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Ask the Dentist: Why water flossers are worth splashing out on

Lucy Stock, dentist at Gentle Dental Care, Belfast, on why water flossers are the new oral hygiene craze that's worth exploring for the sake of your teeth and gums

Many people are put off using conventional dental floss as it’s just too fiddly
Lucy Stock

HATE flossing but have a nagging thought in the back of your mind that you should do it? Well you're in luck, because water flossers are the new craze in dental care that's appealing to the masses – and they work.

Many people are put off using conventional string dental floss as it's just too fiddly, gets stuck or takes too long. Water flossers are like mini power hoses for your mouth. They look like an electric toothbrush but have a small nozzle that delivers a pulsating jet of water to wash away debris from between your teeth and any restorations.

To keep gum disease and tooth decay at bay, ensuring your teeth are spit-spot clean massively helps. The soft white plaque that forms on your teeth contains millions of bacteria that are spewing out sludge which damages teeth and gums.

Given time, the bacteria in plaque become amazingly well arranged; imagine a super organised army lining up inside. In this respect they are chemically very strong but luckily for us they are mechanically weak, meaning that they can be brushed away easily.

So by repeatably disturbing (effective cleaning) plaque you are preventing the bacteria becoming organised inside the plaque. This is where water flossers come in.

Water flossers were introduced in 1962, and since then over 60 clinical trials have been published. Studies show that water flossing removes between 29 per cent to 50 per cent more plaque than string floss, while other research shows a greater reduction in gum disease when using water flossers.

They are particularly suitable for people with less coordination in their hands. Anybody caring for someone could try a water flosser and see if it can be tolerated as string flossing, wood sticks or teepees are often inpractical. They're also great for teenagers and anyone with braces.

Use of a water flosser was once considered taboo as people were worried that they would cause bacteria to enter the blood stream, known as a bacteraemia. But there's no need to worry, as up to date research tells us that the rate of bacteraemia from water flossing is similar to what happens when we chew food.

There are some tricks to using a water flosser: start with the lowest water pressure setting to help you acclimatise – they are messy! Try closing your mouth leaving a small gap or using them in the bath or shower.

A top-of-the-range flosser costs about £100, but there are more affordable models at £20, so give it a go and see what you think.

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