Are Waterpiks a Substitute for Flossing?

by Abu Zahid Zuhin
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Waterpik Irrigator

Be honest, how often do you floss? It’s cliché at this point but statistics support the timeless adage we hear at the dentist’s office—”don’t forget to floss”. With surveys suggesting that 70% of Americans fail to do so every day, it begs the question—why are we so bad at flossing, and what if there was a better way? Could Waterpiks be the solution?

The Waterpik is an oral irrigator that uses a stream of water to remove plaque and food debris from teeth. While it is not a replacement for traditional flossing, it is a helpful addition to your oral care routine. Waterpiks are particularly beneficial for people with braces or other dental appliances, as well as those with gum disease.

If you’re curious about how a Waterpik could benefit your teeth and gums, keep reading to learn more. We’ll be taking a closer look at this nifty gadget and explaining how it works when it’s most useful, and what it can do for your oral health.

What Exactly is a Waterpik?

The Waterpik is a brand-name oral irrigator that harkens back to the toothpick. It uses a pressured stream of water to spray away plaque and built-up food debris from your teeth and gums. However, unlike other oral irrigators, the Waterpik comes in both cordless and attached models, allowing you to enjoy a full range of motion.

The traditional Waterpik connects to a 35 oz reservoir with a 10-setting pressure control valve that regulates the force of the water stream. The tip of the Waterpik is able to rotate a full 360 degrees to reach any angle or corner of your mouth. Meanwhile, the cordless Waterpik offers all of the same features but can only hold 10 oz of water at a time.

The hand-held nozzle can be replaced to fit one of four different tips, all of which are designed to meet specific dental needs. And, the Waterpik comes in a range of fun colors, including leaf green, orchid, gray, navy blue, pink, white, and black. It’s small enough to sit on your bathroom counter yet powerful enough to blast plaque and bacteria away for good.

What Does a Waterpik Do for Your Teeth?

Oral irrigators, like the Waterpik, are designed to clean areas of your mouth that are difficult to reach with a toothbrush. The stream of water can remove plaque, bacteria, and food debris from teeth and gums, which helps to prevent cavities, bad breath, and gum disease.

Waterpiks are also effective at massaging your gums, which can improve circulation and help restore lost tissue. This is particularly important for people who have had teeth removed or received implants, as the gumline can often recede following intensive oral surgery. By carefully cleaning and stimulating the area, the Waterpik can help damaged smiles heal and return to their original beauty.

The Waterpik vs Flossing – How Do They Compare?

As you should already know, traditional flossing uses a string of dental floss to remove plaque and food debris from the spaces between your teeth. It is an essential part of oral care as it helps to prevent cavities and gum disease. Most importantly, though, flossing is recommended by dental professionals because it is the only way to remove plaque from the tight spaces between your teeth.

Although we should all take care to properly brush, brushing can only reach the surface of your teeth—not in-between them. This is why flossing is so important, as it ensures that plaque is removed from all areas of the mouth.

Compared to traditional flossing, Waterpiks also effective at removing plaque and food debris from teeth. However, there are some key differences between the two that should be pointed out.

We can sum these up as the following:

  • Waterpiks are more flexible – Waterpiks are able to reach areas of your mouth that floss cannot. The stream of water is able to clean beneath the gum line and between teeth, which traditional floss cannot do. This makes Waterpiks an effective tool for people with gum disease, as well as those who have braces or other dental appliances.
  • Waterpiks are gentler – Waterpiks are also less likely to cause gum tissue to bleed than floss. This is because the stream of water is able to remove plaque without irritating the gums.
  • Waterpiks are greener – Unlike traditional dental floss, which is single-use only, Waterpiks are more environmentally friendly since they use pressurized water and produce very little waste.

However, it is important to note that Waterpiks shouldn’t be used in place of floss. They are not as effective at removing plaque from the surface of teeth. Even at full pressure, a Waterpik will struggle to blast away large food particles stuck between your teeth, which can lead to gum disease and cavities. Therefore, most dentists recommend using a Waterpik in tandem with traditional floss.

How to Use a Waterpik?

Once you’ve committed to using a Waterpik, you’ll have to figure out how to use it. Luckily the set-up and instructions are straightforward and designed for anyone to use:

  1. Lift the reservoir from its stand and fill it with warm water before returning it to its place.
  2. Select a tip for your Waterpik. There are currently four styles of tips—Classic, Pik Pocket, Orthodontic, and Plaque Seeker—designed for specific uses.
  3. Prime the tool by adjusting the pressure up to its highest setting. Point the Waterpik over your sink and turn it on until water sprays out from the nozzle.
  4. Turn it off and return the pressure valve to its lowest setting.
  5. Lean over your sink with the nozzle in your mouth before turning both the Waterpik and reservoir on.
  6. Direct the stream of water along your gums and between your teeth, starting from the back molars. Allow the water to drip into the sink and be sure to get both the front and backsides of your teeth.
  7. Adjust the pressure as you see fit.

Although it may seem messy at first, you’ll soon master the technique and be blasting plaque and tartar away without trouble.

Should You Floss Before or After Using a Waterpik?

In all honesty, it’s more of a personal preference whether you should floss or Waterpik first. Some people find that it is easier to floss before using a Waterpik, as the stream of water can remove any plaque or food debris that they may have missed. Others prefer to use the Waterpik first, as the stream of water can help to loosen plaque and make flossing easier.

The bottom line is that you should use whichever method you find to be more effective. Just remember to be gentle when using a Waterpik, as the water stream can be powerful and may hurt your gums if used incorrectly. If you’ve never used this type of tool, we recommend starting with a lower setting and building up to a pressure that you’re comfortable with.

If Waterpiks Don’t Replace Traditional Flossing, Why Should I Use One?

Even though Waterpiks are not a replacement for traditional floss, they are still a helpful addition to your oral care routine. Waterpiks are most beneficial for people with braces, gum disease, or other dental appliances, as they are able to remove plaque and food debris from areas that are difficult to reach with floss.

Waterpiks are also less likely to cause your gums to bleed than floss, which makes them a gentler option for people with sensitive gums and for those who have recently undergone oral surgery. We do, however, recommend speaking with your dentist or oral surgeon before using a Waterpik on a surgical site as not all procedures should be blasted with water immediately after surgery.

Nevertheless, if you’re looking for a way to supplement your oral care routine, a Waterpik may be the answer. Just remember to use it in addition to traditional flossing, rather than as a replacement.

Is it Safe to Use a Waterpik With Metal Braces?

Waterpiks are completely safe to use with metal braces, as well as other dental work, and are often recommended. Although your braces are made of metal, they are usually constructed from stainless steel, which is highly resistant to corrosion. That’s why you can wear your braces for several years at a time without them rusting or breaking down on your teeth.

The stream of water is able to remove plaque and food debris from those hard-to-reach gaps without damaging the braces. Just be sure to use the Waterpik on the low setting to start, as the stream of water can be powerful and may cause discomfort if you’re not used to it.

If you have braces, we recommend using the Orthodontic tip after using a floss threader or orthodontic floss. This tip is specially designed to help blast away any residual plaque or food particles that may be left behind on the brackets, coils, and wires of your braces.

Can You Use a Waterpik With Bridges?

Keeping bridgework and other dental appliances clean takes a lot more patience and dedication than simply brushing and flossing your teeth. Yet, if you fail to keep your bridges clean, it can lead to halitosis, periodontal disease, and widespread infection. Luckily, the Waterpik was specifically designed with special tips to clean implants and bridges.

Unlike traditional flossing, the Waterpik can direct a pressurized stream of water into the gum line, cleaning away plaque and food particles that are easily trapped beneath your bridges. This helps to prevent bacteria from building up around your bridges before it can spread deeper into the gumline.

For the best results, use the Plaque Seeker tip. Waterpik is specifically designed to clean dental work and it’s clinically proven to be more effective than brushing and flossing alone. It features three added bristles that pulsate around your bridges, helping to access deeply settled bacteria stuck within your dental work.

Is a Waterpik Good For Receding Gums?

Waterpiks are one of the best home treatments for receding gums and are often recommended by dental professionals to message and clean gumlines back to health. They are especially useful if the recession is caused by periodontitis—a form of gum disease caused by a bacterial infection.

As the gums become more inflamed, they pull away from the teeth, allowing more plaque and tartar to build around the base and root of the gumline. This creates a positive feedback loop, helping the infection grow stronger and stronger until the only treatment is a root canal or dental extraction.

A Waterpik can effectively clean these areas and prevent plaque and tartar from reaching deeper into the gumline. Additionally, the pulsating flow of water helps to massage the gums and improve circulation. Over time, increased blood flow encourages the gums to heal and grow back to their previous size.

How Effective are Waterpiks at Treating Gum Disease?

As we mentioned earlier, periodontal disease, or gum disease, is a bacterial infection that affects the gums, bones, and other tissues that support the teeth. If left untreated, it can lead to extensive damage, tooth loss, and even death. The good news, though, is that gum disease is preventable and, in many cases, reversible.

One of the best ways to prevent gum disease is to keep your mouth clean. This means brushing and flossing your teeth at least twice a day, as well as using an oral irrigator like the Waterpik to remove plaque and food debris from your teeth and gums.

Although it’s not always easy to reach every corner of your mouth, Waterpiks are an effective way to supplement your oral care routine thanks to their 360-degree rotation and fine-point precision. When used in combination with traditional brushing and flossing, Waterpiks can help to prevent gum disease and keep your smile healthy.

Of course, if you’re already suffering from periodontal disease, you’re likely wondering how to reverse its effects. A Waterpik is just as effective at treating as it is preventing gum disease. The steady stream of pressurized water can reach deeper into the gumline than alternative home treatments and flush out bacteria-ladened plaque before it can spread an infection.

Use caution, though, as your gumline will likely be sensitive and inflamed. Blasting your Waterpik at full pressure into exposed gums can be incredibly painful and increase inflammation. Start on a low setting and very carefully increase until you feel the water within your gums.

Can You Use a Waterpik to Clean Gum Pockets?

Let’s say that you’ve continued to neglect your oral health and allowed periodontal disease to spread deeper into your gumlines. If this has happened, you could be at risk of developing a deep gum pocket—an area where the gums have completely pulled away from a tooth to create an opening into the root system.

At this point, it’s best to speak with a dentist and consider antibiotics. If you allow the infection to spread any further, you could risk losing your teeth. During treatment, you should also use a Waterpik with a Pik Pocket tip to clean the area and prevent bacteria from building up within the root system. Failing to do so can cause both tooth and bone loss.

Irrigating the pocket at least once a day with the Pik Pocket tip will help clean and massage the area, encouraging new gum growth and improved circulation. Once your immune system defeats the infection, continue using the Waterpik as a gum stimulator to help restore the lost tissue back to health.

Are Waterpiks Worth It?

If you’re considering purchasing a Waterpik, the short answer is yes—they’re definitely worth it. Waterpiks are a helpful addition to any oral care routine and can be especially beneficial for people with braces, gum disease, or other dental appliances.

Not only are they able to remove bacteria and food particles from areas that are difficult to reach with floss, but they are also gentler on the gums. Waterpiks are also more environmentally friendly than traditional floss, as they produce very little waste.

Best of all, they are pretty affordable. A full-sized countertop Waterpik retails for just $59.99, while a small cordless version can cost as little as $19.99. Considering that they are reusable and can help prevent gum disease, this is a small price to pay for pristine oral health.

The Bottom Line

Flossing may be the bane of many people’s oral healthcare routines but it doesn’t have to be. With specialized devices like the Waterpik, flossing can be fun, painless, and effective. Although it can’t entirely replace traditional floss, the Waterpik is a useful tool for cleaning dental work, protecting gumlines, and reaching hard-to-reach regions of the mouth.

For anyone looking to supplement or improve their daily oral healthcare routine, we highly recommend the Waterpik. It’s clinically proven to remove plaque and tartar and is a vital piece of equipment for anyone suffering from receding gumlines, periodontal disease, or gum pockets. Combine it with traditional brushing and flossing and you’ll be well on your way to maintaining optimal oral health.

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