If your dentist is doing his or her job, you know that you should be flossing -- it is a crucial piece of the good oral hygiene puzzle. Yet, it is often forgotten. For some, it is a difficult task to perform due to lack of dexterity, dental devices, such as braces or implants, which are hard to maneuver around or gum disease. Luckily, there are alternatives. Oral irrigators, also known as water flossers, do an excellent job of cleaning between teeth and are more gentle than dental floss.
Floss v. oral irrigators
Although dentists typically prefer traditional string floss, there are definite reasons to use a water flosser. Clinical studies show water flossers to be the more effective option. Editors at Compendium, a magazine dedicated to continuing dentistry education for professionals, say: "Numerous studies suggest that water flossers remove biofilm from tooth surfaces and bacteria from periodontal pockets better than string flossing and manual toothbrushing--together or alone."
In a 2008 study, for instance, water flossers reduced three times more plaque than floss in orthodontic patients. More recently, a review of scientific literature published in the April 2012 issue of Compendium shows a 75 percent reduction in whole-mouth plaque after a single use and a 51 percent reduction after four weeks of daily use of an oral irrigator. Recent studies show water flossers to be at least twice as effective as floss at reducing gingivitis and gum bleeding.
Users say the best water flosser is...
Water flossers use a steady high-pressure stream of water to clean between teeth and along the gumline. There are several options available to consumers but the WaterPik Ultra is, by far, the most popular and well-known among consumers at Amazon.com, Drugstore.com and Walmart.com. Reviewers say it's easy to use and removes a surprising amount of gunk from teeth.
The Sonicare AirFloss is another option that works in a slightly different manner. Instead of streaming water, users press a button to shoot a burst of air and water through teeth -- one at a time. It's not as popular as the WaterPik with reviewers at Amazon.com, however. Several say it doesn't get all of the food particles out with just one pass and that it doesn't fit between cramped and tight teeth. The WaterPik also outperforms the AirFloss in clinical studies where it produces significantly greater reductions in gingivitis, bleeding and plaque.
While experts recommend discussing your options with your dentist, a water flosser is a useful tool for improving your overall oral health. If you floss everyday religiously, then you probably don't need any other devices. But if you are inconsistent or hate flossing, the WaterPik Ultra may be a good alternative for you -- especially if you wear braces, have dental implants or gum disease.