Good oral hygiene habits are vital to the prevention of tartar buildup, cavities and serious gum disease that can lead to decay and even tooth loss. As many people are aware, it is highly recommended by dental professionals to brush your teeth at least twice per day (or, even better, to brush after each meal), as well as to floss and avoid excess sugar in your diet. In addition to these well-known rules, the American Dental Association (ADA) specifically recommends brushing your teeth using fluoride toothpaste, and cleaning between your teeth daily with dental floss as well as a water flosser (also called a waterpik) to remove bacteria and food particles that a toothbrush simply can’t get to.

As most people know, dental floss is a flexible strand of nylon used manually to remove food particles between the teeth. Somewhat less well-known are water flossers; a device designed to aim a stream of water between teeth to remove food particles.

Water flossers and traditional dental floss both offer particular oral benefits, and it is a myth that a person can simply choose one over the other based on their preference. In fact, the two should be used in conjunction with each other to attain the best possible oral health regimen. To help explain why, the team at Pavlik Orthodontics has put together this brief guide on dental floss vs. water flossers.

Pros & Cons: Dental Floss

Dental floss is an inexpensive way to help keep your teeth and gums healthy. Floss is proven to be highly effective for cleaning tight spaces between teeth by scraping up and down the sides of each tooth. This is important because if plaque is not removed it can become tartar, a risk factor for the early stage of gum disease called gingivitis, according to the ADA.

However, the mechanical nature of floss can be abrasive to gums. Flossing can be irritating for people who have sensitive gums and can actually cause bleeding in some people. It’s also important to note for Pavlik patients that floss generally can’t be used all that effectively by people wearing braces, so it should be used in pairing with a water flosser.

Pros And Cons: Water Flossers

One benefit of a water flosser is that it’s far more gentle on gums than dental floss. Water flossers also work very well for people who wear braces. The gentle water stream gets behind and in-between the metal wires and effectively flushes out food particles and bacteria. For people already suffering from gum disease, water flossers are often beneficial because they can target bacteria inside deep pockets that form when gums pull away from the teeth. The downside of water flossers are that they simply do not remove plaque from teeth as fully or effectively as old fashioned dental floss. Flossing literally scrapes off the film of bacteria, while water flossers just rinse it. Therefore, using a water flosser is not considered a substitute for flossing by the ADA.

For more information, take a look at this article from the Mayo Clinic.