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Can water flossers replace dental floss?

Everyone knows taking care of your teeth is the key to a gorgeous smile. But it’s clearly for more than just your appearance. Poor oral hygiene can lead to bad breath, cavities, tooth loss, and, in severe case, gum disease. Dentists recommend brushing your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste (even better after every meal), but regular brushing alone won’t get all the food particles that can cause bacteria to form.

Standard dental floss is generally believed to be the most effective tool for cleaning between the teeth. While water flossing has gained in popularity over the years because it’s easy to use, according to experts at the Mayo Clinic, it isn’t generally considered a substitute for brushing and flossing.

bright white smile
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What is water flossing?

A water pick, also known as an oral pulsating irrigator or water flossing, is a device that projects a consistent stream of water at your teeth. While this does a great job of removing food particles from your teeth and also might help reduce bacteria and infections that cause gum disease, water flossing won’t remove all of the plaque or get in between your teeth in the same way dental floss will.

Water flossing is a popular option if you wear braces, dental implants, retainers, or have non-removable bridgework implanted, as dental floss can often be painful or difficult to use. Also, if you have an aversion to flossing or have an appliance that makes flossing difficult to the point where you won’t do it, water flossing is a good option.

woman flossing
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What are the best floss options?

Today, floss is available precut in plastic holders called dental picks and in the old-school long strands that you measure and cut yourself. You can find floss in a number of flavors and as waxed or unwaxed strands, so there are options for even the fussiest of flossers.

If plain dental floss gets stuck in your teeth, use the waxed variety. If you have a hard time handling dental floss or have arthritis, try a floss holder.

If you like a variety of flavors, try Cocofloss. Made from coconut, the texture is thick, so it gets every nook and cranny. Cocofloss comes in mint, fruit flavors, chocolate, and even gelato, so there’s something for everyone.

person at dental visit
Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels

The bottom line

The best dental hygiene method is one you’ll use daily, so if you just can’t or won’t use dental floss, find a water flosser that works for you. Many people rave about the deep-clean feeling they get after using a water pick, similar to how your teeth feel when you walk out of your dentist’s office after a cleaning. Research shows that there’s minimal difference in plaque removal between using floss versus a water flosser, so while it may not be perfect, it gets the job done.

Dental floss and water flossing are both great ways to take care of your teeth and gums in addition to brushing, so find something you like and stick to it. There are no wrong answers here. Your mouth will thank you.

Keeping a routine that involves good dental care like brushing, flossing, or water flossing helps your mouth stay healthy and helps avoid serious dental work that can result from cavities, bleeding gums, rotten teeth, and gum disease. Make sure you’re also visiting your dentist twice a year to ensure you’re not missing anything that could lead to trouble down the road.

In addition to brushing and flossing, using mouthwash that contains fluoride can also promote oral health. It’s one more defense against cavities and plaque and can keep your breath smelling minty fresh for hours. Finally, resist the urge to use toothpicks or other objects on your teeth. They can injure your gums and let in bacteria, which can cause infections. Avoid hard candies, sugar-filled gum, soda pop, and smoking — all of which can damage tooth enamel and cause cavities.

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