Alright, so we have given you a number of in depth reviews and our picks for the best water flossers out there, but if you’re just starting out and have never heard of water flossers or oral irrigators before, here’s where we get a bit historical and scholarly on you!
An oral irrigator, commonly referred to as a water flosser, dental water jet or water pick, is a device that removes bacteria causing plaque, plaque film and food residue from below the gum line and between the teeth, using a stream of water under pressure, usually pulsating. A typical water flosser consists of a handle with interchangeable tips from which the water comes out and it is attached to the main unit by a hose. The basic components of the main unit are the water reservoir and the motor pump that drives the water from the reservoir to the tip through the hose.
The first oral irrigator devised as a home care water flossing product, was introduced in 1962, by two Fort Collins CO employees, an engineer and a dentist. The first Waterpik was then released in the market. Besides some adjustments made to reduce the noise of the motor pump, not many changes have been done to the original design. Early studies on the efficacy of oral irrigation at home yielded rather confusing results. Although gingivitis reduction by this new flossing method was indisputable, Waterpik showed little efficiency in removing plaque. As a consequence, the device did not gain the expected recognition and it was simply reserved for patients wearing braces or having other tooth positioning issues.
In the past few years however, there has been an increasing interest in daily oral irrigation at home. This led to the conduction of more than 50 scientific studies evaluating the effectiveness of current irrigation devices.
In accordance with original studies, evidence showed that daily use of water flossers is extremely helpful, much more than dental floss, in diminishing gingivitis and bleeding (particularly the top ranked model, the Waterpik Aquarius). At the same time, it was shown that irrigation is as effective in reducing plaque as dental floss after all. Test subjects included regular users, as well as orthodontic patients, patients with gingivitis, implants, crowns, etc.
A huge concern was the possibility of the pulsating water pushing the bacteria into the blood stream (bacteremia). This can be potentially dangerous, as it can cause an infection to major organs. Research showed no correlation between oral irrigation and bacteremia, at least no greater than flossing or toothbrushing. On the contrary, as home oral irrigation devices improve the health of the gums, the gums become tougher and are less prone to bleeding. As a result, it is more difficult for bacteria to be inserted into the blood stream. Furthermore, the use of antimicrobial agents diluted in the water of the reservoir has been found to enhance the outcome of the entire process.
In summation, a literature review on domestic oral irrigation products reveals a whole new way of flossing. Contemporary home units offer plaque and debris removal to the same degree, if not more, as traditional interdental cleaning practices like regular flossing, without the risk of damaging one’s gums. Quite the opposite, research suggests. A water flosser will gently clean under the gum line without scarring the tissue, without bleeding, while at the same time prevents gingivitis.