Water flossing isn’t new. It was introduced in 1962. Since then more and more water flossers have come into the marketplace with new features that have improved their efficacy and convenience. While they will never be as portable as traditional string floss that can fit in your pocket, they do make portable ones now too!

So is one of these actually better than the other? Will you have healthier gums with water floss as opposed to string floss?

You’ll find that many dentists would recommend string floss, or string floss in addition to water floss. And, frankly, there is nothing wrong with that. However, water floss has been studied numerous times in recent years. One study in 2013, published in the Journal of Clinical Dentistry, found that water floss– or oral pulsating irrigator- actually reduces plaque better than string floss.

This may be due to the simplicity of use compared with wrapping the floss around fingers and creating the proper shape of the floss to properly get all the surfaces between the teeth. Some people don’t have the manual dexterity or ability to open their mouth to allow proper access to floss.

What do we say about it? One of our pediatric dentists, Dr. Mak, says, “Use what you’re comfortable with. If a water flosser makes your child excited to floss, I’m all for that!”

From the orthodontic perspective, Dr. AJ says, “Braces can be very difficult to floss around. Kids are so busy today that they may not have the time to thread floss around each and every brace and wire. Water flossing goes around and “through” the wire much more simply. I recommend a waterpik for all patients with metal braces and wires in their mouths.”

What are the benefits of water flossing?

  • Easier to navigate for people with orthodontic equipment
  • Gentle cleaning around restorations, bridges, and implants
  • Reduces bleeding for sensitive gums
  • The massage factor also stimulates gum health
  • Reaches back teeth better than string floss
  • Easier to use for kids and adults who might have dexterity issues preventing them from working traditional string floss through their mouth

Note that all the above benefits – except for the first and last ones – are also available with traditional string floss. With proper technique taught by your dentist or orthodontist, flossing can be both gentle and effective, and even a kid can maneuver floss to their back teeth.

Sticking to string floss? That’s fine!

Both flossing and water flossing take some skill. You can make a bit of a mess of your mirrors and sink area with the waterpik! But you can bring string floss anywhere, and it doesn’t require batteries, refilling, and maintenance. And it’s cheap!

It really is a matter of choice and trying different floss methods until you find your sweet spot. For instance, if you find that the floss you use is hard to get through your tooth contact areas, you may want to try waxed floss.

No matter what tools you use, just remember to brush at least twice a day and floss at least once a day and to visit the dentist every 6 months for a dental cleaning and checkup.

About Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontic Specialists of Michigan, the offices of Drs. Plunkett, Ralstrom, Makowski, Thanasas, Ker, and Associates

Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontic Specialists of Michigan have specialized in pediatric dentistry and orthodontics since 1968. Our family-friendly and newly renovated office gives patients and families a more comfortable and consistent experience with dentistry from the very beginning. Our pediatric dentists treat children from newborn to 18 years of age while our orthodontists provide care for both children and adults and are proud to be Premier Providers of Invisalign and Invisalign Teen services. The ability to treat all patients with compassion and individuality, including those that may have special needs reaches beyond our facility, which has treatment rooms available for children who require additional privacy and customized care options.  We pioneered valued hospital affiliations to allow dental services to be performed at DMC Children’s Hospital and St. John Macomb Hospital, when appropriate or necessary, and our specialists are also proud to be on staff at Henry Ford and Beaumont hospitals.

39400 Garfield Rd., Suite 200
Clinton Township, MI
Phone: 586-286-0700
Fax: 586-286-5932


Image Courtesy of The Toothsayer