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Dental Floss Versus Water Pick

Standard dental floss is generally considered the most effective tool for cleaning the tight spaces between the teeth. You can also use dental floss to scrape up and down the sides of each tooth.

A water pick (oral irrigator) is a device that aims a stream of water at your teeth. A water pick can help remove food particles from your teeth and might help reduce bleeding and gum disease — but it isn’t generally considered a substitute for brushing and flossing.

If you use floss correctly, you are snapping it past the tight connection between your teeth and then moving the floss up and down pressing it against one of the two teeth first and then pressing it against the other of the two teeth next before snapping it out from between the teeth. This “all important moving up and down along the side of the tooth and under the gum line” is what makes floss so important. That one simple maneuver removes plaque and bacteria from the side surfaces of the teeth that the toothbrush cannot get to adequately. This is the reason it is so important to floss at least once daily. Yes, floss definitely helps remove spinach and food that gets stuck between teeth…but to a dentist, that is just a floss bonus. What we really love about floss is how it reduces the plaque buildup, and bacteria from between the teeth, creating a healthier environment for the gums and the teeth.

Water pick uses a pulsating stream of water that produces between 5-90 psi of pressure to remove food particles. As an adjunct to brushing and flossing, a water pick is a wonderful complement to your oral health routine. When you use it instead of floss, however, you are no longer able to achieve the same results that moving floss tightly against the side surfaces of teeth and under the gum line provides. Water picks force food products out from between the teeth, and irrigate deeper pockets that floss cannot reach.

People tend to think that if a moderate speed on the Water pick is good, a higher speed must be awesome but the risk is that you can actually force food products or bacteria deeper into the soft tissue of the gum line and create irritation. We usually encourage people that want to incorporate using a water pick along with brushing and flossing, not to use any setting higher than medium to decrease the chance of irritating the soft tissue.

If plain dental floss gets stuck in your teeth, use may want to try the waxed variety. If you have a hard time handling dental floss, you could also try a floss holder. Other options might include special brushes, picks or sticks designed to clean between the teeth.

So, to wrap up, floss should be used as part of your daily oral hygiene routine…nothing replaces the effectiveness of floss. That said, adding a water pick to your routine of brushing/flossing is an excellent choice, being mindful to use a speed of medium or under.

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