Water Flossers vs. Traditional Flossing

Woman looking in the mirror while flossing her teeth

The American Dental Association (ADA) states that incorrect, infrequent, or no flossing can lead to gum disease, tooth decay, and bad breath due to plaque accumulation on teeth. Even though most people understand the importance of regular flossing for good oral hygiene, the truth is that 68% of American adults only floss once weekly, while 20% neglect it entirely.

Individuals who find traditional string floss challenging or less effective frequently switch to water flossers for eliminating plaque and cleaning the narrow gaps between their teeth and gums.

But which is the best method for cleaning between your teeth? When choosing between a water flosser and traditional floss, the best option is the one you’re most likely to use consistently. For optimal oral hygiene, using both traditional flossing and water flossing can help protect your smile and keep your breath fresh.

Water Flossers vs. Traditional Flossing: A Comparison

When comparing water flossers to traditional string floss, you need to consider how they impact your dental hygiene routine, including their effectiveness in plaque removal, impact on gum health, and overall ease of use and accessibility.

  • Method. Traditional flossing relies on a thin string to manually remove food particles and plaque between the teeth and the gum line. When done correctly, this method is highly effective at scraping off plaque and food debris from teeth surfaces and gum lines. While it can initially irritate sensitive gums, regular use of traditional floss reduces gum disease and bleeding, making it essential for oral hygiene.
  • Effectiveness. Water flossers use a stream of pulsating water to clean between teeth and below the gum line. This method is ideal for individuals with braces or dental restorations, as it can reach areas difficult for traditional floss to clean effectively. Water flossers are as effective as conventional floss in reducing plaque and improving gum health by reducing inflammation and decreasing bleeding.
  • Ease of Use. Regarding ease of use and accessibility, traditional floss is widely available and inexpensive, making it a go-to choice for many. However, it can be challenging to use properly, which can lead to ineffective cleaning or even gum damage if not done carefully. Water flossers, while requiring an initial investment and access to electricity and water, offer an easier alternative for those with limited dexterity.

Why is Flossing Important?

Flossing improves oral hygiene in a way that even the most diligent brushing or the most advanced toothbrush can’t match. Brushing alone only cleans up to 60% of the tooth’s surface, failing to clear away plaque, bacteria, and food remnants lodged between teeth and along the gumline.

Flossing works by gently scraping the teeth’s surfaces to eliminate plaque before it hardens into tartar—a tough calculus that only a dental professional can remove with specialized tools. By cleaning those hard-to-reach spaces between your teeth, you also help prevent gum diseases like periodontal disease and gingivitis.

Should I Floss Before or After Brushing?

Though it may seem counterintuitive, flossing before brushing is a more effective way to maintain your oral hygiene. When you floss first, the particles released from between your teeth remain in your mouth until the next time you brush. This can lead to bacterial growth and increase your risk of decay.

Flossing before brushing means that these particles are brushed and rinsed away along with the other debris from your teeth surface. It also maximizes your teeth’s exposure to the fluoride in the toothpaste, which helps remineralize the entire tooth.

Does a WaterPik Replace Flossing?

Ideally, you should combine water flossing with traditional string flossing for optimal results. String floss excels at clearing away larger debris, whereas water flossing flushes out smaller particles and bacteria.

In terms of overall plaque removal, a 2021 study found that traditional floss got rid of 1.86% more plaque than a water flosser; however, this result was not considered statistically significant. This means both water and traditional flossers are excellent at interdental cleaning.

Water Flosser vs. String Floss: Which is Better?

Interdental cleaning is critical for protecting your teeth and gums. And, since both water flossers and traditional string floss offer similar plaque removal, the choice between the two is up to your preference. For example, people with braces, crowns, dental implants, or crooked teeth might find it easier to use a water flosser, as it can be tricky to clean around these with traditional floss.

The most crucial thing is to choose a method you can stick to and do properly, whether string flossing, water flossing, or a mix of both. Additionally, book regular dental cleanings to complement your daily hygiene routine and address any areas you might miss to prevent dental issues before they start.

Schedule your appointment today by calling Hinsdale Dental at (630) 323-5200.

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