Water Flossers Explained

Flossing is an important part of keeping your teeth and gums healthy. But for many people, it can be a drag. Water flossers offer an alternative to traditional string dental floss and an effective solution to clean between your teeth. The devices effectively wash away food particles, stimulate the gums, increase circulation and improve oral health.

In this article, we explain everything you need to know about water flossers. Remember, if you have any questions, we’re here to help, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

What are water flossers?

A water flosser, otherwise known as an oral irrigator, is a handheld device that emits a stream of water in a pulsing action to clean between your teeth. Usually, water flossers come with different pressure options, so you can adjust the force at which the water comes out.

Waterpik Cordless Water Flosser

Whereas in the past, water flossers were considered to be ‘messy’ (as the water needs to drain from the mouth), technological advances have made the devices much more convenient. Nowadays, there are cordless, portable water flossers, which can even be used in the shower.

Are water flossers safe?

Water flossers are nothing new. In fact, they’ve been available commercially since 1962 (Jolkovsky and Lyle, 2015). Since their inception, numerous scientific studies have concluded water flossers are safe and effective (Jolkovsky and Lyle, 2015).

Water flossers have been found to significantly reduce bleeding, inflammation (the early form of gum disease), dental biofilm (plaque), subgingival bacteria, and calculus (tartar) (Goyal et al., 2018). A study by researchers from the University of Southern California Centre for Biofilms found one brand of water flosser, the Waterpik, removed up to 99.9% of plaque biofilm (Gorur et al., 2009). What’s more, when used in conjunction with a manual toothbrush, the Waterpik was found to be significantly more effective than string floss in removing plaque from tooth surfaces (Goyal et al., 2013).

While some dental professionals have raised concerns that the pressure of the water flosser may be detrimental, numerous studies have concluded the devices are safe to use on soft and hard oral tissues (Goyal et al., 2018). What’s really great is that water flossers are suitable for a wide range of people, including those with orthodontic appliances, implants, diabetes, and patients undergoing periodontal maintenance (Verma et al., 2017).

But do I actually need to floss?

In 2016, the Associated Press reported there was little scientific evidence that flossing prevented gum disease and cavities (Castle, 2016). The US government acknowledged the lack of research, and the standard recommendation to floss was removed from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. This threw a major spanner in the works for dental professionals, who had been routinely recommending flossing.

It’s important to note that a lack of research into the efficacy of flossing does not necessarily mean it’s futile. The Australian Dental Association still recommends flossing, or interdental cleaning, as an essential part of oral care.

The bottom line is if you’re solely relying on brushing, you’re not cleaning between your teeth. This can lead to problems. By flossing, you have nothing to lose (other than a couple of minutes a day) and everything to gain!

How do you use water flossers?

  • Start with the back teeth.
  • Hold the device at a 90-degree angle and move it along the gumline, pausing to clean the space between each tooth. Clean the front and the back of the teeth.
  • Floss at least once a day after brushing.

How does water flossing feel?

Water flossing is effective yet gentle, so it should not be painful or sting. Some users have even compared it to a ‘massage in the mouth’. After using a water flosser, your mouth should feel clean and fresh.

Are water flossers right for me?

If you struggle to floss by hand, water flossers may be the solution you’ve been looking for. They are also a great option for those with braces, bridges, or orthodontic devices, as water flossers usually come with customised tips to access areas that are hard to reach.

Before making the decision to switch from dental floss to a water flosser, it’s a good idea to speak to us. We can offer advice about whether water flossers are right for you, the kind of tip to choose and how to use the device effectively.

To make an appointment, please click here or call (03) 8521 0777.


Castle, J. (2016). Do you need to use dental floss? – CHOICE. [online] CHOICE. Available at: https://www.choice.com.au/health-and-body/dentists-and-dental-care/dental-products/articles/dental-floss-is-it-necessary [Accessed 24 May 2019].

Gorur, A., Lyle, D., Schaudinn, C. and Costerton, J. (2009). Biofilm removal with a dental water jet. – PubMed – NCBI. [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19385349 [Accessed 23 May 2019].

Goyal, C., Qaqish, J. and Schuller, R and Lyle, D. (2013). Evaluation of the plaque removal efficacy of a water flosser compared to string floss in adults after a single use. – PubMed – NCBI. [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24282867 [Accessed 23 May 2019].

Goyal, C., Qaqish, J., Schuller, R. and Lyle, D. (2018). Evaluation of the Safety of a Water Flosser on Gingival and Epithelial Tissue at Different Pressure Settings. [online] Aegisdentalnetwork.com. Available at: https://www.aegisdentalnetwork.com/cced/special-issues/2018/06/evaluation-of-the-safety-of-a-water-flosser-on-gingival-and-epithelial-tissue-at-different-pressure-settings [Accessed 23 May 2019].

Jolkovsky, D. and Lyle, D. (2015). Safety of a water flosser: a literature review. – PubMed – NCBI. [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25822642 [Accessed 23 May 2019].

Verma, A., Singh, S., Navkiran and Lall, A. (2017). WATER FLOSSER: A BOON FOR PERIODONTAL HEALTH | Indian Journal of Comprehensive Dental Care. [online] Ijcdc.com. Available at: http://ijcdc.com/water-flosser-a-boon-for-periodontal-health/ [Accessed 23 May 2019].