Waterpik vs. Flossing: Which Is Better for You?

dental flossingWhen it comes to oral care, we all know the benefits of twice-a-day brushing with a fluoride toothpaste. Doing this regularly removes food particles and plaque from the surfaces of your teeth, helping to prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Not to mention that even more serious conditions like heart disease have been linked to a build-up of oral bacteria.

But are you clear on whether you should be using a Waterpik or flossing? To give you a better idea of what might be best for your home oral hygiene routine, here’s a breakdown of the two methods.


Flossing aims to remove the plaque and food debris from in between the teeth and just below the gumline, where the toothbrush can’t reach. You need to reach these areas to avoid cavities, tooth decay and gum disease; brushing alone doesn’t suffice.

Floss, once made from silk, now consists of nylon filaments or plastic monofilaments. Wrapping the floss string around your fingers, you pass it in between each of your teeth, scraping the particles away from the sides of the teeth and from under the gumline.

If you have trouble sliding it in between your teeth, you can get floss in waxed form. You can also get flavoured floss (e.g. mint), though it has no health benefit. But if it encourages you to floss more often, go for it!

When to Floss

According to the Canadian Dental Association (CDA), flossing is an essential part of oral care. They recommend you floss at least once a day.

When you do it really depends on your personal routine and preference.

You can incorporate flossing into your morning and evening brushing routines, if you wish. Or floss after lunch at the office and before bed at home. Really, whatever time jives best with your personal schedule is optimum, as that means you’ll do it consistently.

Now, how about before or after brushing…does it matter?

Some feel it’s more effective to floss immediately after they brush, as brushing first removes the biggest areas of plaque and also allows toothpaste to get into the spaces between the teeth.

However, a 2018 study in the Journal of Periodontology showed it may actually be better to floss first, then brush, as the debris loosened by flossing can be worked on further by brushing after. The study showed that this order of things led to a greater reduction in plaque.

However, the CDA stresses that the most important factor is just the act of flossing. As long as you’re flossing and brushing your teeth at least once a day, you’re benefiting your oral health greatly.

Pros of Flossing

Flossing is essential to good oral care and highly beneficial to your overall health. When comparing it to the Waterpik method, it has a few pros:

  • Small and portable
  • Easy to do pretty much anywhere
  • Simple to maneuver around the teeth
  • Can scrape right against the tooth’s surface, for maximum plaque removal
  • Low cost

Cons of Flossing

While it’s generally a positive oral care practice, there are a few cons when compared to using a Waterpik:

  • Can cause gum irritation or bleeding
  • Can be difficult to reach all areas with floss
  • Some people have trouble flossing; i.e. your teeth are too close together or you have arthritis in your hands
  • Doesn’t work well for people with braces, bridges, crowns, or dental implants


The Waterpik is a brand-name electric water picker or water flosser, also called an oral irrigator. It’s common to use the brand name to refer to the whole category of water pickers.

The goal of a Waterpik is the same as that of traditional flossing, but by using a pressurized stream of water that pulsates, instead of string.

When to Use a Waterpik

The timing of using the Waterpik during your day, in addition to brushing, is the same as with flossing. Moreover, you may want to do water picking in addition to flossing to maximize your oral care.

Or, if you experience gum pain or bleeding with flossing, have teeth that are too close together, suffer from arthritis, or are sporting braces, dental implants, crowns, or bridgework, you may want to replace standard flossing with the Waterpik.

Pros of a Waterpik

Compared to standard flossing, water picking has some pros that make it stand out:

  • Gentler for sensitive gums
  • Easy to blast the plaque and debris from in between your teeth, even if they’re close together
  • Able to get into areas that are hard to reach with floss, including periodontal pockets (areas of infection), so it’s great for improving gum health
  • Can easily work around braces, dental implants, crowns, or bridgework
  • Helps freshen breath (whereas flossing doesn’t)

Cons of a Waterpik

Waterpik use also has some cons to consider, when compared to standard flossing:

  • Higher cost
  • Storage space required
  • Can be messy
  • You can’t bring it everywhere with you
  • You can’t use it without water and electricity
  • Doesn’t scrape against the tooth surface in the same way as flossing

Deciding Between the Waterpik & Flossing?

If you’re not sure what’s best for you—flossing or using the Waterpik—consider bringing both into your routine. Given that each has its pros and cons, the ideal home oral care routine for the average person would incorporate brushing your teeth, flossing, using the Waterpik, and then rinsing.

If you need instructions on how to floss or more information about water picking or flossing, consult with a dentist or make an appointment for a check-up or periodontal maintenance and oral hygiene services at Princeview Dental Group. Remember: it’s crucial to schedule your regular check-ups and cleaning in addition to performing at-home oral care. Located in the heart of The Kingsway neighbourhood, we provide teeth cleaning, whitening, and other oral health procedures. Contact us today to learn more!

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