Flossing once a day is fairly standard dental advice, but where do water picks fit in when it comes to your oral hygiene routine? Water picks, also known as waterpiks®, water flossers, dental water jets, or oral irrigators might seem like do a better job cleaning your teeth, but that isn’t necessarily the case.
The Importance of Cleaning between Your Teeth
Whether you’re using floss, a water pick, or nothing at all, you should understand the importance of cleaning between your teeth. Brushing twice a day with toothpaste is a good start, but it’s not enough to keep your mouth its healthiest.
Brushing alone misses one-third of your tooth surfaces, as the bristles on your toothbrush can’t reach the tight spaces between your teeth. The Canadian Dental Association recommends including flossing and brushing in your oral hygiene routine.
Cleaning between your teeth with floss reduces the risk of cavities and gum disease. When practiced regularly, flossing can help prevent more severe dental problems like advanced periodontal disease, tooth pain, and tooth loss.
Can Water Picks Replace Traditional Floss?
While water picks can benefit your oral health, they are not recommended instead of flossing.
Regular dental floss is considered the most effective tool for cleaning the spaces between your teeth. It also works to remove plaque from the sides of the teeth, unlike water picks.
A water pick can remove food particles and help reduce the chances of gum disease and bleeding, but water picks are not good at removing visible film and plaque. If you’re having trouble flossing, waxed floss, floss threaders, and floss picks can be potential solutions.
Benefits of Adding a Water Pick to Your Routine
While water picks shouldn’t replace flossing for most patients, they do have some benefits. Water picks are easy to use and can help you clean hard to reach areas. In terms of oral hygiene and care, water picks can be a beneficial addition. Water picks used in addition to brushing and flossing can help remove more bacteria and keep your mouth clean.
When used in addition to floss, water picks can help increase bacteria removal. The pulsating action creates a compression and decompression phase that helps to expel subgingival bacteria from your tooth pockets. In other words, water picks help remove bacteria from the root area of your teeth and gums. The effect is similar to root plaining, which is a technique dental hygienists use to deep clean your tooth’s root area during a dental cleaning.
Water picks are more effective at removing bacteria than brushing alone or brushing and using mouthwash, but not more effective than flossing and brushing.
Who Should Use a Water Pick?
Some patients may benefit more than others from adding a water pick to their routine. While we recommend most patients use a water pick in addition to flossing, a water pick can help patients who otherwise would not be able to clean between their teeth.
You might benefit from a water pick if you:
- Wear braces
- Have non-removable bridgework
- Have crowns
- Have dental implants
- Struggle to use floss or don’t have good fine motor skills
- Have conditions like arthritis or multiple sclerosis
Or if it is otherwise recommended by your dentist. Your dentist will be able to fully assess your oral health and recommend the best hygiene solution for you.
Oral Hygiene Best Practices
Whether you ultimately decide to floss or use a water pick, you should be following oral health best practices. Brush your teeth twice a day, and in the evening, follow up with floss, or with floss and a water pick. Make sure you continue to visit the dentist every 6 months for a dental exam and cleaning.
When you’re flossing, move the floss down both sides of the tooth and below the gum line. Change to a new section of floss between each tooth.
If you’re using a water pick, place the unit in your mouth before turning it on. Then, work from the back teeth forward, making sure to clean the inside and outside of your teeth.
At the end of the day, the best oral hygiene routine is the one you stick with. If you use a water pick religiously but refuse to floss, then continue with that. However, if you floss regularly, but you’re thinking of switching to a water pick, we recommend you continue flossing.
In addition to visiting the dentist regularly, proper oral hygiene is essential to maintaining your oral health. If you have questions about the best oral hygiene routine for you, contact us to book an appointment.