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Water flossing has grown in popularity as the market has provided at-home use products at affordable prices. Water flossing is an alternative to traditional string flossing, which is statistically among the least consistent part of the average American’s daily hygiene routine. To sweeten the deal (but don’t tell the dentist we said anything about sweets), early studies have suggested that water flossers are potentially the most effective method of flossing when compared to other widely available alternatives, making them worth considering even for folks who are consistent about flossing daily. To understand if this is a viable option for your dental hygiene, read on for all things pertaining to water flossing.

How is Water Flossing Different Than Other Flossing Methods?

Water flossing is a way to clean those tough-to-reach areas between teeth and along the gumline that is often missed by brushing alone. One notable difference between water flossing and alternate methods is that rather than using a physical object (such as floss string or the bristles of an interdental brush, water flossing primarily uses the pressure from a stream of water to dislodge debris and clean a targeted area. This process gives the gums a nice massage and has been shown to greatly reduce the amount of gum bleeding created by the cleaning process as compared to traditional flossing. Because of the gentle process, water flossing is the perfect way to clean out food debris if you have sensitive gums.

Components of a Water Flosser

A typical water flossing system is composed of:

  •  A chamber that is filled with the water
  •  A pen-shaped instrument that curves at the top to form a perpendicular alignment with your teeth when held upright
  • Sometimes, a docking station

Manual vs. Automatic Water Flossers

A manual water flosser requires hand pumping during use, which draws the water up from the chamber and through the pick and directs into a pressurized stream that comes out of the pick, aimed between the teeth and along the gum lines.

The pricier versions are often either battery-powered, come with a rechargeable battery and charging device, or can be plugged into an outlet. Unlike the manual version, they don’t require pumping to create the water flow, but rather, are turned on and off with a button or switch that is generally located on the pick or on its storage dock.

If you’re just starting out, you can start on a low-pressure setting and work your way up the pressure dial as your gums adjust to this new type of stimulation. Given that you don’t already have some gum health issue that requires professional attention, you should be able to increase the water’s pressure within a couple of weeks of daily use. If there is no reduction of sensitivity after a couple of weeks, schedule an appointment with a dental professional.

How to Water Floss?

Once you have purchased a water flossing tool, the process of it is both easy and efficient to complete. Activate the water stream (depending on the model you have) and bring the angled end of the water pick up to your mouth. Focus the stream of the water on the space between your teeth, and hold there for several seconds. Then, trace the inside and outside gumline to thoroughly flush.

Water Flossing Tips for First-Timers

  • From an upright standing position, lean over the sink so that your chin and mouth are over the basin. That way, the water from the flossing process will trickle into the sink, and any excess water in the mouth can easily be discarded by spitting in the sink. After all, you are removing plaque and debris, and that’s not something you want to ingest. However, if you choose to use a water flosser that is housed in the shower, there will be no need to bend over, saving you from any pain caused by repeat exposure of this position in the long run. Additionally, water flossing in the shower removes the stress of cleaning up a wet mess on the counter!
  • Purse your lips slightly while using your water flosser so that they create a sort of splash guard for your eyes and face.

Is Water Flossing Effective?

The numbers speak for themselves:

  • A study published by the American Dental Hygienists Association found that water flossing was 50% more effective in reducing occurrences of gingivitis compared to traditional flossing
  • A study published by the US National Library of Medicine found that water flossing removed over 74.4% of overall plaque in the mouth (whereas traditional flossing only removed 57.7%).

Water Flossing for Implants

For folks who have dental implants or dental hardware such as braces, water flossing is a great option. While getting all those areas is hard enough, having braces creates even more spaces that require extra attention while also creating a physical obstacle for reaching the spaces between teeth. As if that weren’t enough to deal with, brackets can be delicate and break if threading catches the wrong way or is tugged too hard. 

Many water flossing products offer specialized water flow heads designed for people with braces or dental implants that make it easy to get all these nooks and crannies thoroughly and efficiently. Additionally, the water pressure is gentler and less likely to damage dental hardware, saving extra trips to the dentist. 

Even if you don’t have any special dental considerations, many dental professionals consider water flossers a good option for those who don’t floss regularly or just aren’t very good at it when they do. It is easy to use, less unpleasant of a process overall, and not as time-intensive as string floss, making it easier to integrate into day-to-day routines.

Drawbacks

The drawback of water flossing, when compared to other methods, is that it is less portable in nature (compared to dental floss or dental picks). If you get a full-size at-home water flosser, you may have to pick up an alternate method when you travel or are away from home for more than a day or two.

Water flossers are a great addition to any oral hygiene care regimen that can support healthy teeth and gums for years to come. With studies increasingly showing support for water flossers’ effectiveness in various measures of oral health, it could potentially be the most effective method of flossing currently on the market. Investing in a water flossing product and using it regularly can pay off big time in the long run by preventing (and in some cases, even reversing) gingivitis and other periodontal diseases and keeping your pearly whites…well, pearly white.

Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24282867
https://www.toothwisdom.org/a-z/article/when-flossing-is-a-challenge/

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