Is Water Flossing Better than Regular Flossing?

Flossing is one of those everyday chores that most of us love to hate – at least among those of us that actually do it every day. From the necessary mouth contortions to the uncomfortable sensation of sharp plastic string in between our teeth to the flying bits of whatever was wedged behind our back molars – flossing is just not a lot of fun.

Water flossers shoot a tiny but strong stream of water in and around teeth – they seem to provide a much more enjoyable alternative to winding regular floss tightly around our fingertips and sawing through the crevices of our teeth every day. But, are these oral irrigators as effective as regular nylon or plastic floss for keeping your teeth healthy? We’re putting the flosses head to head in our dentition competition.

Round 1: Plaque

Plaque is a colorless sticky film of bacteria that forms on teeth.  It grows when remnants of sugars and starches are left in the mouth.  The bacteria produces acid that eats away at the enamel and, if left unchecked, can lead to tooth decay and eventual breakdown of bone. Plaque that is not removed hardens under the gumline to become tarter. Once tarter forms, it must be removed by a dentist.

How to get rid of it? The material and motion of regular flossing is ideal at scraping off plaque that forms around each tooth.  Although it seems arduous, using a string of floss is much more effective, according to most dentists, at removing plaque than just shooting water at it. Oral irrigators can flush out bits of food, but that stream of liquid can’t scour your teeth like a piece of nylon or waxed string. Floss wins this round.

Round 2: Gingivitis

Gingivitis is a common form of gum disease that causes inflammation, bleeding and irritation.  Because it’s usually so mild, you may not even be aware that you have it. But, if left untreated, it can lead to more serious issues like advanced gum disease and even tooth loss.

Gingivitis is caused by our old friend plaque which can reform on teeth as quickly as 24 hours after being removed. Once again – regular flossing is the best way to remove plaque, so it’s important to commit to it every day.

However, a 2005 study out of the University of Nebraska showed that water picks are able to control gingivitis 50% more effectively than string floss. This round is a toss up.

Round 3: Braces

Metal wires wrapped around your teeth for months or years at a time add another layer of complexity to keeping your teeth clean.  Not only can it be difficult to thread regular floss through the wires of your braces, but food that is stuck within the bars may be difficult to reach, even with your toothbrush.

Oral irrigators provide a great alternative to regular flossing for children and adults with braces. The strong jets of water flush food and bacteria out of the crevices of metal wiring more effectually than string. Round three goes to water picks.

Depending on the state of your teeth, determining whether to choose a water flosser or a regular packet of floss may be a conversation to have with your dentist. These tools also complement each other for an overall superior level of tooth and mouth health. And, committing to either one is much better than doing nothing at all!

No matter your preference of tools, DC Smiles supports your dental needs. With locations in Alexandria, VA and Washington DC, DC Smiles provides a holistic approach to dental care that incorporates total-body health and wellness. Learn more at

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