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Flossing is an important part of a complete dental hygiene plan designed to reduce the risk of cavities and periodontal disease. Unfortunately, many people fail to floss on a regular basis. Waterpiks are popular alternatives for some people who have a distaste for flossing. But do they work as well as traditional flossing? Here’s what you should know.
Why Floss in the First Place?
The areas between teeth account for approximately 35 percent of plaque build-up. This is one big reason these spaces are so prone to gingivitis, which can ultimately lead to periodontal disease if left untreated. Flossing can help clean plaque buildup from between teeth and reduce the risk of gum disease.
Flossing should occur every day. Unfortunately, because many people fail to floss regularly, dentists commonly see patients with bleeding gums and gingivitis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about half of all Americans have some form of gum disease, and most don’t even know it.
Regular brushing is key to reducing the risk of gum disease. Unfortunately, a standard toothbrush can’t always reach within tight crevices between teeth. Flossing is an effective way to eliminate food particles and bacteria from between teeth and lower the risk of periodontal disease.
What is a Waterpik?
Also known as oral pulsating irrigators, a waterpik uses a special machine that focuses a thin but powerful stream of water into the teeth and gums. Instead of scraping the teeth to eliminate plaque, water flossers utilize the pressure of the water to massage the teeth and gums and force food and plaque away from the teeth.
Waterpiks offer certain advantages over traditional flossing. For one, they are easier for some people to use, especially if they have braces or complex dental work. They can also reach especially awkward areas that may be inaccessible to standard flossing string or tape.
Are Waterpiks Enough?
Although waterpiks can be helpful additions to a complete dental hygiene plan, they shouldn’t be viewed as a substitute for flossing. According to dental experts at the Mayo Clinic, while a waterpik may help reduce bleeding and gum disease, they don’t typically remove visible plaque and film from teeth.
With that said, research appearing in the Journal of Clinical Dentistry found that subjects who used a waterpik actually removed about 17 percent more plaque than participants who only used traditional floss. While this appears to demonstrate that waterpiks are superior to standard flossing, experts believe the results have more to do with the way subjects use traditional floss.
To get the most benefit from flossing, it’s important to follow the American Dental Association’s recommendations for proper flossing technique. If you choose to use a water flosser to enhance your oral hygiene, be sure to view it as a supplemental tool instead of an effective replacement for regular flossing.