Waterpiks do a great job of flushing food and debris out from between teeth, under braces and arch wires, and especially under and around fixed (non-removable) bridges. They are also helpful in washing away accumulated bacterial toxins in hard to get and chronically under-cleaned areas around restorative dentistry , tight spaces between teeth, or shallower periodontal (gum) pockets. Unfortunately, they DO NOT remove plaque (bacterial colonies) like floss does because effective flossing literally "wipes" the sticky plaque off teeth and Waterpiks can only "rinse" these areas. However, combining both flossing and Waterpiks can achieve great results! Folks with dexterity problems or people who will just never floss will greatly benefit from Waterpik use and it is definitely better than doing nothing to clean in between your teeth. If you are not a flosser and are unwilling to put forth the effort to floss daily, then Waterpik use is a hugely beneficial alternative to just brushing, which does not clean in between your teeth where most dental disease occurs. And if you have fixed bridges you will find that regular Waterpik use will make your breath smell fresher, your food taste better, your mouth feel cleaner, and your bridgework last longer!
I suggest a Waterpik brand waterpik, and there is no need to buy one with all the "bells and whistles". Shop around for the best price, but get a Waterpik brand, such as the WP 60. Use warm to hot water, and begin use on a lower power setting. You can gradually turn it up as your gums get healthier. The water stream should be directed straight in between each pair of teeth starting with your back teeth and working your way around. Don’t forget to do the insides, too! Do not direct the stream "down into" your lower gums or "up into" your upper gums. Pause for 3-4 seconds in between each tooth (think: like squirting a hose straight in between fence posts, but not at the posts). It is helpful to lean over your bathroom sink (looking downward at the drain), leave your mouth partly open as you waterpic so the water can just drop out and rely on "feel" to direct the water properly. Take your time, go slow and do all the upper teeth spaces from outside to inside, all the lower teeth spaces from outside to inside, then repeat on your upper and lower teeth from inside to outside. You will be amazed at what comes out of your mouth along with the water from in between your teeth as well as how great your mouth feels afterwards!
Ideally, you are flossing at least once per day also. If you are a flosser, I suggest you floss first to loosen and dislodge plaque, then Waterpik to flush it out, then toothbrush with a fluoride toothpaste to clean all accessible areas and to apply fluoride topically. Careful flossing, Waterpik use, and brushing should take you about 5 minutes and is best done at night when you are least rushed and will get maximum benefit from cleaning your mouth of food debris and bacteria before bed.
If you have a partner, they will thank you, if you have lots of restorative dentistry you will make it last and last saving you hassle, discomfort and money, and if you have minimal dentistry it will keep you disease free. It is a gift you give to yourself and something that you can selfishly do for just you that will have a profound impact on your dental health, your general health, your life expectancy, and your quality of life. The key is simply willingness. If you have any questions on flossing, brushing, or Waterpic use please feel free to ask me or my staff. These are learned skills that respond well to coaching, and we are always here to help you in any way we can!
Until next time,
Mark W Langberg, DDS, FAGD