String, Water or Air?

water flosser

water flosser

In a recent Smile Sarasota Blog, we discussed cleaning between your teeth using a jet of water vs. string dental floss. In this discussion, we will compare floss vs. water vs. AIR! Yes…Air!

If you compare air flossing vs. water flossing, you’ll find that both of these tools are flossers and both clean around and between teeth and prevent gum disease, but they are different in their methods. Water flossers such as the Water Pik and Sonicare AirFloss are two popular models of electric flossing tools used to promote healthy oral and dental hygiene. The WaterPik and other water flossers use a stream of water. Air flossers use a stream of air, and small ‘micro droplets’ of water. While the air flossers do use some droplets of water, most of the power is from small, bursts of air, while the water flossers use a continuous stream of water. Surprisingly, air flossers use just one teaspoon of water! While both types of flossers are liked by patients, each has advantages and disadvantages. So what are the differences and which one is better?

Air Flosser Advantages

  • Less Mess – Some patients like the air flosser because it’s less messy than water flossers, which can leak and spray water all over the place if not held correctly or not properly fitted.
  • Extremely Easy to Use – While water flossers aren’t hard to use, air flosers are very simple. The tip of the air flosser is designed with a guide that directs you along to the spaced between your teeth. Then you just click for the blast of air to do its work and remove the plaque and can clean your whole mouth in just half a minute.
  • No Tubing – For patients who don’t like the water flossers water hose, the air flosser has no tube or hose.
  • It’s Cordless! Like so many products these days, the air flosser is cordless and uses rechargeable batteries, which can be a huge benefit for those who want a portable system.
  • It Takes Up Less Space. The air flosser is about the size of an electric toothbrush and can easily be stored and it takes up a lot less space on bathroom bathroom vanity than the water flossers.

Water Flosser Advantages

According to Life Health HQ, the Advantages of the WaterPik include:

  • Extra Tips For Family Members – The WaterPik version of the water flosser comes with various colored tips which can be attached and detached, allowing the whole family to have their own tip so everyone can use the WaterPik . The air flosser is intended for a single user.
  • Dislodges More Food Particles – Many users have noted that the water flosser dislodges more large food particles than the AirFloss.
  • Less Expensive. Since air flossers are newer products, water flossers tend to be much less expensive (water flossers go for between $40-$80 while air flossers are generally +$100)
  • More Effective. Studies have shown water flossers to be more effective at removing plaque (details below).

So which one is better?

Both the water and air flossers are great tools for promoting healthy gums. But which is the best choice? In a study published in 2012 in the Journal of Clinical Dentistry, clinicians found that that the water flosser reduced significantly more plaque from tooth surfaces than the air flosser. The study was conducted over a four week period, comparing two groups who used either a Sonicare AirFloss or a WaterPik, in addition to regular brushing. The study found that:

  • The water flosser was 80% more effective for gingivitis reduction than air floss.
  • The water flosser was 70% more effective for plaque reduction.
  • The water flosser was 2X as effective for plaque removal from lingual surfaces and 3X as effective at the gingival margin than air floss.
  • The findings show the WaterPik removes more plaque than the AirFloss.

So which flosser should you choose?

The studies we have at the moment indicate that the water flosser is the better option, but ultimately, the best flossing tool will be the one you will actually use on a daily basis. That has always been the issue with normal string flossing. Many patients wonder if an air flosser or water flosser can replace manual string flossing. Regular string flossing is still valued by most dentists and dental hygienists and ideally should be performed even when using an air flosser or water flosser. String floss physically scrapes the tooth to remove plaque, and no other technology can quite beat that scraping motion. However,  patients with braces or fixed bridges probably prefer a water flosser or air flosser since those tools will help dislodge particles that string floss cannot easily reach. It’s also important to remember that water and air flossers are great for preventing gum disease by cleaning gum pockets that floss doesn’t reach. They definitely serve a need specifically for gum health that traditional floss does not fulfill. Always fee free to ask questions when you come in to Smile Sarasota for your visits with Claire, Ann or Dr. Still and they can help you decide which choice is right for you!


Sources and Credits: , WaterPik, Phillips Sonicare, American Dental Association,,,