Is water flossing as effective as regular flossing?
Not quite, and that’s because the two methods work differently. Water flossing covers more surface area, while regular flossing is best for getting into the spaces between your teeth and below the gum line to prevent tartar buildup and cavities between teeth. String floss can also wrap around the teeth. Something water flossers can’t accomplish. And, of course, water flossers are much pricier than standard string floss.
“Both [water flossing and flossing] have their specific areas of effectiveness, so the ideal dental hygiene program takes advantage of both methods,” says Dr. Harwood. Here’s a good rule of thumb to follow, according to the dentists we spoke with:
- Brush your teeth first.
- Use traditional string floss to loosen anything stuck between your teeth and keep gums healthy.
- Finish off with a water flosser to flush it all out.
Do dentists approve of water flossers?
The dentists we spoke with agreed that people with braces would benefit from a water flosser because the wires make it hard to use traditional floss. Sally Cram, DDS, a practicing periodontist in Washington, D.C., says that water flossers “are very good at flushing out food and debris that gets caught in and around the brackets.” Water flossers are also a great option for older adults or anyone with manual dexterity problems. “[For these people], wrapping floss around their fingers can be discomforting, especially if they suffer from arthritis,” adds Dr. Harwood. Beyond these examples, however, dentists don’t recommend giving up on regular flossing in favor of using a wet flosser.
The bottom line: For most people, water flossing should be done in addition to (not instead of) regular flossing. But if you know that there’s no chance you’ll use regular floss, using a water flosser is better than nothing.
How we pick the best water flossers
When shopping for water flossers, there are many things to consider that are a matter of preference. If you’re looking for portability, opt for a cordless water flosser, so you don’t need to bring a bulky charging base on vacation with you. Planning on sharing with the whole family? Opt for one with multiple tips included so that everyone can have their own. You’ll also see that some water flossers only have a couple of pressure settings, while others have way more options.
We made sure that our list included options for all types of preferences, but we also searched for ones that met certain criteria. Since the Good Housekeeping Institute experts haven’t yet had a chance to do a full category-wide test on water flossers, we spoke to dentists and scoured reviews on the internet to find the best water flossers on the market. We first kept the American Dental Association Seal in mind when compiling our list. Products approved by the ADA meet certain criteria that prove safe and effective. (But it’s important to note that only two water flosser brands carry the ADA seal: Waterpik and Philips.) We also looked for water flossers with enough water capacity to clean your mouth in one fill.