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What’s better for your oral health: traditional dental floss or the Waterpik? Apart from brushing twice daily, flossing should be an essential part of your daily dental routine. Getting in between your teeth helps ensure good oral health because it allows you to remove food debris, plaque, and bacteria that are trapped in hard-to-reach spots in your mouth.

The most common method of interdental cleaning is flossing, which is usually done with a thin nylon or Teflon string. This string is threaded between the teeth to dislodge and remove debris trapped all up in there.

However, an increasingly common alternative to using traditional dental floss is the Waterpik, which uses a jet of water to achieve the same results. So which one’s best for you?

Waterpiks

A Waterpik uses the pressure of the water it releases to clean your teeth. The water massages your gums and helps push away food debris stuck between the teeth and under the gumline.

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Waterpiks and other water flossers are particularly good if you have:

  • Braces: Water flossers require less maneuverability in and around braces than traditional floss. Furthermore, unlike string floss, you don’t run the risk of the anything getting stuck in your braces.
  • Sensitive gums: Water flossers are a less painful option to use.
  • Non-removable bridgework, crowns, and dental implants: If you have this type of dental work done, water flossers are a better option. This is because you’re less likely to cause damage to treated areas of your teeth with a jet of water than with string floss.
  • Dexterity issues: If you have arthritis or other dexterity issues that make maneuvering string floss between your teeth difficult, a water flosser can be a beneficial alternative.

What are the pros of using a Waterpik?

  • Ease of use: Most users find Waterpiks and other oral irrigators far more convenient to use than string floss. While you may need to experiment a little to find the most comfortable water temperature and power setting for your needs, once you have done so, using a Waterpik is very easy.
  • Cleans hard to reach areas: Waterpiks can be particularly helpful if you have tightly spaced teeth or periodontal pockets. They allow you to easily access hard-to-reach areas in your mouth. 
  • Keeps breath fresh: Water flossers help keep your breath fresh for a longer period of time. 
  • Can be customized: Oral irrigators like Waterpiks are available with several different pressure settings. This allows you to find the pressure that is most comfortable for you. This is a particularly beneficial advantage if you have sensitive gums.

What are the cons of using a Waterpik?

  • The water pressure of Waterpik is not always enough to get rid of all the plaque on your teeth. Many people prefer to floss before using a Waterpik for the best results. 
  • Waterpiks are far more expensive when compared to traditional string floss.
  • Like other water flossers, Waterpiks require you to have access to both electricity and water. This means that they can be impractical to use when traveling.
  • Waterpiks can be messy to use.

Do dentists recommend Waterpiks?

According to the American Dental Association, water flossers like Waterpiks can help you eliminate plaque build-up on the teeth. However, most dentists still recommend traditional string flossing over water flossers if possible.

Can a Waterpik damage my teeth and gums?

Waterpiks are completely safe to use and cause no damage to your oral health. In fact, the water does not exert the same amount of pressure on your gums as string floss does. This means there is less risk of gum bleeding when you use a water flosser as compared to traditional string floss.

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If you experience any bleeding, swelling, or prolonged discomfort when using a water flosser, make a dentist appointment immediately. Keep in mind if you have not frequently been flossing, you may feel discomfort for up to two weeks when you first use a Waterpik. This is because your gums need the time to become accustomed to the action of the Waterpik.

Flossing

Traditional string flossing has been around for centuries longer than water flossing. Floss was initially made of unwaxed silk but is today available in nylon and Teflon. 

Floss is available in both unwaxed and waxed varieties. If you find the floss you’re using is always getting stuck in your teeth, check to see which version you’re using. If you are using unwaxed floss, switch to using waxed floss. Floss is also available in several flavors. This makes it more attractive to children and people who are hesitant about flossing; they can even make the mouth taste more fresh thanks to the flavoring.

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Flossing is an important part of every person’s dental hygiene routine. Everyone should floss at least once a day if possible. So if it’s possible for you to floss safely, it’s recommended a Waterpik (other water flosser) only act as an addition to your routine of brushing and flossing. Unless you have no other option, it should not replace string flossing altogether. 

What are the pros of flossing?

  • Ease of control: One of the main benefits of string flossing is how much control it allows you. With string flossing, you can maneuver the string to ensure that each tooth is meticulously cleaned. You can also use it to maneuver into the areas between your teeth.
  • Thorough cleaning: String floss allows you to thoroughly clean each tooth. It not only gets rid of plaque, but it also helps you remove bacteria and food remnants from your teeth.
  • Cost-effective: Unlike water flossers, string floss is inexpensive to buy. It is also easily available from any corner pharmacy or grocery store, while Waterpiks may only be available at larger outlets.

What are the cons of flossing?

  • It can’t reach all parts of the mouth: If you only use string floss, you may not be able to access hard-to-reach parts of the mouth. This is particularly a problem if your teeth are very close together.
  • Gum bleeding: Flossing too forcefully or pushing the floss down too far below your gum line can cause gum bleeding. This can be a problem for people with gum sensitivity.
  • Not easy for everyone to use: The fineness of dental floss makes it a challenge to use for people with dexterity issues. It can also be hard for these people to effectively maneuver the string around the mouth.

Should I floss before or after brushing?

It’s best to floss before brushing your teeth. Once you have finished flossing, make sure to rinse your mouth. This helps remove any plaque or residue that may still be in your mouth.

If you use both string floss and a Waterpik, it’s recommended you use the string floss first. This will help loosen plaque and food debris. Once you finish using the string floss, rinse and then brush your teeth. This will help remove any stains, as well as any remaining plaque. Once done, finish cleaning your mouth with your Waterpik.

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When using string floss, you should take about 18 inches of the floss and move it around your mouth. Use both hands and maneuver the string in a C-shaped pattern on and between your teeth. This will help you effectively remove plaque. 

If you are using a Waterpik or other water flosser, first fill the reservoir with lukewarm water. Then put the tip of the Waterpik into your mouth. Once you turn it on, hold the handle at a 90-degree angle to your teeth. Start spraying — the water will come out in a steady pulse. This will help you clean between your teeth. 

If you are new to using a Waterpik, it may take you some time to determine the most comfortable temperature and pressure setting. When using the Waterpik, start at the back. From there, work your way through your mouth. Make sure to focus on all parts of the mouth, from the top of your teeth and the gum line to the interdental spaces and the back of each tooth.

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Water flossing should take you about two minutes. If there is any extra water left in the reservoir, make sure to empty it in the sink. This will prevent the growth of bacteria within the Waterpik.

Final thoughts

If you have any concerns regarding the use of string floss, make sure to contact a dentist. They will be able to help you find workarounds if you have any concerns that prevent you from using traditional floss, like braces or arthritis. If it is not possible for you to use string floss, they will also be able to help guide you on how to get the best results with your Waterpik.

You can find a dentist by asking your primary care provider for recommendations.

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