Water Flossers vs. String Dental Floss


With the advent of new technologies, along with their higher price tags, many patients wonder just how important it is to make that additional investment into electronic cleaning devices. Because many electronic devices cost over $100, it’s literally worth it to investigate whether they are actually better than their manual counterparts.

In this article, we offer a comparison between water flossers and normal (string) dental floss, so that you can make a more informed financial and health decision regarding your oral hygiene.

We Need to Floss Every Day for Optimal Dental Health

Before tackling this subject, we’d like to first point out that it’s very important to floss every day. While the proper use of a toothbrush is effective for cleaning the proximal surfaces of teeth, brushing alone is ineffective for cleaning interdental surfaces (between the teeth). Without flossing every day, bacteria will calcify, turn into tartar, lead to inflammation, and possibly cause gum disease. Because gum disease is also linked to heart disease, flossing can work to help protect your heart.

How String Dental Floss Works

Using dental floss takes just a minute, but you’ll want to use proper technique to ensure it’s working to remove plaque. According to the American Dental Hygienists’ Association, proper flossing technique requires the following:

  • Using 18 inches of dental floss.
  • Pinching the dental floss using the thumb and index fingers of both hands, pulling 1 to 2 inches of floss taut between the fingers.
  • Wrapping floss around each tooth while gliding it up and down in a zig-zag motion.
  • Gliding the floss against the tooth surface and under the gum line.
  • Using a clean section of floss for each tooth.

How a Water Flosser Works

A water flosser works by shooting out a thin, pressurized stream of water. It’s much less hands on, as you simply hold the device over the surface you’d like to clean. Some models additionally come with interchangeable bristles for removing biofilm and getting in between braces.

Which is Better?

There are many studies that have compared water flossing and string dental flossing, with mixed results.

On the whole, the American Dental Hygienists’ Association recommends water flossing over string dental flossing. It cites studies showing water flossers are effective at removing plaque and reducing gingival bleeding more than string flossing does. A water flosser is also particularly useful for people with arthritis or braces, where maneuvering string floss can prove difficult.

The Mayo Clinic and other sources, however, continue to claim that water flossers are not as effective at removing plaque between teeth. While they recognize the benefits of water flossing, they do not recommend replacing regular dental floss with water flossing.

Incorporate Both Water Flossing and Regular Dental Flossing for Optimal Oral Hygiene

Because water flossers can run upwards of $100 per device (not including the cost of replacement parts), not everyone can afford a water flosser. Thankfully, people can stick with brushing twice a day and using regular dental floss to maintain good oral hygiene. However, those who find dental floss hard to maneuver, who have sensitive gums, or who are fighting off gum disease should invest in a water flosser and use it in addition to brushing and normal flossing. The $100 investment is cheaper than treatments for periodontal disease. Using a water flosser along with regular flossing will also work as a safeguard against using a less-than-optimal flossing technique.

No Matter What, Don’t Forgo Your Bi-Annual Visits to the Dentist

Ultimately, whether you choose to use a water flosser or not, avoiding plaque and tartar on your teeth is nearly impossible. Once bacteria calcifies and turns into tartar, brushing and flossing alone cannot remove it. Rather, you’ll required the help of a dental professional to scrape it off. Visiting your dental at least every six months is therefore important for removing tartar and keeping up with good oral hygiene.

Return to Blog