Are water flossers better than traditional flossing?

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When it comes to taking care of your oral health, both water flossing and string flossing can be effective.

Cleaning between your teeth with floss may help prevent cavities and gum disease by removing plaque.¹ But, many Americans are not taking advantage of this important step to helping protect their oral health. A recent study found that just 31% of American adults floss every day, while nearly a third of American adults never floss.² If you’re one of those people who dreads string flossing and just can’t bring yourself to do it regularly, you may want to consider trying a water flosser instead.

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What is a water flosser?

A water flosser is an oral health appliance designed for at-home dental care.³ It sprays a stream of water between the teeth and gums to remove food, like traditional floss. Some water flossers can remove plaque and help reduce gingivitis.⁴

Various brands, types, and sizes of water flossers are available, but they generally include a motor with a pump, a water reservoir, and a water flosser tip. They all either need to be charged or plugged into the wall for use. 

How to use a water flosser

Though using a water flosser is relatively easy, it can take some getting used to. It’s important to have good technique in order to get the best results.

Here’s how to use a water flosser:⁵

  • Make sure the water flosser is charged or plugged in before use.

  • Fill the reservoir with warm water and place it on the base.

  • Select a tip and click it into the handle.

  • Starting with a low-pressure setting, lean over the sink and place the tip of the water flosser in your mouth.

  • Turn the unit on. Let excess water flow from your mouth into the sink. Close your lips partway to prevent splashing.

  • Aim the tip of the water flosser at the gum line and clean between each tooth.

  • Once you’ve finished, turn the flosser off and remove the tip.

Water flossing vs. traditional flossing

Pros of string flossing

String flossing effectively scrapes away plaque, which can prevent against cavities and gum disease.⁶ String floss is inexpensive and easy to find. You can find string floss at just about any pharmacy or grocery store. Multiple string floss options are readily available. Choose between thin floss, thick floss, floss picks, and floss threaders, depending on your needs.

Cons of string flossing

String flossing can be painful. A 2017 survey found that 16% of people who didn’t floss daily said it was due to pain, while 55% said it was too time consuming.⁷ It can be difficult to reach every area of your mouth with string floss, especially if you have arthritis or other dexterity issues. Braces or wires may make string flossing more difficult as well.

Pros of water flossing

  • Water flossing effectively scrapes away plaque, which can prevent cavities and gum disease.⁸

  • Some research has found that water flossing removes plaque even more effectively than string flossing.⁹

  • Water flossing makes it easier to clean between teeth, even if you have braces or wires in your mouth.

  • Water flossing produces less plastic waste than string flossing does.

Cons of water flossing

  • Water flossers are significantly more expensive, costing anywhere from $35 to $200 depending on the model.¹⁰  

  • Water flossers are much larger than containers of floss, requiring more storage space and making them more difficult to travel with.

  • Water flossers need to be plugged in or charged for use.

  • Water flossers can take time to get used to. The process might be a bit messy until you get the hang of it.

Are water flossers better than traditional flossing?

When it comes to taking good care of your oral health and cleaning between your teeth, both water flossing, and string flossing can be effective. If you’re used to string flossing daily, switching to a more expensive way of flossing may not be worth it to you.

However, if you’re not a fan of traditional flossing, water flossing could be an option. If you don’t like flossing because it’s too unpleasant, too painful, too time-consuming or all of the above, switching to a water flosser could fix the problem.

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Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice. It is not dental care advice and should not be substituted for regular consultation with your dentist. If you have any concerns about your dental health, please contact your dentist's office.


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