Waterpiks & Air Flossers – Do They Work?

At Whitehorse Dental we see many weird and wonderful alternatives to dental care. Today, we’re looking at waterpiks and air flossers!

In our daily dentist practice, we see many patients trying out alternate solutions to brushing, toothpaste and teeth whitening. Unfortunately, many have terrible results for teeth. These products are often pedaled as convenient, organic and better, but have little scientific evidence to back it up. We hope through our blog and dental practice, that we can explain the ins and outs of these products so that you can make an informed choice about your dental health.

One commercial product that we’ve seen a lot of lately: waterpiks and air flossers.

Waterpiks and air flossers are basically a little machine that squirts out high-pressure water, used as a way to clean between the teeth rather than flossing.

When we first came across these devices, we thought they seemed pretty nifty. Some dentists even recommended this product to us.

However, after spending some time using the product, consulting with specialists and scientific literature, it’s in our professional opinion that they don’t actually work.


Cleaning Between Teeth

Air flossers and waterpiks use high-pressure water. Like a high-pressure water gun at the car wash, they’re supposed to spray away the debris between the gaps of your teeth. They’re often touted as easier to use than interdental brushes and flossing.

But exactly like the car wash, high-pressure water really struggles to remove sticky bits off the surface of your car. No matter how much you spray, you still have to go in with the sponge to gently wipe off the gunk clinging on the car’s bonnet.

The plaque on our teeth is sticky just like the goo that gets attached to our cars. When we use high-pressure water to spray between our teeth, it removes the bits of food debris but doesn’t actually clean off the adhesive film of plaque that grows on our teeth.

Because of its gluey nature, the only way to remove this film of plaque is to gently brush it off, which is what we do with our toothbrush and interdental brushes. If left unattended, the sticky film of plaque becomes the perfect breeding ground for bacteria that cause teeth disease.

Therefore, using air flossers and waterpiks will only remove food from the teeth…but leaves behind most of the plaque and bacteria that cause teeth problems. Doh!

Hate flossing? Read our blog post on the easier way to brush off the nasties between our teeth.


Plaque is Sticky

Yep! It’s a little-known fact that plaque is sticky. Plaque grows in a thin film on our teeth and harbour all sorts of nasty networks bacteria. In dentistry, we call this sticky film of bacteria “biofilm”.

Biofilm is essentially a microcosm of bacteria that forms a thin but robust layer, and adheres itself to the solid surface of your teeth.

This biofilm of bacteria is very much like the orange grime that grows on your shower when you haven’t cleaned your bathroom glass for a long time. As most of us would know, no matter what “miracle” chemicals you pour onto it, nothing gets the orange grime off other than elbow grease and a scrubbing brush.

Unfortunately for our teeth, biofilm creates the perfect environment for bacteria that cause dental disease to occur.


Applications for Air Flossers and Waterpiks

For people with special needs, for example like an elderly person with dexterity problems, an air flosser or waterpik may be a valid option as an alternative to using dental floss or interdental brushes. For carers, an air flossing device may be much more practical to wield than brushing or flossing. Although not ideal, the logic is that “something is better than nothing” if it is too difficult for the person to clean by themselves.

But for an able-bodied person, the daily use of interdental brushes and toothbrush is a much more effective way than simply squirting water on your teeth. The nature of bacteria to adhere to our teeth in sticky biofilm, makes high-pressure water sprays alone to be ineffective.

Got more questions about air flossers and waterpiks? Get in contact with our friendly dentists at Whitehorse Dental today.