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. I personally went with a cordless model as my first water flosser a couple of years ago for the convenience of using it in the shower. It was much easier to add to my daily routine and much harder to skip on those days I was feeling especially lazy. Since taking on this story and becoming more of a water-flosser devotee, I’ve wondered if the compact version is still the best. So I spoke with dentists about a range of options that fit varying needs and budgets, and I tested three models myself.
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 to jump to the type of water flosser you’re looking for.
What we’re looking for
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.
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.
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.
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
Pressure settings: ten settings | Countertop or cordless: Countertop | Water-tank size: 22 ounces | Timer: one-minute timer with 30-second pacer | Rotating tip: 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 pressure settings ranging from ten to 100 psi, with Leib noting it “has the strongest engine on the market. You want really strong water power to push as much food and debris off of the tooth structure as possible.” It comes with water-control buttons on the handle, a 22-ounce tank that allows water to run for 90 seconds, a built-in timer for the Waterpik-recommended one minute, seven different tips, and 360-degree rotation of the tip. The 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 rotation provides greater accessibility to those hard-to-reach places
When I tested the Aquarius, I was put off by the amount of counter space it takes up since I have a fairly small sink. But if that’s not an issue for you or if you’re willing to sacrifice some space, there are plenty of reasons the Aquarius is a standout. The large water tank and timer made my experience a lot easier than using more compact Waterpiks. I never had to refill the tank in the middle of flossing, and I never doubted if I had flossed long enough with the timer. While my gums aren’t particularly sensitive, the Aquarius’s lowest setting is extremely gentle for those who do have sensitivities. And its highest setting has a lot of power, as Leib noted, which I knew could blast away any lingering plaque.
Best compact countertop water flosser
Pressure settings: five settings | Countertop or cordless: Countertop | Water-tank size: 15 ounces | Timer: No timer | Rotating tip: 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
Pressure settings: three settings | Countertop or cordless: Cordless | Water-tank size: 7 ounces | Timer: No timer | Rotating tip: 360-degree tip
If you’re really tight on counter space, this compact cordless model is a space saver. I use one while showering and store it under the sink, where its small base — measuring just under three inches — takes up little room. Three experts I spoke to recommended it as well. Dr. Rashmi Ambewadikar of Astoria Smiles Pediatric Dentistry likes that it’s “not very bulky, rechargeable, and easy to find replacement tips.” Dr. Chern adds it’s a “very easy-to-hold model” for people with dexterity issues. It’s also a great option for travel since it weighs less than a pound, comes with a travel bag and case for its four tips, and has a battery life that’s “one of the best on the market,” says Dr. Greg Grobmyer, a certified dental surgeon.
The only downside may be that to get more counter space, you sacrifice a large tank. The seven-ounce container holds enough for only 45 seconds of flossing, so you may have to refill before you finish. (I rarely have to, but on the occasions I do, I just fill it back up while showering.) It’s also important to note that its three pressure settings range between 45 and 75 psi, so it’s more limited than other flossers on this list.
Best water flosser for travel
Pressure settings: three settings | Countertop or cordless: Cordless | Water-tank size: 7 ounces | Timer: No timer | Rotating tip: No 360-degree tip
Waterpik’s newest addition — the Cordless Slide — is even more travel friendly than the Cordless Advanced. As its name suggests, you can slide part of the base down into the tank, decreasing its height by about half. (Just be sure the tank is completely empty when you do so.) When I tried packing it in my Dopp kit, it took up even less space than the Cordless Advanced flosser, especially after I removed the tip and stored it in a bag. It has the same tank size and battery life as the above model and comes with a USB-C–to–USB-A cable for recharging. The only other main difference is its pressure settings. There’s a bit of a learning curve to change settings since this model has only one button; you just quickly press it twice to switch. And the three pressure settings range between 50 and 80 psi, instead of 45 and 75.
Best water flosser (that’s also a toothbrush)
Pressure settings: ten settings | Countertop or cordless: Countertop | Water-tank size: 16 ounces | Timer: two-minute timer with 30-second pacer | Rotating tip: 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)
Pressure settings: ten settings | Countertop or cordless: Countertop | Water-tank size: 22 ounces | Timer: two-minute timer with 30-second pacer | Rotating tip: No 360-degree tip
If you’re looking to save some money, Dr. Mello recommends this two-in-one from Waterpik for a little over $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
Pressure settings: three settings | Countertop or cordless: Countertop | Water-tank size: 15 ounces | Timer: No timer | Rotating tip: 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.” It’s especially helpful “for cleaning plaque from under wires and around brackets, which is essential for keeping the teeth and gums healthy,” says Dr. Ambewadikar. “Flossing with floss can feel like a chore and can be very time-consuming with orthodontic appliances, so children can get unmotivated to floss, and water flossers are a great alternative to floss during this time.” Dr. Grobmyer adds that a water flosser can be useful for children who are fussy about brushing their teeth: “Water flossers can make this tedious activity more appealing and engaging for kids and teens.”
• Dr. Alexandra Brennan, diplomate of the American Board of Pediatric
Dentistry and dentist at Children’s Dental Associates
• 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. Rashmi Ambewadikar, pediatric dentist at Astoria Smiles Pediatric Dentistry
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