You’ve heard it a million times: You have to floss. Brushing your teeth can only reach about 60% of your tooth surfaces, which means that if you aren’t flossing, you’re only cleaning a little over half of your teeth. Flossing can help prevent cavities and gum disease, and only takes a minute to do. On top of all of that, floss itself is inexpensive, and flossing has been shown to be extremely effective at removing plaque.
But despite all this, only about a third of Americans floss daily — and another third report never flossing at all. Why do we continue to resist flossing, even when we know it’s good for us? Many people would point the finger at inconvenience. Flossing may be quick, but it certainly isn’t fun. If done too aggressively or on sensitive mouths, it can cause bleeding, and for some people, floss can be difficult to use.
Enter water flossing: A painless flossing method that uses water pressure to gently clear plaque from the areas between the teeth. It sounds good good to be true — but is it?
Water Flossing: How Does it Work?
Water flossing, also called water picking, is a flossing alternative that uses a special device to create a stream of water that pushes food and plaque off of the surfaces of teeth. Those who find flossing difficult physically may prefer water picking due to its ease of use. All you have to do is direct the tip of the device at the gumline and allow the water to do its job. It can be especially beneficial to people who have orthodontics or other dental work that prevents them from flossing easily.
Water picking can even reach areas that traditional floss cannot, and has the added benefit of massaging the gums, which can improve gum health.
But the big question is: Does it work? The answer may surprise you. Not only does water picking work as well as floss when it comes to removing plaque, but some studies show it may even be more efficient than traditional floss.
Don’t Ditch Traditional Floss
So why aren’t we all running out and buying water picking devices? Despite all this, dentists still recommend traditional flossing over water picking, or in addition to water picking.
There are downsides to water picking, just like there are downsides to traditional flossing. For one, the device is expensive, with the average model costing around $60, and some over $100. Not to mention that the tips need to be replaced every three to six months, adding additional cost. They require a fair amount of space to store, and the device needs to be thoroughly cleaned every one to three months, a process that could take over an hour each time.
And of course, while you can easily toss a package of floss into a purse, car console, or pocket so you can floss on the go, a water picking device requires electricity and a water source, and is difficult to transport.
Water picking might be the right choice for you, but it’s not time to eliminate traditional flossing from your daily routine yet! Flossing is effective if performed properly, and will save you money and time in the long run if you can just make a habit of it. If you need a refresher course, ask your dentist to remind you of good flossing practices at your next regular cleaning.