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The 6 Very Best Water Flossers

Best Water Picks 2020
Photo-Illustration: The Strategist

According to the dentists we spoke to, the one thing you want to look for when shopping for a water flosser is the American Dental Association (ADA)’s seal of acceptance. “Using a water flosser with the 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 of Lasky Pediatric Dental in Studio City, California. That’s why Waterpik is the only brand on our list: It’s ADA-approved, and it’s so ubiquitous that Brooklyn-based dentist Dr. Elliot Eskenazi says Waterpik “is to water flossers what Kleenex is to tissues.” But even within this one label, there’s a lot to choose from: cordless and countertop options, models with specialized attachments, and even devices that double as a toothbrush. So our list below is to help you pick the right one for your needs and budget.

Before we get to our expert-recommended water flossers, here’s a little instruction on how to use one, since there’s a bit of a learning curve, Dr. Samantha Rawdin says. “You want to close your lips slightly around the tip and lean over the sink so water doesn’t go everywhere,” she says. “Then you’ll want to direct the tip down toward the gums and go in a scalloped motion along the gumline of each tooth on both the inside and outside.” Dr. Elisa Mello of NYC Smile Design also emphasizes water flossing at night, when there’s reduced salivary flow, to prevent bacteria from feeding off anything left in your mouth.

Now that you’re all set with the proper technique, read on to learn more about the criteria we considered as we put together this list. Or use the handy links below to jump to the type of water flosser you’re looking for.

Best overall | Best compact countertop | Best cordless | Best that’s also a toothbrush | Best less expensive that’s also a toothbrush | Best for kids and adults with sensitive gums

What we’re looking for

Pressure Settings: Multiple pressure settings are an important feature, according to most of the folks we talked to. Because gum sensitivity and the spaces between people’s teeth can vary so much, having a lot of options ensures that you can personalize the pressure to your individual mouth. The settings are based on different levels of water pressure, which is measured in psi. Each machine has a different pressure range, with most starting at 10 psi and going up as high as 100 psi. Dr. Pia Lieb, founder of Cosmetic Dentistry Center NYC, says “you want really strong water power to push as much food and debris off of the tooth structure as possible,” but the larger the range, and the more settings there are, gives you flexibility if you’re not sure yet what your teeth can handle.

Countertop vs. Cordless: Contrary to most modern pieces of technology, the preference when it comes to water flossers is actually for a non-portable plug-in model that sits on your countertop. Dr. Siama Muhammad of Brooklyn Oak Dental Care prefers the corded version “because it’s more powerful.” It obviously has its cons, though. You can’t travel with it; it takes up a lot of countertop space; and you can’t use it in the shower. If you can get your desired pressure settings in a more compact model, the ADA and six of the dentists and hygienists we spoke to recommend the cordless option we mention below for people with limited space or those who might want to use their flosser in the shower to minimize the potential mess. Cordless models are also lighter, which Dr. Inna Chern of New York General Dentistry says is great for people with dexterity issues because it’s easy to hold.

Water-Tank Size: The size of the water tank is also something to consider. Running your water flosser long enough to get in between each tooth requires a lot of water, and it’s ideal if you don’t have to fill it up before you finish. This requires a significantly large water tank. Countertop models shine again here, because they are large and bulky but hold more water than a cordless version you can take anywhere. The largest tank on our list has a 22-ounce capacity, and that holds enough water to run for 90 seconds.

Built-in Timer: Since water flossing is akin to regular flossing, there’s no ADA-recommended time like there is with brushing your teeth. It’s more about technique and getting in between each tooth, no matter how long that takes. That being said, Waterpik, the industry standard, recommends using it for one minute. Some models have a built-in timer, while others frankly don’t have water tanks large enough to run longer than the recommended time, and those you can turn on and off on your own.

Rotating Tip: In addition to multiple attachments, some water flossers also have a 360-degree rotating tip. This allows you to reach every part of your mouth with ease. With a stationary tip, you’ll have to do your best to angle the flosser in various directions.

Best overall water flosser

$71

10 pressure settings | Countertop | 22-ounce tank | Built-in timer | 360-degree tip

Six of our sources preferred the Waterpik Aquarius. It’s a countertop corded model, which, yes, means it’s bulky, but it’s also powerful. The Aquarius has ten different pressure settings ranging from 10 to 100 psi. Dr. Irina Sinensky, founder of Dental House, adds that “it offers water-control buttons on the handle … seven different tips, 360-degree rotation of the tip, and a significantly large water tank.” The 22-ounce tank holds enough water to run for 90 seconds, and the built-in timer runs for the Waterpik-recommended one minute. The different tips include ones specifically for people with braces, periodontal pockets, and other hardware that can be hard to clean around, making it a great option for anyone with dental work. And the rotating tip only provides greater accessibility to those hard-to-reach places. Lieb is most impressed with the strength of the Aquarius. “It has the strongest engine on the market,” she says, explaining that “you want really strong water power to push as much food and debris off of the tooth structure as possible.”

Best compact countertop water flosser

5 pressure settings | Countertop | 15-ounce tank | No timer | No 360-degree tip

Think of this model as the mini-Aquarius. It’s still a corded countertop model, meaning it’s powerful, but it doesn’t take up as much room as the option above. “It’s smaller and it’s quite user-friendly,” says Rozenberg. “It’s ideal for small bathrooms, especially in the city.” The Nano Plus doesn’t have all the same specs as the Aquarius, though. It’s got half the number of pressure settings but with a similar psi range from 10 to 80, so there is still a lot of room for personalization. It has a smaller water tank, but it still holds enough for a 60-second run time — which will be a good indicator because this model does not have a built-in timer. It also doesn’t rotate, but it does come with a replacement tip, one for braces, and one for implants and other restorative work to help you navigate even better.

Best cordless water flosser

3 pressure settings | Cordless | 7-ounce tank | No timer | 360-degree tip 

Believe it or not, the above Waterpik is marketed for travel, but if you’re really on the go, this cordless model is a much better choice. It weighs under a pound and it comes with a travel bag and a case for its four tips. You can easily take it into the shower with you or stuff it into a carry-on and not have to worry about it dying on you. Dr. Greg Grobmyer, a certified dental surgeon, says, “Its battery life is one of the best on the market, and the design is great.” Chern recommends this model to teens with braces, elderly people, and people who don’t have room for a bulkier countertop model. She herself, along with her husband and 12-year-old daughter, use this Waterpik at home. “I like it because we have limited bathroom-counter space and it easily goes into our medicine cabinet,” she says. “It is much easier and more efficient than flossing. This model and all Waterpik-brand flossers are excellent for braces, whether conventional or clear aligners. And for people with dexterity issues, it’s a very easy-to-hold model, lightweight (under a pound), and versatile.” The only downside might be that for portability, you sacrifice a large tank. This seven-ounce tank only holds enough for 45 seconds of flossing, so you might have to refill before you finish. It’s also important to note that its three pressure settings range between 45 and 75 psi, so if you have sensitive gums, this model might be too powerful even on its lowest setting.

Best water flosser (that’s also a toothbrush)

10 pressure settings | Countertop | 16-ounce tank | Built-in timer | No 360-degree tip

Another way to clear off some counter space is to combine your brushing and flossing into one device so you don’t have to set up both a Waterpik and electric toothbrush. The Waterpik Sonic-Fusion combines a water flosser and sonic toothbrush. The brush head has soft bristles as well as a hole for pressurized water to stream out of. The flosser has ten different pressure settings ranging from 10 to 100 psi just like the Aquarius; the 16-ounce tank holds enough water for 60 seconds of flossing; and while it’s a countertop model, the brush detaches and can be used on the go. The built-in two-minute timer is for the toothbrush function, which has two different speed settings. If the combination seems like a lot, “This product switches from brushing to flossing to both,” says Dr. Jacqueline Fulop-Goodling, an orthodontist at New York’s Dr. Smiles. She adds, “It removes the harmful bacteria and debris deep between teeth and below the gumline that traditional brushing and dental floss can’t reach.” Fulop-Goodling is one of nine experts who recommended it. Dr. Mello uses it herself and tells us it’s one of the best ways to keep your teeth clean in between dentist appointments.

Best less expensive water flosser (that’s also a toothbrush)

Photo: retailer

10 pressure settings | Countertop | 22-ounce tank | No 360-degree tip

If you’re looking to save some money, Dr. Mello recommends this two-in-one from Waterpik for $100. While the Sonic-Fusion is a brush–water flosser combo in one head, this model separates the devices while maintaining many of the same controls and features. The flosser has ten different pressure settings, ranging from 10 to 100 psi, and the toothbrush has three sonic modes (one more than the Sonic-Fusion). The 22-ounce tank holds enough water to run for 90 seconds. However, unlike other flossers, this one doesn’t have a built-in timer.

Best water flosser for kids and adults with sensitive gums

3 pressure settings | Countertop | 15-ounce tank | No timer | No 360-degree tip

Several dentists recommend this bright-green water flosser for kids because of its gentleness — there is always the danger (especially for children) of using a water flosser at too high an intensity, which can be damaging to young and sensitive gum tissue. Dr. Alexandra Brennan of Children’s Dental Associates in New London, Connecticut, says she likes Waterpik’s water flosser for kids, because it’s designed with a lower-intensity dial, so users of any age “don’t end up injuring their gum tissue at all.” She notes that the Waterpik for kids comes in fun colors and with a handful of 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. Grobmyer says that water flossers can be especially useful for children with braces or who are fussy about brushing their teeth: “Water flossers can make this tedious activity more appealing and engaging for kids and teens.”

Some more water flossers we've written about

Our experts

• Dr. Inna Chern, owner of New York General Dentistry
• Dr. Elliot Eskenazi, general and cosmetic dentist
• Dr. Jacqueline Fulop-Goodling, orthodontist at New York’s Dr. Smiles
• Dr. Greg Grobmyer, DDS and public speaker 
• Dr. Jill Lasky, founder of Lasky Pediatric Dental
• Dr. Pia Lieb, founder of Cosmetic Dentistry Center NYC
• Dr. Elisa Mello, owner of NYC Smile Design
• Dr. Siama Muhammad, owner of Brooklyn Oak Dental Care
• Dr. Samantha Rawdin, dentist
• Dr. Irina Sinensky, founder of Dental House
• Dr. Alexandra Brennan, diplomate of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry and dentist at Children’s Dental Associates

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The 6 Very Best Water Flossers