Updated on February 23, 2024
4 min read

Is a Waterpik Better Than Traditional Flossing?

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Regular flossing is an important part of maintaining good oral health. Your dental hygienist has probably explained how brushing alone doesn’t cut it. The bristles of your toothbrush simply can’t reach the food particles and sticky plaque trapped between your teeth.

Poor oral hygiene can lead to cavities, tooth loss, and gum disease. This is why interdental cleaning, such as flossing, is essential. 

There are two options for interdental cleaning: 

  • Traditional string floss
  • Water flossers (oral irrigators)

The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends brushing twice daily and cleaning between the teeth once a day with floss or another interdental cleaner. But which approach is better?

Waterpik vs. Flossing

Waterpik is the most popular brand of water flossers. It uses a pressurized stream of water to clean between your teeth and under your gum line. Some studies show that Waterpik water flossers remove more plaque than standard floss.1 

All of Waterpik’s flossers have the ADA Seal of Acceptance. This means they’re proven safe and effective at preventing oral health issues like gum disease.

young woman using oral irrigator in bathroom

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Pros and Cons of Waterpik Water Flossers

There are advantages and downsides to using a Waterpik.

Pros of Waterpik Water Flossers

Using a Waterpik flosser can help treat hard-to-reach areas of the mouth, including:

  • Tightly spaced teeth
  • Back molars
  • Around orthodontic appliances like braces
  • Dental restorations like bridges and crowns
  • Periodontal pockets that may result from early gum disease

Other benefits of water flossing include:

  • Reduces gum bleeding from flossing
  • Effectively removes plaque from teeth
  • Freshens breath
  • Easy to use, even for people with dexterity issues

Cons of Waterpik Water Flossers

The main drawback of Waterpiks is their cost. They range in price from about $40 to $200. Some people also report water flossers can be messy and take some time to get used to. In addition, some studies suggest using a Waterpik is not as effective as floss for cavity prevention.

Is a Waterpik Better than Flossing?

The answer remains unclear. 

One study from 2013 found that water flossers were significantly more effective at removing plaque.1 Another study from 2021 found that water flossing and string flossing were equally efficient at removing plaque.2

The bottom line is, the best dental hygiene method is one you will stick to. If you struggle to maintain a daily habit of flossing, a Waterpik may help.

When to Use a Waterpik Over Floss

A Waterpik isn’t a substitute for brushing. It’s an alternative to traditional floss that helps reduce bacteria and keep your teeth and gums healthy.

You may prefer to use a Waterpik instead of flossing if you:

  • Struggle to floss daily
  • Wear braces
  • Have non-removable bridgework
  • Have crowns
  • Have dental implants
  • Have arthritis or poor mobility

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How to Use a Waterpik Water Flosser Correctly 

There are a few easy steps to follow to use a Waterpik Water Flosser correctly: 

  1. Fill the reservoir with lukewarm water
  2. Choose a tip and click it on the handle
  3. Start with the lowest pressure setting and then place the tip into your mouth while leaning over the sink, so you don’t get water everywhere
  4. Turn the unit on and close your mouth just enough to prevent water splashes
  5. Let the water flow from your mouth into the sink below
  6. Aim the tip at your gumline
  7. When complete, turn the device off and press the “eject” button to remove the tip

Check out our reviews of the best Waterpik Water Flossers here.

Pros and Cons of Traditional Dental Floss 

Dental floss use goes back as far as prehistoric times. Manual flossing was first recommended by a dentist named Levi Spear Parmly in 1819. Floss was officially patented 55 years later by Asahel M. Shurtleff.

After all these years, traditional flossing remains the most popular method for removing plaque and food debris from teeth. However, there are some pros and cons to this approach:

Pros of Dental Floss

String floss is significantly cheaper than water flossers. It typically costs $5 to $10 for several yards, which will last months.

It also gives you plenty of control. Flossing manually enables you to clean each tooth in an up-and-down motion, moving the floss between the teeth.

Cons of Dental Floss

Some people may be unable to treat specific areas of the mouth when using string floss. You may also have difficulty reaching between teeth that are very close together.

If you floss too far down below the gum line or too aggressively, your gums may bleed.

Check out the best types of string floss here.

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Waterpik Water Flossers and traditional string floss are two methods for interdental cleaning. Scientific studies show water flossing is more effective at removing plaque than traditional flossing. 

The cost of a Waterpik is relatively high compared to string floss. However, water flossing may be easier for people with dental restorations, orthodontic devices, or limited mobility. You should discuss with your dentist or hygienist what the best option for you is.

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Last updated on February 23, 2024
6 Sources Cited
Last updated on February 23, 2024
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
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