Oral Irrigation and Electric Toothbrushes

Best Way to Use a Waterpik-What You Need to Avoid

Best way to use a waterpik-what you need to avoid

You just saw your dentist. You were told that you need to floss more. Guess what? You hate to floss. Enter the Waterpik. This is an amazing solution for those of you who don’t want to floss (or can’t stand to floss). So, you have purchased your Waterpik. What do you do next? Now you need to know the best way to use a Waterpik.

As a dental hygienist, I am going to give you the best tips and tricks for using a Waterpik and what you need to avoid doing when you use one.

Why You Need a WaterpikBest way to use a waterpik-what to avoid

A Waterpik is an ADA (American Dental Association) accepted device also referred to as an oral irrigator or a water flosser. It uses pressure to create a forced stream of water for cleaning plaque and debris from in between and around teeth. It is especially useful for people who have crowns, bridges, implants or orthodontic appliances (braces).

A Waterpik has two components: a reservoir for holding water and a pump to create the pressurized forced water spray. You thought using a Waterpik would be easier than flossing. Turns out, you were right. Not only that, but a Waterpik is twice as effective at removing plaque and debris from between your teeth than floss is. You may be wondering why that is.

The answer is simple. It is a matter of hydrodynamics. Do you remember studying this in science class? Or perhaps you studied this in physics class. According to Encyclopedia, hydrodynamics is; “The study of fluids in motion. The study is based upon the physical conservation laws of mass, momentum, and energy.”

The two main ways a Waterpik dislodges and disrupts bacterial plaque and food debris is through pressure and pulsation. It is the combination of these two mechanisms that makes it effective.

Dentistry Journal March 2020 explains how water flossing works with hydrodynamic forces using the combination of steady pulses applied to sprayed streams of water. They state that the water jet acts like traditional string floss to remove plaque and trapped food particles from between the teeth. However, there are many advantages over string flossing including ease of use especially for people with braces and people with bridges or implants. There is also a massage action that promotes gum health.

More Research…

Cleaning between your teeth is an extremely important part of your oral health to prevent cavities and gum disease. A randomized pilot study showed significantly better plaque reduction and less bleeding when using a manual toothbrush along with water flossing compared to a manual toothbrush and using interdental brushes.

Using a Waterpik is an effective way to clean between your teeth either used to replace flossing or in conjunction with traditional flossing. Evidence has shown that by using a Waterpik you can achieve reduced bacterial plaque from between teeth and removal of it for up to 6mm under your gumline. This is vital for those of you who suffer from gum disease that have pockets around your teeth that harbor bacteria. Traditional string floss can reach only 2-3mm under the gumline.

A Waterpik water flosser can remove 99.9% of plaque from teeth and is up to 50% more effective than string floss for improving gum health. It is 2 times as effective as traditional floss for cleaning around implants and 3 times as effective as traditional floss at removing plaque from around braces.

How to Properly Use a Waterpik

  1. Fill reservoir with warm water and place firmly on the base.
  2. Select a tip that is right for you and click firmly onto handle. You can choose a tip from: classic, plaque seeker, orthodontic or pik pocket.
  3. If this is your first use, you will have to prime the pump before using. To do this, set the unit’s pressure to high, point the tip into the sink, turn on until water flows and then turn the unit off.
  4. To water floss, turn unit on to the lowest setting.
  5. Close lips partially around tip to prevent water from splattering outside of your mouth.
  6. Lean over the sink to allow extra water to flow out of your mouth into the sink.
  7. Aim the tip toward the gumline.
  8. For best results, start with your back teeth.
  9. Move along gumline pausing briefly in between teeth.
  10. Floss front and backside of teeth for one minute a day.

Best Way to Use a Waterpik-What You Need to Avoid

It is best to use a Waterpik in conjunction with your present home care routine. This should include brushing twice a day, basically morning and before bed. Using an electric toothbrush can give you better results as far as plaque removal and healthier gums. Read a related article for the best electric toothbrush available today.

A Waterpik can be used in place of flossing if you are not a fan of flossing. However, you may find that it is a welcome addition to your present brushing and flossing routine. Follow this guide to flossing if you need to know the proper way to floss your teeth.

For best results, it is important to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for proper use. What you will want to avoid is using too high of a setting for your comfort level. Be sure to always start off using your Waterpik on the lowest setting possible. This will be the setting that is comfortable to your tissues while still removing debris in between and around your teeth. A good guide is to start off on a setting of around 2 to 3 and work up to around 7 to 8.

You can turn up the setting over time with regular use. As your teeth and gums get used to the Waterpik, they will become accustomed to the pressure of the water spray. Increasing the power setting over time will allow for conditioning of your tissues.

Another thing to avoid is using the wrong angle of the water spray. It is best not to aim your Waterpik directly under your gumline. Although this will not damage your tissues, you will get better results if you aim the water spray at a 90 degree angle toward your gumline between your teeth. In this manner, the water spray will flush out any loose debris from between the teeth and from the pocketed areas under the gumline.

What If You Use It Incorrectly?

If you do happen to use your Waterpik at too high of a setting or at the wrong angle, don’t worry that you have caused permanent damage to your tissues. You may notice a little bleeding and tenderness of the gums that should resolve within a day or two.

A clinical study from Waterpik showed the safety of using a Waterpik water flosser. The conclusion of this study removed any concerns of a negative impact of using a Waterpik water flosser even at high settings.

One concern people have is that they can cause gum recession if they use a Waterpik incorrectly. Rest assured, recession of your gums is usually caused by other reasons and not from using a water flosser.

It is best to visit your dental professional for regular dental visits twice a year. This will allow your dentist or hygienist to address any dental issues or concerns you may have. This also allows your dental professional to discuss the best home care regimen with you that is tailored to your individual needs.

Which Waterpik Is Right For You?Best way to use a waterpik-what to avoid

There are several models from Waterpik to choose from depending on your needs. A related article discusses which one would be best for you. If you want the most effective counter top model, the Waterpik Aquarius Water Flosser is the most advanced professional model you can purchase today. It provides maximum gum stimulation and enhanced plaque removal for improved gum health with its pulse-modulated technology.

There is now an option that includes the power of an advanced sonic toothbrush with the proven effectiveness of a Waterpik. This is the Waterpik Sonic-Fusion and its ease of use and advanced technology is gaining popularity. The Waterpik Sonic-Fusion is a device that provides both brushing and water flossing at the same time.

If you are looking for portability when choosing a water flosser, your best option is the Waterpik Cordless Freedom. This is a water flosser that does not require much space, can be taken along when traveling or used in the shower.

Whichever model you choose, you can’t go wrong. By knowing the best way to use a Waterpik (and what you need to avoid) you will be well on your way to better oral health. Please leave any questions or comments below and I would be happy to help!


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  1. Christine

    I love the way this works (I just watched the video), this makes flossing so much easier and even more enjoyable. And it seems to have been tested in clinical studies too. If you have never used the Waterpik before, which model would you recommend first? I would like to try it out. I think that this would even motivate people who never floss 😉

    1. Michelle Mussehl, RDH


      If you are a first-time Waterpik user, I would recommend the Sonic-Fusion toothbrush. The head of the toothbrush contains a built-in water flosser tip. This allows a pulsating water spray to be used in combination with the sonic vibration of the toothbrush. The Waterpik Sonic-Fusion is a device that provides both brushing and water flossing at the same time. If you already own an electric toothbrush, you will get great results from the Waterpik Aquarius Water Flosser. It is the most advanced professional model available today.


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