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Waterpik vs. Flossing: Which is Better?

Waterpik vs. Flossing: Which is Better?

Oral hygiene is an integral part of one’s daily habits and key to preventing tooth decay, cavities, and gum disease. One of the critical elements of oral cleanliness? Flossing! We’re going to dive into the Waterpik vs. flossing debate.

While dental floss is the most common technique used to clean between teeth, the Waterpik (AKA water floss) has recently grown in popularity. Some may beg the question: “is a Waterpik as good as flossing?” There are pros and cons to both water flossing and string flossing, so let’s figure out which one is right for you.

But first — let’s talk about some basics!

How does a Water Flosser Work?

Waterpiks are a handheld device that pumps water through a nozzle. You simply put it in your mouth, turn it on, and slowly run the water over your gumlines. It can clean hard-to-reach areas and leaves your mouth feeling fresh and clean. Moreover, it is an excellent option for cleaning between your back molars, which may be difficult to floss regularly.

  • Easy to use
  • No bleeding gums
  • Cleans between teeth 

  • Expensive
  • Can be messy
  • Might not get every piece of debris

How does Regular Floss Work?

Regular dental floss is very simple and allows for complete control by the user. Often stored in a little snap-open container, string floss is easy to measure and pull out of its box. You simply wrap the floss around your fingers as comfortably as possible, then run the floss between each tooth and under your gumline to draw out any plaque and food bits.

You may buy either waxed or unwaxed dental floss; it is entirely up to you and your preferences. Waxed floss may be better for those with tightly spaced teeth, as it has lubricating properties and may slip in between the teeth more easily. Waxed floss also comes in various flavors to keep you feeling extra fresh!

On the other hand, unwaxed floss has no artificial flavor, thus fewer chemicals (yay!).

With all that said, the best floss comes down to preference, as neither waxed nor unwaxed are “bad” or “good.” They both get the job done!

Another fun aspect of floss is that you can buy them pre-cut and attached in dental picks. This can be a helpful tool for those whose hands are too big to reach their back molars when flossing regularly. It’s also an excellent option for people who don’t enjoy having to measure out their floss every time they use it.

  • Very cheap to buy
  • User has full control
  • Cleans gums and teeth deeply

  • Gums may bleed
  • Hard to reach some areas
  • Recurring (albeit minor) expense

Why a Waterpik May Work for You

Image by Milan Markovic / Shutterstock

If you have braces: Flossing is difficult when you have braces. It may even be hard enough that you decide to forego flossing altogether, at least until the braces come off. However, this is the perfect situation to use a Waterpik. If you really can’t floss, or find it too difficult to do as often as you would like, you should absolutely give a water flosser a try. It will irrigate between your braces and your teeth, and it takes zero effort on your part.

If you have a dental bridge: A water flosser is helpful here for the same reasons as braces: it can make cleaning around the hardware much easier than regular floss.

If you have Arthritis: If you have arthritis or any hand pain, it may be challenging and painful to use regular floss. This is another situation that makes water flossing incredibly useful.

Why Regular Floss Will Work for You

Regular floss works for just about everyone.

The only reason you may have an issue with it is if you have any of the conditions listed above. If you have teeth and gums, you should floss! Flossing helps prevent gum disease and is very effective at removing plaque and tartar. The bottom line is that flossing is incredibly helpful when it comes to oral hygiene, and everyone should floss to remove bacteria from their mouths. 

Waterpik vs. Flossing: Commonly Asked Questions

Now that we’ve had an overview of regular and water flossing, let’s answer a few burning questions.

Does a Waterpik Replace Flossing? The short answer is no. To elaborate, while Waterpiks are effective, they cannot get your teeth quite as clean as regular floss. Although the pulsing water can clean between one’s teeth, it is not as methodical and precise as flossing.

Do I Need to Floss if I Use a Waterpik? Unless your dentist specifically tells you otherwise, yes. As mentioned above, using a Waterpik instead of flossing isn’t the best idea. Especially for those with crowded teeth, you need the floss to get between those tightly packed teeth to clean out food and plaque.

Can a Waterpik Replace Brushing? That’s a big fat “no!” Although water flossing can be a great way to clean between the teeth and gums, it won’t clean your tooth surface very well. It’s far more effective to use your toothbrush and toothpaste (or tablets) to remove surface stains and keep your smile sparkling.

Draw Your Own Conclusions

Waterpik Flosser
Image by Waterpik

When it comes to using a Waterpik vs. flossing, regular floss is the clear winner when it comes to cleanliness. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get a Waterpik. It can aid those with braces and painful joints, and it can serve as a helpful addition to your routine.

While the Waterpik and other water flossers are expensive, that does not mean that using a Waterpik is better than flossing. On the contrary, dentists do not recommend using a Waterpik instead of flossing, but rather using it in conjunction with brushing and flossing.

The truth is, you can’t go wrong with a Waterpik or floss. If you can afford a Waterpik and want to give it a whirl, then you absolutely should! Just don’t start using your Waterpik instead of flossing or brushing. 

Always remember to ask your dentist if you have any questions about your oral hygiene routine!

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