Dental experts agree that brushing your teeth is not enough when it comes to oral hygiene. Flossing, combined with brushing, has been recommended for decades as an effective way of removing bacteria and plaque from between the teeth at the gum line. Despite some debate in 2016 about the effectiveness of flossing, the American Dental Association (ADA) say that flossing is “an essential part of taking care of your teeth and gums. Cleaning between teeth removes plaque that can lead to cavities or gum disease from the areas where a toothbrush can’t reach.”
But flossing with string is a hassle and they can be messy. In fact, an ADA survey found that only 40% of adults floss daily, and a shocking 20% never floss at all. This is one of the main reasons there are now various alternatives to string floss, like water flossing. But what are flossers exactly and more importantly does water flossing actually work? Let’s have a look.
What is Water Flossing?
In a nutshell, water flossing uses a jet of water (and sometimes air too) to clear out debris and food particles from between your teeth. Generally a water flosser will have three main components:
• Some sort of container or reservoir to hold the water
• A motor that pumps out the water
• Some sort of tip/nozzle where the water comes out from, coming in different shapes and sizes
Water flossing feels less invasive than traditional string flossing as the pressure of the spray can be controlled from an attached unit. This helps you to focus the pressure of the clean and shoots the food particles, bacteria, and the plaque off of your teeth. The non-invasiveness of water flossing makes it less irritating on gums and is especially useful for people that have braces and other dental implants.
There are different brands and models but the market leaders are Waterpik and the Philips Sonicare Airfloss range.
Does Water Flossing Remove Plaque?
The evidence from differerent manufacturers says that yes, water flossing does remove plaque. In fact it removes more than 99% of plaque, when used properly and consistently. Waterpik has conducted studies that show their water flossers remove up to 99.9% of plaque and Philips Sonicare Airfloss studies show up to 99.8% removal of plaque. Some results have even shown a Waterpik water flosser model that has up to 2 times more effectiveness at removing plaque than string floss.
What is the Evidence That Water Flossing Works?
Different manufacturers have conducted numerous studies of their own using independent researchers and academic institutions. These clinical studies have used robust methodologies using randomised trials.
Some of the key results from Waterpik studies include:
• Removed 99.9% of plaque
• 3 times as effective as string floss cleaning around braces
• 2 times as effective as string floss for gum health
• 29% more effective than string floss for overall plaque removal
Philips have also conducted numerous studies for the Sonicare Airfloss range including a Plaque and Gingivitis Clinical vs. Floss (Sept. 2014), in-vitro study measuring the removal of plaque biofilm by Philips Sonicare AirFloss Pro, a 2-week In-Home Use Test vs. Floss and Waterpik, and Clinical and Nonclinical Safety Assessments. Some key results include:
• Removes up to 99.9% of plaque from treated areas
• Clinically proven as effective as string floss for gum health
• Up to 97% of patients experienced improved gum health in 4 weeks
• 89% of users surveyed said AirFloss Pro is easier to use than string floss
Water flossing vs. string floss vs. interdental brushes
Water flossing – the main advantage of water flossing is in its non-invasiveness. This means that it is not as irritating on the gums and is especially effective used with people with braces and implants. But the effectiveness as seen in the clinical studies is as good as or even better than string floss.
String floss and interdental brushes – although it is more invasive and can irritate gums, the main advantage of these methods is that they actually get in there, and can ‘scrape’ away debris and plaque.
To answer the original question – does water flossing work – the answer is yes, it does, and there are clinical studies to prove it. It is definitely the most ‘pleasant’ of the different methods. Whether water flossing is better than string floss or interdental brushes in its effectiveness can still be debated and may depend on your situation and level of patience with string floss. But in the end it doesn’t matter which method you use the important thing is that you floss every day.