By:Elena Chistokhina, RDH
Nothing is more flattering than a gorgeous, healthy smile. We all know that taking care of your teeth and gums is important for dental and overall health. Brushing teeth at least twice a day is a good start, but regular brushing may not be enough. Unfortunately toothbrush bristles aren’t small enough to effectively clean food particles, plaque, and bacteria from between teeth. So the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends interdental cleaning with a floss,or a Waterpik.
If you have been seeing your dental hygienist regularly, you have learned how to floss properly. (If not check out my previous blog on proper flossing!) For now let’s learn more about the Waterpik so you can understand its benefits, and what it can and can’t do.
What is a Waterpik?
Waterpik is also called a dental water jet or oral irrigator. The first oral irrigator was invented in 1962 by a Colorado dentist who was helped by his patient, a hydraulic engineer. Water flossers use a pressurized stream of pulsating water to clean away food particles, bacteria, and plaque between teeth and under the gumline.
Who can use a Waterpik?
Anyone can use a Waterpik, but it is especially helpful if you:
- Wear braces – It is more difficult or impossible to run a floss in between teeth with a tight metal wire on them.
- Have periodontal pockets – Floss can’t always get under the gum deeper than 3-4 mm. So, Waterpik shoots water under the gum up to 6 mm.
- Have non removable bridgework and crowns – Since all teeth in a dental bridge are connected, it is difficult to use a regular dental thread between the bridge and a gum. In that case Waterpik is a great tool.
- Have dental implants – The gum around dental implants can be tender to use a floss.
- Have crowding or spaced out teeth – Using a Waterpik can be especially helpful for misaligned teeth.
- A Waterpik may also be easier to use for people with arthritis, or for anyone who finds string floss difficult to maneuver and work with.
What are the benefits of a Waterpik?
- easy to use
- easy to get in hard-to-reach areas
- cleans between tightly spaced teeth
- Using a water flosser as part of your daily oral hygiene routine helps prevent tooth decay, gum issues, and bad breath.
How to use a Waterpik
Waterpiks are easy to use. Some people may experience a learning curve while figuring out their most comfortable water temperature and power setting. In order to be as effective as possible, new users should remember to place the tip in the mouth before turning on the unit and to go slowly, gliding the tip along the gum line gently.
For best results, it’s recommended to start with the back teeth and work toward the front teeth. Continue until you have cleaned the inside and outside of both the upper and lower teeth. This can help ensure that the entire mouth gets cleaned thoroughly.
What are the disadvantages of a Waterpik?
- Can be costly
- Requires space and electric outlet in the bathroom
- Not easy to travel (except some travel models of a Waterpik)
The bottom line:
The best dental hygiene method is typically one you enjoy and stick to. Research has shown that there’s minimal difference in plaque removal between using dental floss versus the Waterpik. But if the Waterpik works best for you, then that’s reason enough to use it. Both tools are good ways to take care of teeth and gums, in addition to brushing.
The ADA recommends brushing twice a day and cleaning in between the teeth once a day. Be sure to speak with your dentist or hygienist about any concerns you may have. They can also help you determine the best option for you.
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