Oral irrigators, otherwise known as electric flossers, are an additional step to take for optimal oral care outside of using either a basic toothbrush or an electric one.

Flossing is the art of removing old bits of food and other remnants from between the teeth and gums that sometimes get caught and stuck during the eating process. While thoroughly brushing, especially with an electric toothbrush with the availability of several different brush heads, is an excellent path to oral care, flossing is something else entirely.

The process of flossing teeth is traditionally done using a waxy string pulled out from a container and run along the path of a tooth, and between the tooth and the gum, in an attempt to catch any debris that has been lodged behind the tooth or just below the gum line. Taking flossing seriously with daily sessions encourages the food remnants to become free and rinsed out once the flossing is complete. The advent of electric flossers has now taken this to another level.

Electric flossers used advanced technology by direct a fast jet of air along with tiny water molecules in a flossing session that lasts 30-90 seconds. These types of models have a reservoir that is filled up either with water or a strong mouthwash. The tip helps direct the spray to the spot in the mouth where flossing is needed and once activated, a jet of water or mouthwash, mixed with rapid airflow, directs the spray exactly where it needs to go. The use of an electric flosser removes five times as much plaque than brushing alone.

For people new to using an electric flosser, it is sometimes thought of as somewhat similar to a power car wash using fast jets of soapy water to clean the vehicle rather than using a sponge, some soap, and a chamois leather cloth. The manual cleaning is old school and will get the car reasonably clean, but the power wash will get the high-powered jet spray into areas of the vehicle that couldn’t be previously reached. An oral irrigator is just like that.

Electric flosser products are usually rechargeable using similar battery technology to those adopted in rechargeable toothbrushes. Standing the flosser unit up in the charging dock overnight is enough to give it new power the next morning. Most flossing takes less than a minute, so not much battery charging is required.

Using an oral irrigator promotes healthier gums in just two weeks. The reason for this is old food particles develop bacteria which infects the gums over time. Removing them prevents germs building up and also removes existing bacteria growing under the gum line too.

Some flossers have multiple modes of operation. A massage mode is available with a few water flossers that massage the gums rather than putting them through the full flossing mode. For people with sensitive gums, the addition of a massage mode is most welcome.

Pressure settings are also adjustable on the handle of the flosser. Up to 10 pressure levels may be included in some models. Multiple tips are interchangeable to alter how the jet of water sprays out. The container filled with either water or mouthwash holds enough liquid to direct a jet for 30-60 seconds, depending on the brand and model. After this, it will need to be refilled again.

What’s Included with The Best Oral Irrigator

The central unit, several tips, a recharging cable, and a carry bag.

What to Know Before Making a Purchase

Some oral irrigators feature a pulsing action which is soothing on the gums and avoids a rough feeling.

Some products cannot be used to clean the back of the teeth, only the front. It is a good idea to check into this before purchase.

Electric flossers are designed to be safe to use for people with porcelain and other tooth veneers (they won’t get dislodged), tooth implants, and braces (orthodontics).

Other Considerations

The electronics are designed only for 120-volt systems using 60 Hz. To use this type of product internationally, an adapter would be needed to modulate the voltage and frequency making it safe to use abroad. However, for short international trips, the device may be able to hold a sufficient charge if recharged right before transit.

Some models feature a design that is collapsible to reduce the space it will take up in the overnight bag. Even though electric flossers are waterproof, be sure to empty the water reservoir before traveling.

Best Brands

Philips Sonicare range is the company’s approach to oral care in the consumer marketplace.

Waterpik started in 1962 and has marketed oral care and personal care products ever since.

Panasonic participates at all levels of consumer electronics. They have a water flossing product range now too.

What Consumers Say

Taking a look at consumers’ reviews, these are a few of the opinions most often voiced by buyers:

Burst mode: Most products in this category use a burst mode to pump out compressed air in little jets, rather than as a continual action. The burst mode is a better way to dislodge food particles.

Color-coded tips: Some product models have colored tips that are available separately. These can be swapped out for different members of the household so that the oral irrigator may be shared.

Dislike flossing: For anyone put off flossing because they hate using the flossing string, an electric flosser is an ideal alternative that feels comfortable and leaves the mouth fresher.

Multiple tips provided: A few models come with a pack of different tips. These can include a jet, a toothbrush, a plaque, and an orthodontic tip. Each tip is used for a different purpose which extends the usefulness of this oral care device.

No pain: Electric flossing doesn’t cause any pain or the gums to bleed because it only uses water/mouthwash and air jets, rather than flossing wax that can get caught in the gum line.

Thousands of pulses: The jets are powerful enough that they pulse out up to 1,000 times every minute. The effect on the teeth and gums is to expel bacteria and food particles more efficiently than with manual flossing alone.