The Dental Series was created in collaboration with Bogobrush in an attempt to make dental health care not only important, but COOL, too! In it, we answer common questions and address current topics in the dental field. When Bogobrush is not helping spread the word about oral healthcare, they act as a source for ethically made, sustainable toothbrushes, with a one-for-one give-back program catering low-income communities that may not have access to something as simple as a toothbrush.
We all know that brushing our teeth is essential to having a wonderful smile. But as much as we are in denial, as much as we resist and kick and scream and throw a tantrum, the truth is that flossing is just as important at keeping our smile healthy. You know what they say; “Floss only the teeth that you want to keep!” It may not be what you wanted to hear, but if it’s any consolation, in the modern world, you have tons of flossing options. Today, we discuss the new and shiny water flosser, and how it compares to the old school way of flossing with string.
What Is A Water Flosser?
There are many names for the water flosser, such as water pick or jet floss. Whatever you choose to call it, it is an electric device that shoots pressurized, pulsating water at your teeth. Its mission: to remove bacteria, plaque, and food debris around the gums and from in between teeth. It has a water tank connected to a motorized pump, which is attached to a specialized tip that shoots water at an area that you wish to clean. Think of it as a miniature power hose, shooting right at the bad bacteria and yucky food debris, the culprits of bad breath, gum disease, and tooth decay!
Water Flosser VS String Floss: An Overview
Now that you know what a water flosser is, you may be wondering, “What’s the difference?” There are many differences between a water flosser and the traditional string floss. Before you choose which one suits your lifestyle and needs best, here are a few things to consider:
- Price: String floss will be less expensive than purchasing a water flosser, however, you do have to replace it more often. A typical water flosser can cost anywhere between $30 and $70.
- Ease of Use: String floss is fairly easy to use, but many find a water flosser to be far more convenient. Since they simply have to point the device towards the area they want cleaned, many people find this much more agreeable than developing a knack for guiding floss between the tight contacts and the unique angles of your teeth. Plus, for those who know they won’t use string floss, a water flosser can be a good alternative. It’s definitely better than nothing!
- Electricity: Most of the water flossers require electricity and thus need to be plugged into an outlet. From a minimalist’s standpoint, if you already use an electric toothbrush or other electric bathroom devices, having yet another item on your bathroom counter could prove frustrating. Plus, water flossers are not exactly easily portable devices, which is unfortunate for frequent travelers, such as myself. On the other hand, string flossers can be carried around anywhere, and it’s a great habit to always have some in your purse or pocket!
- Quality of Flossing: As a valuist, I always ask if a product is worth the money in terms of advantages. In other words, will a water flosser clean your teeth better than a string floss can? While this issue continues to be disputed, many dentists will argue that water flossers are great supplements to your oral hygiene routine, but that they cannot fully replace the effectiveness of a string floss used correctly. Speaking of which…
Can Water Flossers Replace String Floss?
Unfortunately, water flossers are fairly new and are just starting to be widely used. As with any novel product, it takes time to gather the data required to make a sound judgement about their efficiency. There is still a fair amount of debate regarding whether or not water flossers can be used to replace flossing the traditional way. Although opinions vary, most dentists (including myself) are not ready to confirm that a water flosser can entirely replace the string floss.
Clinical studies have found that people who used water picks saw a greater reduction in gum disease and gum bleeding as compared with string floss. So that’s good! A water floss is great for the gums because it sprays water and massages the gums, which then increases blood circulation in these areas. Increased blood circulation means that your body can bring anti-inflammatory factors to your gums more, which then reduces bleeding and inflammation of the gums. However, some studies have also shown that while water flossers can remove most debris and bacteria, it is not very good at removing plaque. The amount of pressure required to remove plaque is equivalent to the amount of pressure a power hose needs to remove paint! That’s a lot of pressure! Using pressure like that can be very harmful to the gums, which is why most water flossers recommend using the lower settings. Lastly, even though it appears that water flossers can improve gum health, it is not necessarily true for teeth. Some patients are surprised to find that they have cavities after ditching the traditional floss for the water pick. Why does this happen?
The reason is that, while water flossers shoot a stream of water between your teeth and does a great job of removing food particles and rinsing teeth, the string floss, with its scraping motion, does a better job at removing plaque. The scraping motion of the string floss is what removes plaque which, if left on teeth, can eventually become tarter and result in gum disease. Additionally, the water from a water pick cannot wedge itself between tight contacts. Food can easily get stuck right where two neighboring teeth touch. A string is much better at wedging itself in between the contacts and removing the food. For this reason, I believe that string floss is better at preventing cavities and is just as good at preventing gum disease.
Who Should Use Water Flossers Over String Floss?
While most dentists still recommend using string floss, it is true that there are some cases in which individuals will not be able to use string floss.
The following is a list of conditions that make it difficult for individuals to use the traditional floss.
- Sensitive Gums. People with sensitive gums may find that water flossers are less painful and are more gentle than traditional string floss.
- Braces. Trying to maneuver string around metal braces can be tough! Water flossers can more easily remove food lodged in between the metal wires.
- Dexterity issues. Those who have trouble positioning their hands properly in their mouths for string floss will find that water flossers are much easier to use.
In these cases, water flossers take the cake and are a great alternative. It also rings true that for some individuals, they simply will not floss because they dislike it so much. If you are one of these individuals, may I recommend first trying other types of string floss, because some are easier than others. For example, an easy glide ribbon floss will have an easier time getting in between tight, crowded teeth, and moved very smoothly along your gums. If you are looking for a vegan alternative that is very good at removing plaque, I personally recommend Cocofloss. It is a great option for young kids as well, since they make flossing so much fun! That being said, if you know deep down that you really are not going to floss (maybe because you really just can’t get into the habit or can’t get the hang of it), then using a water flosser is recommended, since it is WAY better than doing nothing at all! Your teeth is going to thank you for it.
How about you guys? Which flosser do you prefer?