Call a water pick a gentle battle axe in the battle against plaque.
Let’s face it, our teeth can’t get enough help in the battle against plaque. Many dentists recommend water picks as a complimentary weapon to floss.
Water flossing utilizes a special machine that directs a stream of water into the mouth and gums. Instead of scraping the teeth to remove plaque, water flossing uses the pressure of water to massage the gums and push food away from the teeth.
Water flossing can go places floss can’t, digging up food in hard-to-reach places floss. Water picks are extremely easy to use and especially useful for people with braces or permanent or temporary bridges. Water picks remove both food particles from teeth but can also reduce bleeding and gum diseases like gingivitis. Water flossing can also reduce bacteria, even below the gum line.
Water picks are endorsed for use by literally everyone but plaque itself. Water picks’ greatest endorsement comes from the American Dental Association, which has awarded them the ADA Seal of Acceptance for their safety and proof of how effective they are at removing plaque and reducing and preventing gingivitis.
All of this plaque-fighting power can be yours in just 60 seconds of daily water pick use.
But water picks (also known as oral pulsating irrigators) aren’t the be all and end all of flossing. Water picks can be expensive – running anywhere from $25-$80 – and require storage space in your bathroom. They generally don’t remove visible film and plaque. Water picks also require electricity and water, making them extremely difficult to use and almost impossible to use when camping.
As the Mayo Clinic’s Dr. Thomas Salinas writes, a water pick “isn’t generally considered a substitute for brushing and flossing.”
For first-time water pick users, here is Medical News Today’s easy six-step guide on how to use the power of water flossing:
1. Place the tip into the holder. Fill the water reservoir with warm water and place it back into the base of the device.
2. Plug in the device, if required.
3. Lean over the sink and place the tip into the mouth with the lips closed and turn the unit on.
4. Start with the back teeth, aiming the tip at just above the gum line and work toward the middle of the mouth.
5. Pause briefly with the tip between each tooth to allow water to flow out of the mouth and into the sink.
6. Turn off the unit, eject the tip, and clean the unit according to the instructions.
Again, we don’t endorse people trading in their floss for a water pick full time. The X-factor to strong gum health is cleaning between your teeth and gums daily. As the ADA reminds us, interdental cleaning (such as flossing) is “an essential part of taking care of your teeth and gums.”
But there is no denying the teeth-cleaning power of water picks. A recent study by the Journal of Clinical Dentistry compared the efficacy of water flossing to traditional string floss used in combination with a manual toothbrush. Researchers determined a test group that used the water pick enjoyed a 74 percent reduction in plaque compared to a 57 percent reduction for a group that used string floss.
Which of these two techniques is best is an ongoing question and there really is no right or wrong answer. The most important thing is to clean between the teeth and under the gums each day.
So which plaque fighter should you trust to take care of your teeth and gums: Water picks or floss? How about both?
“Combining both types of flossing into your dental routine is sure to give you a sparkling smile again,” OGLF.org stresses.