Water Flosser Guide

erica medical reviewer
Medically Reviewed
by Dr. Erica Anand
Michael Bayba
Written by
Michael Bayba
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Evidence Based
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10 sources cited
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Why Is Oral Health Important? 

Good oral hygiene is a huge factor in your overall health. A good dental care routine helps prevent tooth decay, gum disease, oral cancer, and other conditions. It also keeps your smile in good condition and can increase your confidence.

A good oral health routine includes:

  • Brushing your teeth for two minutes with fluoride toothpaste, at least twice a day (when you first wake up and before bed)
  • Flossing at least once a day
  • Cleaning your tongue once or twice a day (using your toothbrush, floss, or tongue scraper)
  • Rinsing your mouth with mouthwash 
  • Drinking a glass of water after every meal
  • Eat a balanced, nutritious diet
  • Schedule regular exams with your dentist
  • Avoid tobacco products and frequent alcohol consumption

Oral health doesn’t just affect your mouth. Poor dental health can lead to a weakened immune system and increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.

Thinking about purchasing a water flosser?

Find the perfect one here: 7 Best Water Flossers of 2021.

Why Is Flossing So Important?

The American Dental Association (ADA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and National Institute of Health (NIH) all advocate that flossing is an essential part of taking care of your teeth and gums.

Toothbrush bristles are not small enough to clean your mouth thoroughly. Even the most advanced electric toothbrushes can’t reach the tiny spaces between your teeth. Plaque, food particles, and other debris filled with bacteria can start to build up there. 

Accumulation of this bacteria is a primary cause of periodontal disease (also called advanced gum disease)

Gingivitis is the first stage of gum disease. Your gums will become inflamed because of the plaque build-up between your teeth. This often causes them to bleed while brushing and flossing. Gingivitis can be painful, but is a reversible condition.

If gingivitis is left untreated, it leads to periodontitis (advanced gum disease). Your gums and bones are affected and can permanently recede from your teeth. This creates open pockets in your gum line that collect bacteria. As the disease progresses, these bacteria attack the bones and tissues connected to your teeth. 

Gum disease is the number one cause of adult tooth loss.

That’s why interdental cleaning is so important. Thankfully, gum disease can be controlled by removing plaque from your teeth. 

There are a variety of tools you can use to clean between your teeth. According to studies, traditional string floss, butler flossers, gum picks, and proxabrushes have all been shown to reduce plaque at about the same rate.1

However, multiple studies 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 have shown that water flossing (irrigation) can be more effective than traditional dental floss at:

  • Removing plaque
  • Reducing bleeding gums
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Helping to control gingivitis

The most important aspect of interdental cleaning is that you do it consistently. Any method you choose will improve your tooth and gum health, as long as you do it daily. So pick the method that is most comfortable for you. For many people, water flossers are an ideal solution.

What Are Water Flossers?

A water flosser (also called oral irrigator or dental water jet), is a handheld device that shoots water in pulses. The pressurized water stream removes bacteria, plaque, and food particles from small spaces between your teeth. It also stimulates your gum tissue. 

Water flossers come in a variety of sizes and models. They all have a motor with pump, water reservoir, and a special water flosser tip.

Water flossers are one of the most effective interdental cleaning methods. They are especially useful for people who have trouble with traditional floss. This may include:

  • People with orthodontic or dental work (braces, bridges, etc.)
  • People with mobility or dexterity issues (arthritis or other disabilities)
  • People who have a hard time keeping a flossing habit

Find the perfect water flosser here: 7 Best Water Flossers of 2021.

How to Use One

You should use your water flosser at least once a day. Flossing can be done before or after brushing your teeth. 

For best results, follow these five easy steps:

  • Fill the reservoir with lukewarm water and connect it to the base.
  • Start with the lowest pressure setting. Lean over the sink and put the flosser tip in your mouth.
  • Hold the handle at a 90-degree angle to your teeth and turn the flosser on. Close your lips to minimize splashing. Let the water drip from your mouth to the sink.
  • Start in the back of your mouth and work your way around. Aim the stream at your gum line and the spaces between your teeth. This should take about 2 minutes (the same as brushing your teeth).
  • When you’re finished, empty any extra water from the reservoir so bacteria doesn’t grow in the tank.

Types of Water Flossers

There are a few different types of water flossers to choose from. The best choice for you will depend on your lifestyle and how many people will be using the machine.

The only oral irrigators with the ADA Seal of Acceptance are Waterpik Water Flossers and the Philips Sonicare AirFloss, AirFloss Pro, and Airfloss Ultra.

These are the most common types of water flossers:

Countertop Flossers

Waterpik Aquarius

Countertop flossers are the most popular variety of oral irrigators.

  • Biggest pressure ranges
  • Largest water reservoirs
  • Most flosser tip options
  • Extra features for convenience
  • Bulky and take up a lot of counter space
  • Difficult/impossible to travel with

Cordless/Travel Water Flossers

Waterpik Cordless Flosser

Cordless or travel irrigators are also a very popular and effective choice.

  • Contact lenses don’t get in the way when playing sports and exercising.
  • Capable of being just as effective as countertop flossers
  • No chords (many have rechargeable batteries)
  • Convenient for small spaces or travel
  • Easy to store
  • Smaller water tank (may need to be filled multiple times per use)
  • Less variety in flosser tip options
  • Lower pressure range

Flossing Toothbrush

waterpik sonic fusion waterpik toothbrush

Waterpik’s Sonic-Fusion toothbrush is the first toothbrush that allows you to brush and floss at the same time. It also has the ADA Seal of Acceptance.

  • Combine your brushing and flossing routine into one step
  • Efficient and effective
  • Can reduce clutter by combining two tools into one
  • High price point
  • No way to charge while traveling
  • Loud 

Shower/Faucet Flossers


These are a much less popular style of water flosser. They get attached to your sink or shower. 

  • Don’t use any electricity or batteries
  • No need to refill a reservoir
  • Must be installed in your shower or bathroom faucet
  • Cannot be used for travel
  • Less control over water pressure
  • No additional features

Water Flosser vs Regular Floss

Both water flossers and regular dental floss are effective interdental cleaning methods. However, multiple studies have shown that water flossers are actually more effective at reducing bleeding, fighting gingivitis, and removing plaque than traditional flossing. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

The most important aspect of any oral health routine is consistency. Water flossers can be more effective than floss, but only if used daily. Choose whichever tool you will use on a daily basis.

Should I Be Using a Water Flosser?

Water flossers are an ideal choice for your oral care routine. They can be especially effective for people with:

  • Gum disease 
  • Braces
  • Dental implants
  • Dental crowns
  • Dental bridges
  • Dental veneers
  • Mobility or dexterity issues (arthritis or other disabilities)

If you have trouble flossing for any reason, a water flosser is an excellent option. Even if you do floss regularly, a water flosser may be more effective at maintaining your oral health.

What's Next?


(1) Yost KG, Mallatt ME, Liebman J. “Interproximal gingivitis and plaque reduction by four interdental products.” The Journal of Clinical Dentistry. 2006 ;17(3):79-83. https://europepmc.org/article/med/17022370 

(2) Rosema, Nanning A.M., et al. The Effect of Different Interdental Cleaning Devices on Gingival Bleeding. Journal of the International Academy of Periodontology 2011, www.researchgate.net/publication/50350073_The_effect_of_different_interdental_cleaning_devices_on_gingival_bleeding

(3) Goyal CR, Lyle DM, Qaqish JG, Schuller R. Evaluation of the plaque removal efficacy of a water flosser compared to string floss in adults after a single use. The Journal of Clinical Dentistry. 2013 ;24(2):37-42. https://europepmc.org/article/med/24282867 

(4) Kossack, C., Jost-Brinkmann, PG. Plaque and Gingivitis Reduction in Patients Undergoing Orthodontic Treatment with Fixed Appliances—Comparison of Toothbrushes and Interdental Cleaning Aids. J Orofac Orthop 66, 20–38 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00056-005-0344-4 

(5) Barnes, Caren M et al. Comparison of irrigation to floss as an adjunct to tooth brushing: effect on bleeding, gingivitis, and supragingival plaque. The Journal of clinical dentistry vol. 16,3 (2005): 71-7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16305005/ 

(6) Sharma, Naresh C et al. Effect of a dental water jet with orthodontic tip on plaque and bleeding in adolescent patients with fixed orthodontic appliances. American journal of orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics : official publication of the American Association of Orthodontists, its constituent societies, and the American Board of Orthodontics vol. 133,4 (2008): 565-71; quiz 628.e1-2. doi:10.1016/j.ajodo.2007.12.008 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18405821/ 

(7) Federal Government, ADA Emphasize Importance of Flossing and Interdental Cleaners, American Dental Association, 4 Aug. 2016, www.ada.org/en/press-room/news-releases/2016-archive/august/statement-from-the-american-dental-association-about-interdental-cleaners.  

(8) “Oral Hygiene.” National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Oct. 2020, www.nidcr.nih.gov/health-info/oral-hygiene/more-info.  

(9) “Powered Interdental Cleaners with ADA Seal of Acceptance.” Mouth Healthy , American Dental Association, www.mouthhealthy.org/es-MX/ada-seal-products/category-display?category=Powered%2BInterdental%2BCleaners.  

(10) Santos, A. “Evidence‐Based Control of Plaque and Gingivitis.” Wiley Online Library, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 23 May 2003, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1034/j.1600-051X.30.s5.5.x.

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