Is flossing your teeth about something you look forward to about as much as taking out the garbage or emptying the dishwasher? Traditional flossing is considered by the American Dental Association as the most effective technique to remove food particles and harmful plaque from between your teeth and along the gum line. The objective of flossing is to ultimately prevent hardening of plaque into tartar, which can cause gingivitis, a gum disease risk factor. But statistics indicate that many people don’t floss because they are consider flossing too time consuming, or too hard to maneuver the floss, or just don’t think it really is effective. In fact, approximately only 50.5% of Americans reporting that they floss every day.
However, it was discovered that many of the non-flossers have physical or psychological concerns that make controlling traditional floss correctly a difficult task, especially patients with physical mobility challenges, reduced coordination as a result of age or arthritis, or complex dental work like implants or bridgework. Braces are also particularly hard to keep plaque and particle free with traditional floss. In these cases, an easy-to-use alternative method for maintaining oral health is a handheld water flosser. Many dentists still recommend traditional flossing as the best method to clean the hard to reach places between teeth for patients who are able to manipulate floss, but for those with impediments to manual flossing, or as a supplement to string flossing, it’s a popular choice.
What is the Difference Between Traditional String Floss and Water Flossers
Water flossers were first introduced in the 1960’s, and they quickly became popular because they are more fun to use than traditional flossing for those who find traditional thread floss a distasteful chore, and easier to handle for those with limited dexterity. No need to wind thread around fingers while trying to insert hand into mouth at strange angles. The technology is simple – a pulsating stream of water using a variety of specialized heads with different water pressures eliminates food particles and bacteria stuck in between teeth and flushes them away. Traditional flossing removes plaque, bacteria, and food particles by gliding a string of floss between tight teeth, but it’s often difficult to get the right angle and wedge the floss into really tight spaces, and it certainly is not really fun. But all that maneuvering does have it’s advantage – traditional flossing scrapes off the sticky film of bacteria from the tooth and gums, as compared to a water flosser which basically rinses off the outer layers of bacteria and food fragments. However, when the fine bristled brush attachment is used with the water flosser, the scraping potential is increased. Plus it is something that can be easily carried in a purse or pocket when one is away from home. The pros for water flossing is that it is easier to hold the hand tool and direct the flow of water, especially with braces where the velocity of the water stream can easily be targeted between the network of wires and brackets.
What Are My Choices of Oral Irrigation Systems?
There are two basic types of oral irrigation products to choose from.
Sonic/Electric Flossers: A handheld flossing wand squirts a stream of water from an attached reservoir base. They come in electric and battery operated models – the battery operated versions are usually smaller and designed for travel. Popular brands include Waterpik and Sonicare, among others. This video is a short instructional piece on the use of water flossers.
Faucet-Powered Flossers: A less expensive model which does not require either electricity, batteries, or a reservoir. Instead, it uses a connection directly to the faucet and drives a spurt of water to the targeted area in the mouth, similar to the electric/sonic versions. However, the ability to attach the nozzle may be limited by the type and size of an individual’s faucet spigot.
Both oral irrigation systems and traditional flossing contribute to good oral hygiene. Obviously the up-front cost of an oral irrigation system will be higher than traditional spool floss or picks. Electric models may cost up to and over $100 depending on all of the attachments and goodies it comes with, while you can expect to pay between $20 and $40 for a faucet attachment model. Dentists generally recommend that if a patient has difficulty handling string floss or picks that prevent daily flossing, a handheld water flosser is worth the investment over the long run, as it will help reduce potentially costly dental repairs in the future.
The best oral hygiene routine includes using string floss first to break up plaque, followed by a water flosser to rinse out the particles, and finished with your customary toothbrush practice. Before you invest in an expensive oral irrigation system, schedule an appointment with Alabama Family Dentistry, providing preventive service to patients living in Birmingham, Gardendale, Warrior, Sumiton, and surrounding communities, for a cleaning and recommendation on which model may be appropriate for your individual smile.