has been evaluated more than 50 times since it was first introduced in 1962. Most water flossers also carry the coveted seal of approval from the American Dental Association. This means water flossers are both safe and effective at reducing bleeding, gingivitis and are a good alternative to traditional flossing.
Lots of Options and Price Points Available
You can find a whole array of water flossers available in the market that can fit any budget. You can find water flossers costing anywhere from $50-$300 depending on the brand and purpose. There are larger water flossers for home use and you can also find flossers that are more compact and intended for travel. There are also several major brands offering water flossers like Panasonic, Waterpik and Philips to name a few.
Healthier Gums and Teeth
So for those of you who are looking for an easier and more effective alternative to traditional flossing, a water flosser has become both inexpensive and more readily available.
Water flossers in combination with regular brushing and your favorite mouthwash will certainly improve your overall hygiene and prevent unnecessary trips to the dentist. As is the case with anything health related, you should have a proactive approach rather than a reactive one.