Dentists tell all their patients to floss every day. But many of us fall short of the mark.
In fact, surveys have found that less than half of Americans floss their teeth daily. Some who do not have the patience or dexterity to use traditional string floss regularly might choose to use a water flosser instead.
But do these devices — which employ high-pressure water to clean between your teeth — really work?
Consumer Reports says the evidence is mixed.
Plenty of research has found that water flossing is beneficial, but CR notes that the research itself is “a little thin” and often has by sponsored by companies who sell these products.
A review by the Cochrane Collaboration found that while water flossing might reduce inflammation better than traditional floss in the short term, the evidence for such a benefit was not strong.
And it appears that water flossers do not reduce dental plaque any better than traditional string floss does.
CR asked the president of the American Academy of Periodontology — Dr. Chris Richardson, a dentist — for his opinion. Richardson said water flossers can be “a good adjunct to conventional string flossing, but should not replace it.”
Other experts CR talked to generally agreed with Richardson that water flossing can be beneficial but should not replace using string floss.
Elsewhere, other dentists agree. Writing for the Mayo Clinic website, Dr. Cindy Zhou — a dentist — says using a water flosser can be beneficial for certain types of people:
“Using a water flosser can be helpful for people who have braces, other orthodontics or dental work that makes it hard to use standard dental floss. A water flosser also may be useful for people who have trouble flossing by hand.”
However, Zhou adds that if you are using traditional string floss and are not experiencing bleeding, “there’s no need to change.”
Dr. Sasha Ross — a periodontist — tells the Cleveland Clinic that water-based flossing can get your teeth extra clean but adds that “water flossers aren’t a substitute for string floss.”