Water Flossers vs Traditional Flossing: What’s Better for Your Dental Routine?

Most adults know flossing is an essential part of a solid daily oral hygiene routine. It removes left-over bits of food from between the teeth and along the gum line, along with plaque and the subsequent bacteria that result if the food isn’t eliminated regularly. Brushing accomplishes much of the work, but flossing gets into the areas that brushing can’t reach. 

You can floss two ways depending on your situation and preferences. The first is the “traditional” strand of string, either waxed or unwaxed, that you insert between your teeth. The other increasingly popular method is the use of water flossers (sometimes called oral irrigators), spraying pressurized water between the teeth to remove food debris. But weighing water flossers vs traditional flossing, which type of flossing is better?

Ultimately, it’s up to you along with input from your dentist. This article will explore why flossing is so important, and break down the pros and cons of both types of flossing.


Flossing 101 and Why It’s So Important 

People with beautiful smiles and healthy teeth get noticed. Taking care of your gums and teeth, though, is about more than good looks. Without the necessary, daily attention to your oral hygiene, the beautiful smile can deteriorate into cavities, tooth loss, and gum disease.

Twice-daily brushing with fluoride toothpaste is the first step. But, even regular brushing may not get into the nooks and crannies of your teeth to clean out all food particles. The results will be tartar, plaque, and bacteria, all leading to gum disease. 

Gum disease, called periodontitis, affects not only your oral health but also your overall physical health. The bacteria that cause gum disease can get into the bloodstream and wreak havoc on your body. Anyone with an oral bacterial infection has an increased risk of developing other health conditions, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and even cancer. Also, with gum disease, pregnant women are at increased risk of premature birth and low birth weight in the baby.

The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends interdental cleaning, more popularly known as flossing, as the second step to caring for your teeth. And there are two ways to accomplish this step: the traditional string floss and the water flosser. But, which is best for you?

You first need to know the differences and similarities between the two so that you can decide which will provide the most benefit for you. Read on!

Traditional Floss vs Water Flosser

Simply using a toothbrush isn’t enough, even an electric toothbrush. It doesn’t clean enough between the teeth where food hides and then turns into deadly bacteria if not removed. Traditional floss is a string of nylon or sometimes Teflon that the user inserts between each two teeth in a C-shaped pattern to loosen bits of food and remove them. Alternatively, a water flosser uses a thin, pressurized stream of water to clean between the teeth where a toothbrush often doesn’t reach. 

It is important to consider which method best works for you. And, in reality, it doesn’t have to be one or the other. It can be both every day or you can choose which one is best depending on your location or abilities. 

Let’s compare the two methods:

Traditional Dental Floss

Traditional string dental floss is most effective if you don’t have bleeding problems or difficulty holding the string. Many dentists feel that the effectiveness of scraping between teeth with the string can’t be replicated with a water flosser, so they recommend dental floss as the number one choice. Here are some other things to remember about this method of cleaning between your teeth:

  • There are other kinds of flossing tools, besides the plain string: Waxed floss that slides a bit easier and floss in a plastic holder called a floss pick. Many people find these easier to use. Try them all so you can determine which might work best for you.
  • Stringed floss can go wherever you go. The container is small and fits in your purse, backpack, or desk drawer.
  • Floss comes in flavored varieties like mint and cinnamon, which can make it more enjoyable to use.
  • Compared to the water flosser, standard dental floss is much less expensive.
  • Traditional flossing allows you to control the string and reach every tooth.
  • It isn’t as messy as the water flosser.


Water Flosser

People who wear braces or other orthodontic devices may find a water flosser more helpful and efficient compared to string floss. There is nothing to get caught on the braces or brackets like there is with string. Seniors and others with hand issues like arthritis often have less difficulty with the water flosser.

Think about these things too as you decide which is best for you:

  • Water flossers are especially useful if you have fixed dental appliances like bridges, permanent retainers, and braces.
  • Water flossers are usually electric, so they will need to be near an outlet in your bathroom. 
  • If you have sensitive gums, a water flosser with a sensitive mode setting is helpful.
  • There is also less waste after you floss because you aren’t throwing away string sections.
  • The American Dental Association supports water flossers for effectively clearing food debris and plaque between and around your teeth.
  • A water flosser isn’t as portable as traditional floss.
  • Some users believe their breath is fresher and for longer after using the water flosser.
  • The water flosser helps reach areas around teeth that are crooked and can’t be accessed easily with string.
  • The water flosser won’t make your gums bleed.

The ADA says that either method is acceptable, as long as you do a thorough job. Remember: You can do both! Floss first with string to loosen food from between your teeth, and then use the water flosser to wash away anything left behind.


Water Flosser or Traditional Floss: We Can Help!

A good oral hygiene program includes brushing AND flossing the teeth thoroughly every day. As you can see, both types of flossing, a water flosser or traditional string flossing, have pros and cons for the user. Many dental professionals recommend using both if possible. Use the information we’ve covered above as well as personalized recommendations from your dentist to determine the right choice for you. 

The team here at Wilmington Dental Associates takes our responsibility to all patients seriously and we look forward to assisting you in making this decision. Let us know if you have any questions or concerns about flossing or would like to schedule an appointment. Contact us today!



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