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Water Flossing Facts: Does Oral Irrigation Measure Up?

One of the trendiest new fads in oral hygiene is the use of water flossers instead of traditional string floss.

Now, technically, water flossers aren’t that new—the first oral irrigation systems were developed back in the 60’s. But let’s face it, oral hygiene practices don’t evolve that quickly, and the recent rise of brand-name products like the Waterpik® make the topic worth a look.

So, what exactly are they?

Do they even work?

Can they be as effective as string floss at preventing periodontal disease? Let’s review the details.

Water Flosser Basics

For those unfamiliar with the technology, water flossers are just what they sound like: they're plastic tubes that spray water along your gum line to irrigate the tissue around your teeth.

Most water flossers involve a thin, plastic cannula attached to a reservoir of water. You plug it in, turn on the motor, and let a continuous spray of water blast away the gunk and grime that accumulates in your mouth.

Understandably, water flossers have become pretty popular. Few of us would admit to enjoying the process of wrapping a string of dental floss around our fingers and digging into our gums every day; water flossers offer a relatively simple alternative that is faster and more comfortable than old-fashioned string floss.

But just how effective are they?

Do Water Flossers Work?

The detractors of water flossers argue that water-based irrigation can’t clean between our teeth as effectively as traditional string flossing, but as it turns out, the current body of research has some good news to share.

Over decades of study on the efficacy and safety of water flossers, research indicates that they are just as effective, if not more so, as traditional string floss.

One research study found that water flossers were 29% more effective at overall plaque removal than traditional string floss.

Another study noted that water flossers (when fitted with orthodontic tips) were far more effective than string floss at reducing plaque buildup and oral bleeding in patients who had fixed orthodontics.

Clearly, water flossers have research to support their effectiveness. And given how much easier it is to move a plastic handle than manipulate tiny strings around our teeth, they may be of particular value for certain individuals who have trouble with wiry dental floss.

Who May Benefit from Water Flossing

According to the research, just about anybody can benefit from using water flossers. They’re just as effective as string floss. But due to the unique way they work, certain groups may find them particularly useful:

If you’re worried you’re not flossing often enough but can’t seem to stick with old-fashioned flossing, it might be time to give water flossing a shot. However, if you have specific dental health problems or issues, speak to Dr. Hsu before beginning any new care routine!

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