Waterpik vs. Flossing: Which is Best?

Did you know that there are different ways to floss? Just as there are traditional toothbrushes and electric toothbrushes, there are also traditional dental floss and waterpiks. Both waterpiks and traditional dental floss work in a similar way to remove plaque, food debris, and bacteria from the surface of your teeth, however they do so in different ways. 

Most people are familiar with how traditional dental floss works. With dental floss, you gently slide a thin piece of string or dental tape along the surface of each tooth, between the teeth, and along the gum line. Waterpiks, however, use a thin stream of pressurized water that pulsates. For this reason, waterpiks are sometimes also called dental water jets or oral irrigators. While both methods can clean the teeth, they each have their own pros and cons that will need to be considered to determine what method will work best for you. 


water flosser

Waterpiks are ideal for those who find traditional dental floss difficult to maneuver or for those who have arthritis or other conditions that can make it hard to floss. Additionally, waterpiks also work well for those with metal braces or who have dental restorations such as crowns, dental implants, or nonremovable bridgework. This is because waterpiks are easy to use and can get into hard to reach areas much easier than traditional dental floss. 

To use a waterpik, you will need to determine the most comfortable water temperature and amount of pressure to set the water stream at. You will want to start at the back of your mouth and should place the tip inside your mouth before turning on the water stream. Then, you will clean the inside and outside of each tooth. 

When it comes to waterpiks, one main downside is that sometimes not all the plaque is removed from the surface of your teeth. This is because it is believed that rinsing with water alone cannot remove plaque. This belief is currently being called into question, however, since waterpiks use pressurized water instead of simply rinsing. Another downside is that the initial cost of purchasing a waterpik is significantly higher than that of dental floss. 

Traditional Dental Floss

man flossing his teeth

Almost everyone is familiar with dental floss, partially because it has been the tried and true method of flossing dating as far back as prehistoric times. Flossing is recommended by the American Dental Association for both children and adults, therefore everyone should use floss. The main pro associated with dental floss is that it allows for the most control. This is because you must hold the floss in both hands and manuever it around each tooth to remove plaque. 

However, while holding the floss allows for more control, it also means that there will likely be places that you are unable to reach easily, like the back of your mouth or in between teeth that are too close together. In fact, the inability to reach certain areas in the mouth is the primary con of traditional dental floss. Another common con associated with dental floss is that if your technique is bad, you can cause your gums to bleed or become inflamed. 

Gerard J. Lemongello DMD

Dr. Gerard J. Lemongello Jr. graduated from the University of Florida College of Dentistry and has been in private practice since 1987. His focus is on cosmetic and comprehensive restorative rehabilitative dentistry. He is a member of the American Dental Association, Florida Dental Association and Academy of General Dentistry, and is an accredited member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry.    

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