What is an Oral Irrigator, and Should You Buy One?

As we’ve discussed previously, there are five visible sides to your teeth. Simply brushing your teeth takes care of the front, back and chewing surfaces, but how do you clean between your teeth? That’s right, by flossing. Flossing prior to brushing removes food debris and allows the toothpaste in between the teeth.

However, using floss is no longer the only way to get it done.

A high tech solution to a low tech problem has emerged. Oral irrigator, water pick, water flosser, air flosser. It goes by many names, but it is more or less the same. An oral irrigator is a device with a small nozzle that will shoot water, air or a combination of both at your teeth and gum line in order to remove plaque and food debris.

A 2009 study showed that oral irrigators are very good at removing plaque biofilm from teeth, so there seems to be a compelling argument for getting one. Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons.


It can be very hard to thoroughly brush your teeth when you have braces, as anyone who has had them can testify to. It is harder still, if not impossible, to effectively floss between your teeth when you have braces. Because an oral irrigator is just a stream of water, and not a piece of nylon thread, it can help clean between the teeth as well as the brackets of the braces.

Gingivitis is a mild gum disease caused by plaque where the gums become red, shiny, swollen, and bleed easily. Studies have shown that oral irrigators are more effective at treating gingivitis than flossing, which may be due to the irrigators’ ability to work underneath the gum line and provide a more complete clean all the way around the tooth.


The only real downside to oral irrigators is the price. With most units costing somewhere between $100 and $250, it can be a significant outlay for some people.


There are conflicting reports on the effectiveness of oral irrigators. In general, they are considered to be a supplement to your oral hygiene routine, not a replacement for flossing entirely.

So… Should you buy one? Maybe. Their usefulness for people with braces cannot be understated, and they are a very helpful tool for those suffering from gingivitis. In the end, you could say that oral irrigators end up in the same category as electric toothbrushes: a need for some, but for the vast majority of people it’s simply nice to have.

Book an appointment with one of our talented dentists today to discuss your oral hygiene needs.

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