Do you find yourself frequently forgetting to floss? You’re not alone. Only half of Americans floss daily, and 18.5 percent don’t floss at all. Even if we don’t always remember to do it, flossing is a critical part of maintaining your oral health. Floss allows you to access places the areas between your teeth and gums where your toothbrush can’t reach. But is dental floss your only option? String flossing can be awkward, messy, and hard to properly execute. If you don’t feel like string floss is working well and are looking for an effective alternative, you can floss with water instead, using a water pick. We take a look at what a water pick is and how effective it works.

What is a water pick?

A water pick, sometimes called a water flosser, is an oral irrigator. That means it’s a cleaning device that shoots a thin stream of water, and when aimed between your teeth or at the gum line it can remove food particles and plaque on or between your teeth. It’s gentle on the gums and is less likely to cause bleeding in people with sensitive gums. A water pick needs to be plugged into an outlet and requires a reservoir of water. That means it’s not portable like floss, but it is gentle and easy to use.

Who is a water pick usually recommended for?

If your regular brushing and flossing routine is working just fine for you, you probably don’t need a water pick. Let’s look at a few situations where a water flosser might be beneficial to you:

  • If your gums are sensitive and bleed often. The water pick is gentler and is less likely to irritate gums, since it doesn’t actually go between the teeth.
  • If you have braces. The water will get behind the metal wires and flush out food particles for a better cleaning.
  • If you have active gum disease. It flushes out bacteria from deep pockets that form when gums pull away from the teeth.
  • If you have dry mouth. It is an easy way to add moisture to a dry mouth and help to remove sticky plaque due to dry mouth.

How do I use a water pick?

Unlike using string dental floss, water picks are very intuitive and easy to use. As with anything new, there may be a slight learning curve.  Unlike with string floss, it’s virtually impossible to cause harm to the gums and teeth by using a water pick. Here are some steps for using a water pick properly:

  • Fill the water reservoir with warm water
  • Place the tip of the flosser in the handle
  • Place tip into your mouth, and lean over the sink
  • Start in the back teeth
  • Turn the unit on, starting with a low setting
  • Increase the setting to whatever’s comfortable for your gum tissues
  • Trace your gum line from the back teeth to the front teeth on each side
  • Pause a second or two between teeth
  • When reservoir is empty, remove flosser tip and let reservoir air out

Does it completely replace string floss?

String dental floss has been in use for almost 200 years. In all that time, only about 1 in 100 people floss correctly and effectively. The problem is that string floss is difficult to use for some and usually ends up doing more harm than good due to being used incorrectly. String floss is effective at two things: removing plaque precisely at the contact points between the teeth (where the teeth touch each other) and removing food trapped between the contacts. A water flosser cannot get between the contact points (where cavities often form), and therefore string floss in effective for this purpose. But, string floss is generally ineffective at the removal of plaque from the gum line, in the periodontal pockets surrounding the teeth, and even the spaces between the teeth. String floss does not have the ability to remove plaque from any of these areas effectively. Water picks have been proven to remove up to 50 percent more plaque than string floss, and up to 99.9 percent of all plaque that it comes in contact with. So, while water picks are effective they don’t replace regular string floss use. If you get a water flosser, use it as a supplement to your traditional routine or to reach difficult-to-clean places.

Do you have any questions about water picks? Call Westermeier Martin Dental care to schedule an appointment with your dentist 716-508-4547.