Plaque is basically the bane of your mouth’s existence. This sticky film can accumulate on your teeth and lead to issues like cavities and sore, puffy gums. Is a water flosser the best way to prevent grody plaque from building up between your teeth? Blasting your teeth with an appliance that would fit right in at the dentist’s office seems like a good idea in theory, but you might be wondering if there’s any point in buying a water flosser when you can use regular ol’ string floss.

Just like string floss, a water flosser cleans between your teeth.

Removing little bits of gunk from your teeth is super important. When you allow food and drink particles to stew in your mouth, the resulting plaque releases acids that harm your enamel (the tough external portion of your teeth), according to the American Dental Association (ADA). These acids can eventually drill cavities into your teeth and cause gingivitis, the first stage of gum disease. Brushing your teeth twice a day helps you scrub away plaque so that it can’t hurt your teeth or gums. So does flossing, which can make sure you reach the little nooks and crannies a toothbrush neglects. You’re probably pretty familiar with string floss, of course, but water flossers are also an option. A water flosser is a handheld device that shoots a stream of liquid at your teeth hard enough to clean between them. You can call them powered interdental cleaners if you want to be posh about it. Some versions even allow you to use a mixture of water and mouthwash for an extra fresh experience.

A water flosser might be good for you depending on your teeth and preferences.

Using a water flosser is like hosing down a deck while traditional flossing is like sweeping it. They both get the job done, albeit in slightly different ways. Use whichever one makes you less likely to pretend flossing is a concept you’ve never heard of before. Here are signs a water flosser might be good for you:
  • You’re not diligent about using the correct flossing technique with string, so you could be leaving a lot of food behind. Shoving the string into each crevice, yanking it out, and moving on doesn’t cut it. You’re supposed to insert the floss, then use a C shape to scrape the string down both teeth, one after the other. You’re also supposed to floss the back sides of your last teeth, FYI. If you’d rather do your taxes than follow these steps, a water flosser might be better for you.
  • You have dental or orthodontic work that makes it tricky to floss traditionally, like braces or a permanent retainer of some sort.
  • Your teeth aren’t super straight. If you have trouble running floss back and forth between them, a water flosser could make your life easier.
  • You hate traditional flossing. Perhaps you’re not a fan of extracting chewed up bits of food from your mouth. Maybe every time you do it, you wonder if you have 357 teeth because getting between them all takes forever.

You don’t need to use string floss and a water flosser every time you clean between your teeth.

If water flossers pique your interest but you’re not sure you need one, let's chat about it at your next appointment. If there’s one area where dentists generally excel (besides, you know, keeping your mouth healthy), it’s brutal honesty. They’ll tell you if you’re doing a good enough job with standard floss, and let you know if a water flosser might be a better fit. Even if you decide to get a water flosser, don’t throw away your string floss. A water flosser may not do the job if something is really stuck between your teeth. Your future self just called after eating a poppy seed bagel and is really glad you followed this advice. Dig deeper: SELF Magazine Waterpik American Dental Association
Gingivitis is one of the most common oral health problems in Canada. It starts off with a little redness in the gums but without proper attention and care, the situation can worsen leading to bleeding, puffiness, bad breath, and over time, what is known as periodontitis, more commonly known as gum disease. The consequences can be dire with loosening or loss of the teeth. The main culprit behind the condition is bacterial growth, usually called plaque. Although several different types of species are detrimental to gum health, some are more troublesome than others. One particular enemy is known as Porphyromonas gengivalis . Having high amounts of this bacterium can significantly increase the potential for periodontitis. Researchers tried for decades to figure out what makes this bacterium so problematic. Back in the 1990s, studies revealed the bacteria had the ability to invade our gum cells. This led to the potential for bleeding and cell death leading to gum recession. This was bad news indeed yet the results only offered half of the story. As with many chronic infections, there had to be some involvement of the immune system. By 2001, the effect of this bacterium on immunity was finally discovered. Its presence led to a cellular form of inflammation in the gum area. What was worse was the fact the type of response prompted immune cells to destroy cells in that area. Even with this rather unsavory thought, there was still a missing piece to the puzzle. No one quite knew what was actually causing the inflammation. Some research had suggested the physical components of the bacterial cells was enough to cause this problem. Yet these results revealed only short term effects. Now the guilty party may have been found. An international group of researchers have used a combination of microbial and human cell cultures, they have identified a particular protein, aptly named Gingipain, as the source for the long term inflammation occurring in the gums. The results of this research suggest the bacteria are most troublesome not when the protein is active, but when it is dormant. The initial experiments behind this discovery were relatively straightforward. Cultures of immune cells were infected by the bacterium in the hopes of finding cellular markers of inflammation. Sure enough, the cells reacted to the microbial presence. But there was a surprise in store. When Gingipain was active, there was relatively little inflammation. On the other hand, when the enzyme was dormant, inflammation took off. This strange twist led the researchers to think there may be more than an infection going on. Answering that required a different type of experiment. The team had to add the infected cells to an artificial immune system to find out the effects of the enzyme on a systematic level. When they looked at the effect of infection on the immune system, the team was shocked to find the inactive or dormant form of the enzyme led to the most troublesome effects. In this case, inflammation was increased and sustained. This meant a lack of enzyme activity was making the situation worse. Though the results appeared to make little sense, the team persevered to identify a reason. They looked at the various proteins involved in inflammation in the hopes of finding one that might interact with the enzyme. The best candidate was a molecule known as interleukin six (IL-6). If the group was right, blocking this molecule might halt inflammation regardless of the enzyme's activity. Sure enough, when the group blocked IL-6, inflammation went down in all cases. The team had found the lynchpin of the periodontitis mystery. Perhaps more importantly, the results revealed the trouble wasn't being caused some previously unknown entity but a biological factor known for being involved in long-term inflammation. Based on the identification of IL-6 as the culprit, the authors suggest the potential to slow and possibly stop the progression of gingivitis may not be too far away. A pharmaceutical route to achieve this goal already exists although it only is approved for another IL-6 based chronic condition, rheumatoid arthritis. Still, the existence of an approved therapeutic means the potential for periodontitis treatment may be years rather than decades away. While we wait for medicine to catch up to the research, the best way to reduce the chances for this IL-6 based route of gum inflammation is to ensure your teeth and gums are healthy. This means brushing at least twice a day and making sure to visit your dentist regularly. While research may be able to help us find routes to resolve gum disease, these oral health professionals can help you prevent and manage troubles before they go too far. via HuffPost Canada
As far as my dental history goes, I've been pretty lucky. My parents always stressed the importance of taking care of my teeth and took me to the dentist on a regular basis. I never had to have braces and didn't even have a cavity for most of my 30s. Then, as they say, "go big or go home": at 39, I had my first cavity. I didn't even know I had one until my tooth chipped over dinner. An immediate trip to the dentist revealed I not only had a cavity, but I would need a root canal and then a crown. I made it through both those things and thought it was over. I swore to myself I would do a better at staying on top of things and went on with my life. From the day the crown was placed, it never felt "right": there was always an element of discomfort and my 24/7 awareness that it felt foreign and weird. After the first year, I started feeling more discomfort. Around year two, I began to notice gum inflammation around the crown.  Unfortunately, the dentist who did the crown work had gone out of business, so I had to find a new dentist. Many of my downtown/east Nashville friends had recommended Downtown Dental. Dr. Clark and his team were amazing from my first patient exam. Turns out I not only had a metal allergy to the original crown, but the deep placement of the crown had created significant gum infection. It wasn't the worst news, but as someone who is highly sensitive to antibiotics and tries to go the natural route whenever possible, I didn't look forward to the treatment that would clear up the infection/irritation. Enter "the laser". I soon happily learned that dentists can use lasers for a host of incredible treatments: not only for bacterial reduction (in this case, for my gums), but for pain management/anesthesia, fillings, tooth contouring/cleaning, and even cold sores. My three laser treatments were quick, absolutely painless, and best of all, I didn't have to take any antibiotics. The team at Downtown Dental is warm and wonderful, but even better than that, I'm thankful for a dentist who commits to painless technology as treatment versus standard pharmaceutical medication. Turns out there's a better way to do a lot of things without wreaking havoc on the body...even in dentistry. -D. Carson, 41: Dickson, TN