If, like me, you saw the news that the effectiveness of flossing was called into question a few years ago, you may have quit doing it altogether. If, also like me, you watched episode six of the new season of Queer Eye, you would have seen grooming expert Jonathan Van Ness help a handsome guy named Remington who’s lazy about flossing himself. “I hooked you up with a big-girl water pick,” he says while gently stressing the importance of getting the crap out from between Remington’s teeth. While watching this episode (and full disclosure wiping away a few tears) I wondered, Are water picks the thing now? And which one should I get?
A quick search took me over to a long and overwhelming Amazon list. As someone who’s numbed by online reviews and carries a healthy amount of oral-hygiene guilt, this was my bad place. Further digging led me to find accusations of fake reviews against one of the top customer-rated water flossers (see the most recent reviews for this guy). Only further confused, I decided to close the tab and call a bunch of dental professionals instead (including my own dentist, who asked me how my upper left molar was doing). “Using a water flosser with the ADA Seal of Acceptance has been proven to be as effective if not more effective than traditional flossing at removing plaque between teeth,” says Dr. Jill Lasky, D.D.S., of Lasky Pediatric Dental in Studio City, California. “That’s because so many people have a difficult time flossing properly. Many just put the floss between their teeth instead of making the recommended C-shape with the floss to insure it properly contacts all surfaces of the teeth. Water flossers are less technique-sensitive.”
Dr. Samantha Rawdin, D.M.D., explained proper technique this way: “With a water pick, you want to close your lips slightly around the tip of it and lean over the sink so water doesn’t go everywhere. Then you’ll want to direct the tip of the water flosser down toward the gums and go in a scalloped motion along the gumline of each tooth on both the inside and outside — and accept that it’s going to be a little messy during the learning curve.” To find the best one for my overlooked gumline, I spoke with several dentists and got six recommendations on the best water picks to get.
Best Water Pick for Most People
“We recommend water flossers to our patients who don’t have a good habit of flossing — sometimes if you get a gadget, it can help. We do still recommend flossing, though, because floss will still give you that snap between the contacts of your teeth. I like the Waterpik Aquarius, though I prefer the corded version because it’s more powerful.” —Dr. Siama Muhammad, Brooklyn Oak Dental, NYC
Best Cordless Water Pick
“I would have to say that less than half of our patients floss daily in spite of our education efforts and take-home bags. Bleeding gums are a sign of infection in our patient’s gums that should be treated as such. Used properly, water flossers are the modern way to floss. Because of its longevity in the marketplace and the results proved in research studies, the Waterpik Water Flosser is the only water flosser we recommend.” —Dr. Michael Boyce, D.D.S., Arden Dental Care, Sacramento, California
Best Travel-Friendly Water Pick
“We like water flossers because they’re gentle on the gums. I’ve seen a lot of kids who wear braces that have issues with gum disease and cavities. Compared to flossing with braces, the water pick is much easier to use. Philips, which makes the Sonicare toothbrush, also makes a water pick called the AirFloss. You could even bring it in the shower with you.” —Dr. Youngmo Kang, D.D.S., Concierge Dental Design, NYC
Best Professional-Grade Water Pick
“When you’re sitting every single day for eight hours digging in someone’s gums, you kinda know what people are doing or not doing. There’s so many people that just can’t floss between their teeth for a variety of reasons (like dexterity problems). But all kinds of people feel a huge benefit from this water pick because they get these big pieces of debris and food particles coming off.” —Jona Trottier, Dental Hygienist, Get Smile Fitness, New Ashford, Massachusetts
Best Adjustable-Strength Water Pick
“Obviously, flossing is the first line of defense that we recommend because it’s an inexpensive way to get the job done. But it’s really just a matter of using either method properly to decrease the amount of plaque between the teeth and under the gumline. There are a ton of water picks out there, but I think the most important part is getting one that has a dial to adjust the intensity and one with multiple cleaning heads. You’re not trying to hurt your gums, and some of these can get quite strong.” —Dr. Samantha Rawdin, D.M.D., Gallery 57 Dental, New York
Best Water Pick for Kids
“The kids’ Waterpik is designed with a lower-intensity dial, so they don’t end up injuring their [gum] tissue at all. It also comes in fun colors and with different stickers, so you can decorate it. They make it kid-friendly in hopes that kids and teens will actually use it, and for braces it includes different adapters like a special brush to help clean around the brackets.” —Dr. Alexandra Brennan, D.M.D., Children’s Dental Associates, New London, Connecticut
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