What Is a Waterpik?

A Waterpik is a brand of water flosser or oral irrigator that sprays water to remove food from between your teeth. Water flossers may be a good option for people who have trouble with traditional flossing -- the kind that involves threading string-like material between your teeth.

How to Use It

A water flosser doesn't replace your toothbrush or traditional flossing. You still need to brush your teeth twice a day, but you can use the water flosser before or after.

Fill your water flosser's reservoir with lukewarm water, then put the flosser tip in your mouth. Lean over the sink to avoid a mess.

Turn it on and then it's time to clean. Hold the handle at a 90-degree angle to your teeth and spray. Water comes out in steady pulses, cleaning between your teeth.

Start at the back and work your way around your mouth. Focus on the top of your teeth, the gum line, and the spaces between each tooth. Remember to get the back of your teeth, too.

The process should take about 2 minutes. Empty any extra water from the reservoir when you're done so bacteria doesn't grow inside.

How It Works

Like regular flossing, water flossing removes food stuck between your teeth and the bacteria lingering there before it hardens into plaque. Your toothbrush can't get into those small spaces. Water flossing can also reduce gum disease and bleeding.

Is Water Flossing as Good as Dental Floss?

The American Dental Association says water flossers with the ADA Seal of Acceptance can get rid of plaque. That's the film that turns into tartar and leads to cavities and gum disease. But some studies find water flossers don't remove plaque as well as traditional floss.

Don't throw away your traditional dental floss just to try something new. Most dentists still consider regular flossing the best way to clean between your teeth. The old-fashioned stuff lets you scrape up and down the sides of your teeth to remove plaque. If it gets stuck in small spaces, try waxed floss or dental tape. Flossing might be uncomfortable at first if you're not in the habit, but it should get easier.

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Consider a water flosser if you have trouble using dental floss. If you have braces or dental work like permanent or fixed bridges, a water flosser might be helpful. They can be good for people with periodontal disease or with extremely dry mouths.

You also might want to try one if you have arthritis or other problems using your hands. Kids or teens with braces sometimes find water flossing easier than traditional flossing. Ask your dentist if it's a good idea to switch to a water flosser or add it to your routine.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Michael Friedman, DDS on October 14, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

Mouth Healthy/American Dental Association: "Water Flossing," "Flossing."

American Dental Hygienists' Association: "Interdental Cleansing."

Wilkinson Dental: "How to Use a Water Flosser."

Mayo Clinic: "Oral Health: Brush Up on Dental Care Basics," "Is It More Effective to Floss Teeth With a Water Pick or Standard Dental Floss?"

American Dental Association: "Floss/Interdental Cleaners," "Home Oral Care Recommendations."

Dentistry Journal: "An Overview of Different Interdental Cleaning Aids and Their Effectiveness."

Cleveland Clinic: "Dental Care Products: Making the Right Choice."

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