Water Flosser – Oral Irrigator: Flushing out the gaps
What is a water flosser?
A water flosser is an electric device, which pushes a stream of water at a pressure from a small nozzle. It is a handheld device which usually looks like an electric toothbrush, whilst others are of a smaller size.
As can be told from the name, it is utilising water as a flossing device to clean in between the teeth.
Another fancy name for the water flosser is oral irrigator. Other names are waterpik, which is actually the name of the brand.
Is a water flosser an alternative to interdental cleaning?
It is important to note that a water floss is a good addition to your oral hygiene kit, but it is not a substitute to interdental cleaning using interdental brushes or floss / tape.
You wouldn’t use water as a substitute for brushing your teeth, as with the pressure of the water used, it isn’t sufficient to dislodge plaque which is stuck to the teeth.
So, why use an oral irrigator?
As a dentist, I have found that a water floss is particularly useful for dislodging food particles from in between teeth, as these are not forming on the tooth surface like plaque. Also useful for those who have large spaces gaps between their teeth, fillings, or crowns. And it can be also useful for cleaning under bridges, which are not always easy to clean underneath; or under implant retained dentures.
I usually recommend a water flosser to those patients who have braces, as food tends to get stuck behind brackets and underneath wires. A common problem with braces is inadequate cleaning, leading to gum inflammation and sometimes decay under brackets!
People who have dry mouth or burning tongue syndrome need regular moisturising for their gums and mouth. Whilst not an alternative, a water flosser helps in adding more water to the mouth. People with dry mouth should always consult a dentist or medical practitioner.
What to look for in a water flosser
As with most things, good quality products will give you that much more. This may be in the battery life, extra buttons/functions, or better quality and longevity.
You can get basic water flosses starting from £9.99 and they can be as expensive as £119.99.
Some water flossers incorporate microbubbles into the water stream, which – in theory – allows to oxygenate the areas, which helps to combat anaerobic bacteria (the bad types that cause gum disease).
Most are cordless, which is important, as you don’t want a cable into the bathroom, even if it using a safe “razor” outlet. But, there are units which are much larger and utilise mains electricity.
Points to note
- Water flossers need to be refilled with water. Make sure you use softened filtered water, as this would help with reducing scale build up inside your flosser
- Tip: try using all the water in the reservoir. If you can’t, then empty the reservoir, as that would less likely to build up any scale, or if left for a while other unwanted nasties.
- Be careful in putting the right temperature of water. Too hot and you may burn yourself. Too cold and you may be making your teeth (more) sensitive.
- Similar to regular brushing, if not done properly, it can cause damage. So, make sure you use it gently and don’t be extreme in pumping water in your mouth.
- If you experience heightened sensitivity in one particular area, it is possible that you have a cavity in that area. Consult your dentist, who may choose to take a radiograph (x-ray) to check it out.