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When to Use A Water Flosser in Your Regimen – Which Order is Best

Is it better to use a Water Flosser before you brush and floss or after?  I haven’t seen a lot of information about this online, so it was up to me to figure it out by experience.  During the past few years, I tried it several ways and eventually settled on the order that works best for me.  It would be interesting to know whether there’s scientific information one way or the other, but for now, these are my personal experiences and preferences.

The best times to check whether it’s working is after a long road trip or if you’ve been camping off-the-grid for a while, when your teeth feel a bit “furry” as one person I know would describe them.  That way, you can really feel the difference.  Of course, I like to keep my teeth clean, so it took m a while to get through all of the testing.  Given that as a starting point, I’ll talk about each method below and you can decide for yourself!

Method 1: Water Flosser, Toothbrush, then String Floss

The advantage of this is that you can wash away some of the bigger particles right away, especially from between your teeth.  Once you get to brushing and flossing, should be less grime in your mouth, if everything works as it should.  Then once you brush and floss, everything should be really clean.  For me though, I found this to be my least favorite method.

The issue I kept running into is that the biofilm never seemed to be fully penetrated by the water flosser alone.  Don’t get me wrong, it did seem to help and it felt much better than not using it, but felt sure I could detect more residue this way than the others.

Method 2: String Floss, Toothbrush, then Water Flosser

This method is a little bit better.  My impression was that flossing and brushing loosened biofilm and debris, then the water flosser washed it away at the end.  I like the way my mouth was left feeling more fresh than the first method, so I felt better about this way.  There was only one downside.

I suspect (but can’t prove) that there’s a reason that people don’t like to use string floss.  My theory is that people don’t like the gross possibility of odors and bleeding that string flossing can produce.  Plus, it’s not the most comfortable.  However, finishing with string floss doesn’t let you get all of the material completely out of your mouth.  It’s quite a quandry.  A lot of people are less than joyful about string flossing and – as dentists would say – compliance is low.

So, with this method, you start off with the grossest feeling in dental hygiene, that of loosening debris from between your teeth.  I don’t know about you, but this is hard for me – even for just a few minutes.  I can’t stand the feeling of it!  The end result is good, but getting there is cringe-worthy.

Method 3: Brush, String Floss, then Water Flosser

This is my favorite method and it answers the issues posed by the other methods above.  First, you start by loosening gunk from your teeth in the presence of your favorite flavor of toothpaste.  For me, that would produce a minty or sometimes I’ll choose a cinnamon flavor.  With that first rinse, my mouth already feels mostly clean, but I know the job is not done yet.

Then I move to my second step, string flossing.  At this stage, the string mechanically loosens biofilm and debris between my teeth.  I’ve noticed that if I brush first, end up with less smelly stuff on my floss.  Odor and/or bleeding are often reduced, if present.  This alone makes this method worth it to me.

Finally, I finish with a thorough session with my water flosser, moving slowly over the areas I previously brushed and flossed.  If I encounter problems in the brushing and flossing steps, I might even add some mouthwash or a small amount of hydrogen peroxide to the water.

What I’ve noticed is that the loosened gunk seems to come out from between teeth much easier than if I wouldn’t have brushed and flossed first.  I’m then able to focus more on getting deeper between teeth and under the gumline where brushing and flossing can’t reach.  There’s no better feeling than to see additional debris flow out of your mouth after most people would have ended their dental hygiene regimen.

Conclusion: The Best Way to Include a Water Flosser

After all is said and done, when to add water flossing into your own dental hygiene routine may be a matter of personal preference.  It would be interesting to learn whether there’s any evidence to back up my thoughts on the subject, but for me, I will continue to start with brushing, move on to string flossing, and finish with water flossing.  I’ve found this to be my preferred way to keep my mouth feeling fresh and clean.  Let me know what you think whether you agree or whether you think there’s a better way!

How I Got Into Water Flossing

I got into water flossing because of curiosity — I wanted to see and feel whether it actually works!  For most of my life, I’ve never used any type of dental device besides a standard toothbrush and string floss.  I’d tried a variety of toothpastes ranging from the old Aqua Fresh triple action to various whitening toothpastes, and I’d tried everything from waxed to Glide floss.  It really wasn’t something I spent a lot of time thinking about.  In retrospect, I wish I had known more at the time (don’t we all?).

A couple of friends of mine are true Costco fans.  They love going to Costco, buying Costco food – even talking about what they found at Costco.  One of the things they talked about is their Sonicare tooth brush and how they liked what it did for their teeth.  I have to admit I was a bit skeptical.  After all, why do you need your toothbrush to buzz – why can’t you just brush your teeth like a normal person?  Still, they swore by it and to this day, they still use electric toothbrushes.

Fast forward a few years, my mother-in-law lived with us for a time and the subject of a Waterpik came up.  She said she liked it and so I thought, “Why not?”  When she brought her Waterpik out, it was one of the older models.  As far as I knew, it looked like it was from decades ago.  I plugged it in and it started doing its job – shooting a stream of water from its jet tip.  The only problem was I didn’t have it in my mouth at the time, so it started spraying everywhere!  So, I unplugged it.  I tried again with it in my mouth, but wasn’t to sure what to do at that point and she didn’t really give me a clear answer.  I tried briefly to figure it out myself, but wasn’t too committed to figuring out how to use a water flosser at the time, so I put the idea on hold.

Later, I started to read some reviews about oral irrigators and the idea of trying it came up again.  This time, I bought a Waterpik Aquarius and was determined to get it right.  The difference this time is that I watched some instructional videos which showed exactly how people use it and what the pulsing stream of water is supposed to do.  Finding out how effective a water flosser can be made me more intrigued than ever to try it.

Once I did, I was pleasantly surprised and wondered why I had waited so long.  I started slowly at first, with the pressure setting at one of the lower settings, trying the standard flossing tip, and trying to get the angle right.  I realized right away that it the water jet was getting into areas that I simply could not reach with my regular brushing and flossing habits.

As I started to get used to my Waterpik, I realized that my teeth and gums felt cleaner.  If I had eaten certain foods, like popcorn, it was easier to get all of the debris out — water flossing after brushing and flossing proved that to me.  In the past, I would have not known that there was still more between my teeth.  Now, I have seen that brushing and flossing removes a lot and loosens some.  I’ve found that following up with a water flosser rinses more out.

So now, after years of manual dental care, I’m convinced that oral irrigation is an important part of my hygiene habits.  I don’t plan on going back to just brushing and flossing alone now that I can see how much a water flosser can do.  Like most everyone, I want to have fresh breath and a healthy smile for life.  For me, a water flosser is part of the answer.



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