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The Truth About Water Flossers and Biofilm

One of the biggest questions about water flossers is “Do they really work?” Can oral irrigation reduce biofilm? How could you tell if it was really doing the job? If you’ve been around this topic for long, you know that the biggest enemy to dental health is biofilm. It fills our saliva, coats our teeth, and inhabits the spaces between our teeth. All the while, the bacteria in the biofilm constantly wear away at tooth enamel and damage gum tissues. Reducing biofilm is a constant battle, not just after sugary snack.

A group of researchers decided to find out how well a water flossers could reduce biofilm by studying how it would do on real teeth. Researchers obtained eight extracted teeth from a patient who had dental problems so advanced that several teeth had to be removed. They also made a culture of biofilm from saliva. They divided the teeth into thin slices so that they could study the results under an electron microscope and dipped them for four days in the biofilm from the saliva. For the test, they used a WaterPik water flosser and tried to of the tips – the classic tip and the orthodontic tip.

The starting picture under the electron microscope shows that the biofilm completely coated the teeth. You couldn’t even see any of the tooth surface below the biofilm in the before picture – that’s how extensive it was. Just looking at the before picture made me want to brush my teeth! It looked more like a carpet than anything I would want in my mouth.


Tooth Covered with Biofilm
The before picture of the tooth slice covered with biofilm is shocking and disgusting!

Then, they blasted the teeth using the WaterPik for just three seconds, which seems like a short amount of time. What they found was absolutely amazing and should be no surprise to fans of water flossers out there. The WaterPik got rid of over 99% of the biofilm so that you couldn’t even see that it had been there! The type of tip used didn’t matter much, it seemed like the pulsing action of the water was what did the trick.  Even more interesting, was when you could see that on some of the tooth slices, it looks like the researchers missed a few spots.  You could see a stark difference between the treated areas that had no visible biofilm and a few spots of the grossest looking junk still stuck to the tooth.


Biofilm reduced by 99.99% using a water flosser
Biofilm removed from a tooth using a Waterpik classic tip for 3 seconds.

Finding this research made me absolutely convinced that I’m on the right track by incorporating oral irrigation into my dental health routine – and motivated me to continue. Even before reading the research, I already felt a cleaner feeling in my mouth that made it all worth it. Seeing the stunning before and after pictures in this study showing how much biofilm was removed from the teeth convinces me that water flossing is definitely worth the extra few minutes of my time!

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