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What are Water Flossers?

Water flossers use a stream of pressurized water to clean the teeth. These handheld devices remove plaque, food particles, and other debris. 

Studies show that water flossers are as effective as floss at removing plaque, but there are no studies confirming that water flossers can prevent cavities in between your teeth the way floss can.1, 3

How Do You Use a Water Flosser?

Using a water floss is simple. Here are the steps:

  1. Fill the reservoir with water or connect it to the tap. 
  2. Follow the instructions for your specific product. For example, many manufacturers do not recommend adding more than a 1:1 ratio of mouthwash. This ensures you do not damage the water flosser. 
  3. Select a tip and attach it to the water flosser.
  4. Lean over the sink and place the nozzle into your mouth. 
  5. Select a low pressure and turn the flosser on. The pressure should be comfortable. You can gradually increase the pressure as necessary.
  6. Start with the molars. Direct the water to the gum line and the areas between the teeth.
  7. Hold the water over each tooth for a few seconds. Be sure to cover the inside and outside of the teeth.
  8. Repeat the process on all teeth. 
  9. Turn the unit off and remove the tip.
  10. Drain any remaining water and rinse the reservoir. Do not leave water in the reservoir, as this can cause bacteria to grow.

What Does Science Say?

Water flossers have been evaluated multiple times since the first model was introduced in 1962.2

Research shows that water flossers have advantages over traditional floss in several key areas.

Effectively remove plaque

In one study, researchers compared two groups of people. One group used a water flosser and the other used string floss. Both groups also used manual toothbrushes.

The researchers found that water flossing was far more effective. The water flosser group had an almost 75% reduction in overall plaque. For the string floss group, the reduction was around 58%.3

Researchers concluded that a water flosser and manual toothbrush were significantly more effective at removing plaque than string floss and a manual toothbrush. 

Clean around orthodontic appliances

Orthodontic appliances such as braces can be difficult to keep clean. Plaque and gingivitis often increase following their placement. Water flossing helps reduce these problems.  

A study of 106 people with fixed dental appliances compared water flossing, string flossing, and no flossing. The people who used a water flosser had significant reductions in bleeding and plaque.4

Safe to use around implants

Correct maintenance of dental implants is essential to prevent implant failure. Therefore, dentists often recommend water flossing.

An early study compared two groups of people with dental implants. The first used a 0.06% chlorhexidine solution delivered with a water flosser. The second group used a traditional 0.12% chlorhexidine rinse without a water flosser. The results were significantly better in the water flosser group:

  • Plaque was reduced by 29% vs. 9%
  • Bleeding was reduced by 62% vs. 33%

Suitable for people with diabetes

People living with diabetes have an increased risk of periodontal disease. Also, they often have more severe gingival inflammation.6

Water flossers can help reduce gingival bleeding and inflammation in people with diabetes.

Reduce inflammation

Oral inflammation can damage the gums and eat away at the bone that holds teeth in place. The result is periodontitis or severe gum disease.

Multiple studies indicate that water flossers can reduce these problems. For example, one study compared water flossers to powered toothbrushes. The water flosser was 37% more effective at reducing bleeding gums. 

Other research shows water flossers reduce cytokine levels that drive the inflammatory process.9

Is Water Flossing Better Than Traditional Flossing? 

Yes, in many cases. The American Dental Hygienists' Association (ADHA) recommends water flossing over traditional flossing.10

Water flossers are more effective at removing plaque. They also cause less gum bleeding. 

Some people prefer water flossing because it's easier to get into the teeth’s crevices. You may also find it more effective if you have dental work, including:

Also, conditions like arthritis or certain disabilities can make using hands and fingers difficult. If you have trouble maneuvering string floss, a water flosser may be a good option. 

No studies have determined if water flossers can help prevent cavities in between the teeth as well as string floss. For this reason, many dentists recommend water flossers as an oral hygiene adjunct rather than a replacement for string floss. 

Best Water Flossers

Buying a water flosser is an investment in your dental health. But with so many options on the market, it can be hard to choose.

To ensure you're buying a quality product, look for the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance. These water flossers are proven to prevent gum disease.

Here are some of the best options:

The Waterpik WP-660 Aquarius Water Flosser is our top pick because it's affordable, powerful, and easy to use.

It can remove up to 99.9% of plaque between teeth. It's also 50% more effective than traditional floss. 

Features include:

  • Up to 90 seconds of flossing time
  • Ten different pressure settings
  • Seven flossing tips
  • Hydro pulse massage mode and regular floss mode

Thanks to its lightweight design and compact size, the Waterpik Cordless Advanced is a fantastic travel companion. Because it's cordless, you can also use it in the shower. It also features a 360-degree tip rotation that makes it easy to reach all teeth.

Features include:

  • Up to 45 seconds of flossing time
  • Three different pressure settings
  • Four flossing tips
  • Magnetic 4-hour rapid charging system
  • Waterproof design

The Waterpik Cordless Freedom is one of the most affordable water flossers on the market. Despite its low price, it still effectively removes plaque.

It's another good option for traveling because it's cordless and uses AA batteries. 

Features include:

  • 30 seconds of flossing time
  • Two pressure settings
  • Three flossing tips
  • Waterproof design

The Waterpik Water Flosser for Kids is a great tool to get children excited about dental hygiene. The small and extra-safe electrical design makes water flossing easy. The fun design also appeals to kids. 

Features include:

  • 60 seconds of flossing time
  • Three pressure settings
  • Two flossing tips
  • Small, simple design

The Waterpik Whitening Water Flosser features Whitening Infuser Technology. This unique feature uses a gentle stain removal agent. The agent is released during water flossing to help remove surface stains and brighten teeth.

This water flosser is clinically proven to remove up to 25% more stains than brushing alone. It also removes up to 99.9% of plaque in treated areas.

Features include:

  • Over 90 seconds of flossing time
  • Ten pressure settings
  • Four whitening tips
  • A 30-day supply of fresh mint whitening tablets
Last updated on May 6, 2022
10 Sources Cited
Last updated on May 6, 2022
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).
  1.     Lyle, D.M. “Use of a water flosser for interdental cleaning.” Compendium of Continuing Education in Dentistry. 2011.
  2.     Lyle, D.M. “Relevance of the water flosser: 50 years of data.” Compendium of Continuing Education in Dentistry. 2021.
  3.       Goyal, C.R. et al. “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.
  4.       Sharma, N.C. et al. “Effect of a dental water jet with orthodontic tip on plaque and bleeding in adolescent patients with fixed orthodontic appliances.” The American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics. 2008.
  5.       Felo, A. et al. “Effects of subgingival chlorhexidine irrigation on peri-implant maintenance.” The American Journal of Dentistry. 1997.
  6.       Casanova, L. et al. “Diabetes and periodontal disease.” BDJ Team. 2015.
  7.     Al-Mubarak, S. et al. “Comparative evaluation of adjunctive oral irrigation diabetics.” 2002.
  8.     Lyle, D.M. “Efficacy of the use of a water flosser in addition to an electric toothbrush on clinical signs of inflammation: 4-week randomized controlled trial.” Compendium of Continuing Education in Dentistry. 2020.
  9.     Cutler, C.W. et al. “Clinical benefits of oral irrigation for periodontitis are related to reduction of pro-inflammatory cytokine levels and plaque.” 2000.
  10.   Fried, J. “Interdental cleansing.” American Dental Hygienists’ Association. 2012.
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