Flossing is just as important as brushing when it comes to taking care of your teeth. Both procedures share a common goal: to eliminate plaque build-up and the colonies of harmful bacteria that live within it.

However, brushing removes plaque only from the front and back of your teeth, while flossing attacks the microbes between them, where the most destructive bacteria lurk.

Failure to get rid of plaque from these less accessible places can result in problems such as tooth decay, gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and periodontitis (damage to the bone and soft tissue that support the teeth).  The Canadian Dental Hygienists’ Association asserts that regular flossing reduces plaque and gingivitis.

Water flossers, which shoot a jet of water between the teeth and along the gum line to irrigate the tissue around your teeth, are becoming increasingly popular. But are they really better than conventional string floss?

Here, Lancaster Dental examines the pros and cons of both flossing methods.

Water Flosser

Pros

Conventional dental flossing can be tedious and tricky, and some people just can’t be bothered to stick to a regular routine of flossing by this method. On the other hand, the ease of use of water flossers, such as the Waterpik, encourages a systematic flossing regimen.

Water flossers are a good alternative if you do not have the dexterity required to cope with fiddly strings of floss.

Cons

Water flossers are much dearer than traditional dental floss. Top-of-the-range oral irrigators can cost up to $100, compared with string floss, which is typically less than $5 a package.

The jet of water that hits the teeth can skim over plaque, and may not be strong enough to clean deeply between teeth. Lancaster Dental considers water flossers an extra step in dental hygiene, rather than a substitute for brushing and manual flossing.

String Floss

Pros

The use of conventional string floss is still widely regarded as the most effective method of flossing. Its flexibility enables it to be curved around between the teeth, and it can be pulled taut to remove food debris and scrape off stubborn plaque to prevent it from hardening into tartar (aka calculus).

You have total control with string flossing over where the floss goes in your mouth and how much pressure is applied, an important factor for people with sensitive areas in the mouth and those who feel happier with a greater level of control over their oral cleaning.

Cons

The biggest drawback with traditional floss is that it can be difficult to handle, particularly for people with conditions that weaken dexterity, such as arthritis in the hands or wrists. However, pre-threaded floss holders are available to avoid the need to wrap the string around your fingers.

Conventional flossing doesn’t hold the same appeal as the higher-tech oral irrigation option, and this can lead to people giving up string flossing because of its tedious nature. The most effective dental homecare tools are the ones you actually use.

Opinion is Divided

The issue of whether a water flosser can be as effective as string floss is still disputed. The makers of Waterpik, the Netherlands-based Philips health technology company, claim clinical research has confirmed their product is superior to traditional flossing, while many dentists maintain that string floss is better for your teeth and gums.

For further information on flossing and other oral hygiene tools, contact Lancaster Dental.