Electric toothbrushes aren't the only popular electric-powered dental gear. Electric flossers, also known as water flossers or oral irrigators, are a popular alternative to flossing. They allow the user to shoot a high-powered stream of water in between teeth (or around braces), removing loose stray particles. This is the technology that many dental hygienists use in the professional setting, and many people love them for that "just-cleaned" feeling every day. Electric water flossers are particularly useful for those who have braces or bridge work -- two situations that make it very difficult to floss effectively with string. Electric flossers are also great if you have mobility issues that make it hard to floss correctly, or very crooked teeth that make it hard to get string floss in between. However, with all water flossers, there is a learning curve in mastering how to use it without spraying water everywhere.
Of course, you still need to brush, too, so to find the best brushing companion for your water flosser, be sure to check out our section on electric toothbrushes elsewhere in this report.
Waterpik is practically synonymous with water flossers, and no other model gets even close to the raves that our choice for Best Reviewed, the Waterpik Aquarius Water Flosser (Est. $60), garners. Owners say it's noticeably more effective than string floss, not only in removing stuck food from in between teeth, but also cleaning along the gum line, removing stains left by coffee or wine, and leaving a lingering feeling of freshness.
The Aquarius is highly customizable, with 10 different settings so that even those with the most sensitive teeth -- as well as those who like a blast of water power -- will find a level that works for then without causing discomfort. The manufacturer recommends starting on the lowest setting and working your way up, however. Many are pleased with how regular use of the Waterpik has "toughened" their gums and made them less prone to bleeding and tenderness.
The tank on the Waterpik Aquarius can be filled with either water or mouthwash and holds enough liquid for 90 seconds of flossing, plenty users say for a thorough cleaning. A 30-second timer reminds you to move to different sections of your mouth. The Aquarius includes seven tips, each of which lasts around six months -- three classic tips and four special-feature tips. Replacement tips cost about $10 for a set of two. Many owners say that you need a lot of tips to enjoy the Waterpik's many cleaning features, so costs for those tips can add up, but most say it's worth it for the improvements in their dental hygiene.
The only other downside to the Waterpik Aquarius is that it's a bit bulky and is meant to be kept in one place. If you'd like to travel with your water flosser just as you do with a package of string floss, we recommend taking a look at the Panasonic Portable Dental Water Flosser (Est. $35). Even though it's a portable model, it's the only other oral irrigator that gets nearly as good reviews as a Waterpik. This power water flosser runs on two AA batteries, and features two speeds for optimal dental hygiene. When you're done using it, just empty the water and collapse it to a small package that measures about 2 inches by 4 inches.
Many reviewers, especially those who travel a lot, say they couldn't imagine living without this handy little oral irrigator. Others, who may not have space for a full-sized model in a small bathroom, say they use this as their primary water flosser. Although some reviewers say it's not as powerful as their plug-in model, most say it's just fine for replacing a dedicated water flosser for occasional use. However, many reviewers like it precisely because it isn't as powerful and isn't as hard on sensitive teeth. Because this is an updated version of an older model, there aren't a lot of reviews that address long term durability, but we saw many comments about the older model lasting four or five years or more; hopefully, this updated version will be just as durable.
Elsewhere in this report: