Does this sound familiar: You are on your way to the dentist for your cleaning appointment when you remember that at your last visit you promised that you would start flossing everyday! But life gets in the way and now your best intentions are a thing of the past! So, at the last stoplight before the dentist, you pull out some dental floss (good thing they gave you some last time) and madly start flossing when you realize that flossing is NO FUN! There MUST be a better way! Well, I’m here to tell you that you have plenty of company!
As a dental hygienist for periodontist Dr. Stephen John, I have seen countless patients struggle with using dental floss on a daily basis. Even those who report using it everyday often do not use it effectively. In fact, a 2017 Ipsos market research study conducted on adults over the age of 18 found that 20% admitted they only floss when they need to or feel something is stuck in their teeth. Only 34% responded that they floss or use other interdental cleaners on a daily basis. The study went on to report that the biggest reason for not flossing at least once a day is “because it is too time consuming.”
Why do we need to floss in the first place?
Brushing alone misses around 35% of the areas between our teeth where plaque builds up leaving us prone to gingivitis, which can lead to gum disease if we do not clean between our teeth. Gum disease if left untreated can lead to tooth loss and has been linked to cardiovascular disease, cancer, dementia, adverse pregnancy outcomes, and diabetes to name a few.
What if I told you there is an easier way to floss?
As a dental hygienist, I have seen my patients’ oral health benefit by daily flossing. But what about those people who can’t or just simply won’t floss? As I started to do research on alternatives to flossing for my non-flossing patients, water flossing came up time and time again as a viable option.
How does a Waterpik water flosser work?
Waterpiks have a motor that emits a combination of pressure and pulsation. As the water goes through the pumping mechanism, it comes out of the tip at a controlled series of pulsations per minute and pressure based on the settings on the unit. As the pressurized water comes in contact with the tooth at the gum margin, it flushes out food debris. There is still energy left over to force the water below the gum line and between the teeth by the physics of shear hydraulic force. It is this pulsation and pressure that allows the water flosser to disrupt and flush out plaque (aka hydrodynamic therapy)
Is there research on Water Flossing?
To date, the Waterpik Water flosser has over 70 independent, peer-reviewed clinical studies since it’s first introduction in 1962. Clinical findings prove that water flossing can reduce plaque, inflammation, and gingivitis. A 2013 study showed that the Waterpik Water Flosser was significantly more effective than string floss for removing plaque. Other research has shown Waterpik to be more effective than interdental brushes for improving gingival health; 3x more effective than string floss for orthodontic patients, and 2x as effective as string floss for implant patients.
Are there advantages to using a Water Flosser?
For my non-flossing patients I’ve seen wonderful results in their gum health. It’s easy to use because it requires less manual dexterity than string floss. It takes a minute to clean the entire mouth. It’s a great motivator. My patients love to see all of the food debris being flushed out of their mouth and down the drain! As with any tool, there is a right and a wrong way to use a Waterpik, so I always make sure I instruct my patients on how to use a water flosser properly.
Are Waterpiks Safe To Use? Will it make my pockets deeper or force food into my gums?
When it comes to safety, the water flosser is supported by more than 70 clinical trials and over fifty years of use by the public. Trauma to soft tissue was evaluated in a study at the University of Missouri Kansas City. Investigators examined untreated, chronic periodontal pockets immediately following irrigation with the Water Flosser. Examination of specimens under a scanning electron microscope showed no observable differences between the irrigated and nonirrigated specimens concerning the physical features and appearance of the epithelium. The investigators concluded that the Water Flosser does not injure soft tissue. A 2018 research study compared three groups: a manual toothbrush group, a manual brush and floss group, and a manual brush and Waterpik group. The Waterpik group was told to incrementally turn up the pressure of their Waterpik. The last two weeks of the study, the Waterpik group was told to use their water flosser at the highest pressure setting of 10 (100 psi). At the conclusion of the study, the Waterpik group exhibited with either stable or improved gum health. Therefore the Waterpik was deemed safe to use at any pressure setting. Today, most dental professionals have had positive experiences with patients using a water flosser, further putting the issue to rest. The water flosser has been found to be safe and effective for patients who have diabetes, patients with implants, and patients with orthodontic appliances.
There are so many models of Waterpiks. Which one should I buy?
Waterpik makes many models in a wide price range. For people with specialized dental needs such as braces, crowns (caps), bridges, implants, or gum problems, I tend to recommend the tabletop models that have specialized tips. For those that have small bathrooms, there are smaller models that are just as powerful. There is even a model that you can use in the shower! For those of you who want an electric toothbrush and a Waterpik all in one unit, then Waterpik Sonic-Fusion has got you covered.
If there’s anything I’ve learned as a dental hygienist, it’s that people are different. It’s important to know what will work best for you. But if there’s one thing we can agree on, it’s that your teeth and oral health are important! If regular flossing isn’t getting the results you’re looking for, a water flosser might be the best option for you. If you have further questions about water flossing or string flossing, consult with your dental professional as to which product is right for you.
Cheryl Calmis, RDH, BS is an Independent Professional Educator for Waterpik, Inc. as well as Dr. Stephen John’s dental hygienist with more than 20 years experience in periodontics. In 2019 she was honored as a Dimensions of Dental Hygiene Brand Ambassador. She received her BS degree in Dental Hygiene from UC San Francisco and a BS in Biology from San Jose State University. Prior to becoming a dental hygienist, Cheryl worked as a Microbiology Lab technician in the biotech industry. In her spare time, Cheryl likes to garden, cook, and spend time with her family.