teeth week

If I’m Not Great About Flossing, Should I Get a Water Pick?

Best Water Picks 2018
The dentist-recommended AirFloss Ultra is cordless. Photo: Courtesy of retailer

A little over a year ago, after watching an episode of Queer Eye in which grooming expert Jonathan Van Ness gives a lazy man named Remington a water pick, I wondered whether (like Remington) buying one would motivate me to develop better interdental cleaning habits. Emboldened by JVN (and the ADA’s recommendations for home oral care), I typed “water pick” into Google. A quick search took me to a long and overwhelming Amazon list. Further digging led me to find accusations of fake reviews against one of the top customer-rated water flossers. Confused, I decided to close the tab and call a bunch of dental professionals, including my own and seven others, instead. After getting their recommendations, I decided to buy a cordless Waterpik (more on that below).

But we Strategist writers can’t let too much time pass before we start wondering if there are newer, better versions of our favorite things out there, so I recently reached out to eight more more dentists to see if my past research held up, and to ensure that using my water pick was still a proper way to supplement my daily brushing (I still floss on occasion, mostly on days when I don’t feel like reaching for yet another appliance). To varying degrees, everyone I talked to said the same thing: Cleaning in between your teeth and under the gum line with a water pick, floss, or both is key to preventing cavities and gum disease, and the best tool with which to do that cleaning is really the one you know you’ll use most often — and correctly. “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 — because so many people have a difficult time flossing properly,” explains Dr. Jill Lasky of Lasky Pediatric Dental in Studio City, California. “Many just put the floss between their teeth instead of making the recommended C-shape with the floss to ensure it properly contacts all surfaces of the teeth. Water flossers are less technique-sensitive.”

When it comes to the proper water-pick technique, Dr. Samantha Rawdin puts it 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.” Below, the six best water picks to try right now, according to Rawdin and the other dentists and dental hygienists I spoke with.

Best overall water pick

Waterpik Sonic-Fusion Professional Flossing Toothbrush

Of the 16 dentists and dental hygienists I talked to, 13 say that they prefer the Waterpik brand because of its longevity in the market, and, according to AsktheDentist.com founder Dr. Mark Burhenne, “the company stands behind its products better than other brands with unrecognizable names.” Dr. Dimitri Mantazis of Hove Dental Clinic appreciates the brand’s wide array of models “from basic to more advanced to cordless.” Dr. Moses A. Belgrade says he’s been using a Waterpik since dental school “43 years ago.” And Dr. Mojgan Fajiram says that Waterpik models are a proven “way to aid in removing food and bacteria.”

Three of those 13 dentists who like the brand recommended the Waterpik Sonic-Fusion specifically by name, because it combines brushing and (water) flossing in one appliance, has a built-in timer that notifies you when you’re done, and adjustable water-pressure controls for sensitive teeth. Dr. Jacqueline Fulop-Goodling, an orthodontist at New York’s Dr. Smiles, says, “this product switches from brushing to flossing to both, and it removes the harmful bacteria and debris deep between teeth and below the gum line that traditional brushing and dental floss can’t reach.” Dr. Paul Sussman, a founder of the Center for Cosmetic Dentistry in Rochester, says that he uses the Sonic-Fusion exclusively, and recommends it to all of his patients and relatives. Sussman compares the combination brush and water flosser to a power-washer for your mouth, saying “the toothbrush breaks away plaque and bacteria that have attached themselves to your teeth, and the Waterpik flushes out all of the debris.” He adds that “mouthwashes and other medicaments can be used instead of water to deliver more direct therapy to the gum tissue,” and that “this water flosser is also very effective in cleaning around dental implants and fixed implant bridges and dentures.”

Best less-expensive water pick

Waterpik WP-660 Aquarius Water Flosser

When it came to traditional water picks, three of our sources preferred the Waterpik Aquarius which, like the Sonic-Fusion, allows you to adjust the pressure — an important feature according to most of the folks we talked to. Dr. Siama Muhammad of Brooklyn Oak Dental recommends water picks like this to patients who don’t have good flossing habits. “Sometimes if you get a gadget, it can help,” she explains, while emphasizing that “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, and I prefer the corded version because it’s more powerful.” Dr. Adam Silevitch, a Partner at Pediatric Dentists NYC, Dr. Allison Rifkin of Rifkin Dental, and Dr. Irina Sinensky of Dental House NYC also recommend the Waterpik Aquarius to their patients. Sinensky explains why it edges out a lot of others on the market: “The Waterpik WP-660 Aquarius is the one to beat. It offers water-control buttons on the handle, 90-second run time, ten pressure settings, seven different tips, 360-degree rotation of the tip and significantly large water tank.”

Best cordless water pick

Waterpik WP-560 Cordless Advanced Water Flosser

Dr. Inna Chern of New York General Dentistry told me that she has been “heavily” recommending water picks to her patients for more than a year, and has seen a “a massive improvement in stains and between teeth plaque buildup.” She specifically recommends the Waterpik Cordless water flosser (the one I use) to teens with braces, elderly people, and people who don’t have room for a bulkier countertop model. She also uses this water pick at home, along with her husband and 12-year-old daughter. “I tend to recommend Waterpik’s cordless model. I like it because we have limited bathroom-counter space and it easily goes into our medicine cabinet. 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.”

Best travel-friendly water pick

Philips Sonicare AirFloss Ultra

My dentist, Dr. Youngmo Kang of Concierge Dental Design in New York, agrees that the Waterpik brand is a great choice. But when I asked about other, more portable options, he mentioned the Philips Sonicare AirFloss, saying, “Philips, which makes the Sonicare toothbrush, also makes a water pick called the AirFloss. It’s easy to use and take with you. You could even bring it in the shower with you.” Sinensky also mentioned the Sonicare AirFloss for its slim profile and portability, made possible thanks to it using half the liquid of a normal water pick. “Sonicare makes an air flosser that has an ADA Seal of Approval. Its mechanism is different as it shoots out air and water particles only when activated by a button. This makes it less messy but more challenging to be thorough.”

Best professional-grade water pick

HydroFloss New Generation Oral Irrigator Bundle

Jona Trottier, a dental hygienist in New Ashford, Massachusetts, recommends the HydroFloss HydroMagnetic Oral Irrigator because it reverses the polarity of ions in the water, which can help inhibit bacteria and plaque from adhering to teeth. It also features a pulsating water flow that massages gums and loosens debris. Trottier says she can always tell if patients have been slacking at home: “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.”

Best water pick for kids and adults with sensitive gums

Waterpik Countertop Water Flosser for Kids WP-260

Several dentists mentioned the possible danger (especially for children and young people) of using a water pick at too high an intensity, which can damaging 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 also 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.”

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If I’m Not Great About Flossing, Should I Get a Water Pick?