How Effective is a Waterpik Water Flossers Compared to Flossing?

Blanche Palasi
Blanche Palasi27 Apr 2023

Flossing is an essential part of maintaining good dental hygiene. Waterpik and other water flossers have become a popular alternative to traditional flossing. While both are used to remove plaque from teeth, experts tend to disagree on the effectiveness of Waterpik. Recent evidence suggests that Waterpik is a comparable alternative to flossing.

Comparison of Effectiveness

Because Waterpiks and other water flossers are recent additions to dental hygiene, there are limited studies about their effectiveness. However, the few studies that are published argue that Waterpiks are a good alternative, or better, than traditional string floss. 

A study compared the plaque removal efficacy of a Waterpik and regular floss among subjects from a dental school clinic. When comparing the reduction of plaque scores, regular floss had an 89.09% reduction, while Waterpik had an 87.23% reduction. These results showed no significant difference in removing plaque with a Waterpik and regular floss. 

A similar study between the Waterpik and waxed string floss showed even more promising results. Subjects that used a Waterpik had a 74.4% reduction in whole mouth plaque, and string floss had a 57.7% reduction. The study states that the Waterpik was 29% more effective than string floss for overall plaque removal. 

Finally, one study compared a powered toothbrush alone to a powered toothbrush and a Waterpik over four weeks. The Waterpik significantly reduced signs of inflammation, plaque, and gingivitis. In addition, subjects felt the Waterpik was easy to use and made their mouth feel clean.

While smaller dental clinics may argue that Waterpiks are ineffective in removing plaque, clinical research studies and the American Dental Association promote Waterpiks as non-superior to or better than traditional string floss.

Pros and Cons of Waterpik Water Flossers

Waterpiks are used as an interdental cleaning aid to remove food debris and plaque buildup in difficult-to-reach areas. Waterpiks received the American Dental Association’s Seal of Acceptance based on findings that the product is efficacious for removing plaque along the gum line and between teeth and helping prevent and reduce gingivitis. It is the first powered interdental product in its class to receive this Seal from the ADA. We will discuss the benefits and issues you may encounter using a Waterpik. 

Pros and Cons of Waterpiks

Pros of WaterpiksCons of Waterpiks
Easy to useCan cost up to $79
Access hard-to-reach areas of your mouthInconvenient to travel with
Helpful for those with dental work, such as implants or bracesTime-consuming to gradually build up the intensity to plaque-removing settings
Gentle on sensitive gums Messy and may require extra clean-up time after use

Pros of Waterpiks

  • Easy to Use: Waterpiks can be used by anyone without specific training. The handle of the water flosser makes it easy to access hard-to-reach areas of your mouth.
  • Accessibility: Special attachments can be bought to clean dental bridges, implants, crowns, braces, and those undergoing orthodontic treatment. They are also helpful for people without the dexterity to use string floss.
  • Gentle: Waterpiks are gentler than string floss if you have sensitive gums or gum disease. You are less prone to bleeding along your gum line than string floss.

Cons of Waterpiks

  • Expensive: Waterpiks are more costly than regular string floss. Waterpiks range from $35 to  $79, excluding special attachments you may need. In addition, the heads of Waterpiks should be replaced every 3-6 months.
  • Inconvenient: Some people may find traveling with a Waterpik inconvenient since you need an electricity source to operate or charge it.
  • Time-Consuming: To effectively remove plaque with a Waterpik, you must be on one of the highest settings. It is recommended to start at a low setting and gradually increase the intensity to the higher settings. In addition, Waterpiks can be messy and may require extra clean-up time after use.
Health Image

Get Mira - Health Benefits You Can Afford.

Get doctor visits, lab tests, prescription, and more. Affordable copays. Available in 45+ states. Only $45/month on average.

Pros and Cons of String Floss

Flossing is a requirement for good dental hygiene, and string floss is one of the most common ways to achieve this. Various types of floss, including unwaxed floss, waxed floss, and super floss, can be used to meet your dental needs. Below are some advantages and disadvantages of using string floss.

Pros and Cons of Using String Floss

Pros of String FlossCons of String Floss
Costs as little as $5 Challenging to use the correct technique
Can be bought at most storesEasy to misuse and cause gum bleeding
Does not need a power sourceDifficult to use if you have dental work done or lack the dexterity to grip floss

Pros of String Floss

  • Inexpensive: String floss can be purchased at most convenience stores and pharmacies for as little as $5. This pack of floss can last around 80 days and is significantly cheaper than most water flossers.
  • Accessible: String floss is easy to obtain and can be found in most stores.
  • Simple: Regular floss does not need a power source or electricity.

Cons of String Floss

  • Challenging to Learn: It may be difficult to maneuver the string floss around teeth to effectively remove plaque. Some parts of the mouth are more challenging to clean, resulting in plaque buildup in these areas. The proper flossing technique is hard to perfect.
  • Easy to Misuse: If used incorrectly, you might damage your gum tissue, resulting in bleeding and pain.
  • Not for Everyone: If you have braces, implants, or crowns, you may find it difficult to use string floss. People with arthritis or who lack the dexterity to grip dental floss may be unable to use traditional floss to clean between their teeth.

Frequently Asked Questions about Waterpiks

If you are new to water flossers or trying to find an alternative to string floss, Waterpiks may be a good option for you. Below are some frequently asked questions about using Waterpiks.

Health Image

Virtual care for only $25 per visit

Virtual primary care, urgent care, and behavioral health visits are only $25 with a Mira membership.

Does Insurance cover Waterpiks?

If you purchase a Waterpik, you are eligible for reimbursement through flexible saving accounts (FSA), health savings accounts (HSA), and health reimbursement accounts (HRA). In order to receive this reimbursement, you would require a letter of medical necessity

Where Can I Buy a Waterpik?

Waterpiks are available for purchase at most major pharmacies and department stores, as well as online. These stores include Amazon, Walmart, Walgreens, Target, and more. They may vary in price based on the features and can be purchased for as little as $35

Can I Use Mouthwash and Other Solutions in Waterpiks?

Waterpiks can be loaded with mouthwashes in a 1:1 ratio with water. Antiseptic mouthwashes, such as Chlorhexidine, are used to reduce the number of bacteria in your mouth, and can also be diluted in your Waterpik reservoir. According to the Waterpik website, you should not use pure essential oils or iodine in your Waterpik. Using mouthwash has not been clinically proven to have any added benefits compared to water alone. The Waterpik reservoir should be rinsed after using mouthwash. 

Why Should I Floss?

Removing plaque between teeth and under the gumline prevents a variety of dental problems, such as:

  • Tooth decay
  • Gum disease
  • Gingivitis
  • Gingival bleeding

If you are one of the 50% of people who do not floss daily, you may struggle to find a method that suits your oral routine. Whether you use traditional wax floss or a Waterpik, either option is better than simply not flossing at all. Some dentists even argue that using both floss and a water flosser is the ideal way to remove plaque.

Flossing is a crucial step in addition to brushing your teeth to avoid costly dental exams, dental pain, and the progression of dental diseases. 

Bottom Line

The American Dental Association recommends Waterpiks for removing plaque to prevent tooth decay, gum disease, and other dental issues. Waterpiks are a good option if you have difficulty using string floss or have additional wires in your mouth that make it difficult to clean. Disadvantages to using Waterpiks include being expensive and hard to travel with. Waterpiks and water flossers are significantly better than not flossing at all and can be used as an alternative to string floss.

Blanche Palasi

Blanche Palasi is a 2024 PharmD. Candidate currently attending St. John's University. A Queens native, she is passionate about helping patients identify and navigate social determinants of health.