When it comes to dental hygiene, it’s important to develop a routine that best suits your needs. A toothbrush alone won’t clean sufficiently in the spaces between your teeth. Here’s how using a Waterpik stacks up against flossing.
Nothing is more flattering than a gorgeous, healthy smile, but taking care of your teeth and gums is about more than just good looks. Poor oral hygiene can cause cavities, tooth loss, and gum disease.
Gum disease can negatively affect your heart health. The bacteria that causes gum disease can also get into your bloodstream. If someone is pregnant, the bacteria can target the fetus they’re carrying, possibly leading to premature birth and low birth weight in the baby.
Brushing your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste is a good start, but regular brushing may not be enough to clean out food particles, plaque, and bacteria from between your teeth.
Toothbrush bristles aren’t small enough to clean effectively in these tight spaces. For this reason, interdental cleaning, such as flossing, is recommended by the American Dental Association (ADA).
You may be trying to decide which is better for cleaning in between your teeth: dental floss or a Waterpik water flosser. Getting input from a dentist is always a good idea.
It also helps to understand the differences and similarities between the two so that you can decide which will provide the most benefit for you. It’s important to understand each tool and understand what they can and can’t do.
Waterpik water flossers are also referred to as dental water jets or oral irrigators. The first oral irrigator was invented in 1962 by a Colorado dentist who was helped by his patient, a hydraulic engineer.
Water flossers use a pressurized stream of pulsating water to clean away food particles, bacteria, and plaque between your teeth and under your gumline.
When to use a Waterpik?
You may prefer to use a Waterpik instead of floss if you:
- wear braces
- have nonremovable bridgework
- have crowns
- have dental implants
A Waterpik may also be easier to use than standard floss for people with arthritis or for anyone who finds string floss difficult to maneuver and work with.
What are the benefits?
- easy to use
- gets in hard-to-reach areas
- cleans between tightly spaced teeth
Using a Waterpik can be especially helpful for getting into hard-to-reach areas of your mouth, tightly spaced teeth, and periodontal pockets that may be caused by early gum disease. They can also help to keep your breath fresher and for longer, which is an added plus.
Waterpiks are easy to use. Some people may experience a learning curve while figuring out the water temperature and power setting they find the most comfortable.
In order to be as effective as possible, remember to place the tip of the Waterpik in your mouth before turning on the unit. Go slowly and glide the tip along your gumline gently.
For the best results, it’s recommended to start with your back teeth and work toward your front teeth. Continue until you have cleaned the inside and outside of both your upper and lower teeth. This can help ensure that your entire mouth gets cleaned thoroughly.
What are the disadvantages?
- may not remove all plaque
- can be costly
The rinsing action of Waterpiks may not be enough to remove plaque completely from the surface of your teeth. Some people like to use string floss first to scrape off and loosen plaque. A Waterpik can then be used to efficiently rinse out residue and plaque left behind.
Waterpiks are safe to use and contain no risk, except to your wallet, when compared with traditional string floss.
There’s evidence that people in ancient times used various tools to clean between their teeth. True dental floss was first recommended in print by a dentist named Levi Spear Parmly in his book, “A Practical Guide to the Management of the Teeth,” in 1819.
Floss was formally patented 55 years later by Asahel M. Shurtleff. He designed floss in packaging that included a cutter, similar to the way some floss is sold today.
The floss of the 1800s was usually made from unwaxed silk. It didn’t gain in popularity until after World War II, when silk was replaced with nylon.
Today, floss is available precut in plastic holders called dental picks and as long strands you cut yourself. You can find floss in flavored varieties and as waxed or unwaxed strands.
When to use floss?
Flossing benefits everyone. Flossing is an important part of dental hygiene to reduce your risk of gum disease and tooth decay.
What are the benefits?
- easy to control
- able to clean each tooth in full
It removes bacteria, plaque, and food particles from between your teeth. Using floss also allows you to wipe each tooth clean of sticky plaque before it can turn into tartar.
The main benefit of using floss is control. Flossing manually allows you to carefully wipe down each tooth, in an up-and-down motion and to maneuver the floss between your teeth.
What are the disadvantages?
- unable to reach some areas
- can cause your gums to bleed
- hard to use for people with limited manual dexterity
Some people may not be able to reach certain areas of their mouth easily when relying only on floss. You may also have a hard time getting between teeth that are very close together. If you floss too far down below your gumline or too forcefully, your gums may bleed.
It’s important to rinse your mouth after you floss. This helps remove plaque and residue scraped free from your teeth.
Is it better to brush before or after flossing?
The ADA says that either way is acceptable, as long as you do a thorough job. Some people argue that they like to floss first to loosen food and debris from between their teeth, which can be brushed away after.
Others prefer to brush first to remove the bulk of plaque before flossing and to allow the fluoride from toothpaste to reach areas that could be blocked by food.
A recent study published in the
But the ADA and American Academy of Periodontology recommend brushing and flossing in any order to keep your smile healthy. Whether you floss or brush first is up to you!
The best dental hygiene method is typically one you’ll stick to, enjoy, and can see yourself using daily.
Many people prefer the control they get from manual flossing. Others rave about the fresh, deep-clean feeling they get after using a Waterpik. Research has shown that there’s minimal difference in plaque removal between using floss versus a Waterpik.
Both Waterpiks and flossing are good ways to take care of your teeth and gums along with brushing. The ADA recommends brushing twice a day and cleaning in between your teeth once a day. For the ultimate in teeth cleaning and plaque removal, consider using both twice a day.
Be sure to speak with a dentist about any concerns you may have. They can also help you decide on the best option for you.