How to properly floss and use a Waterpik

Most people brush their teeth twice a day, as the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends, but fewer people follow the advice to floss at least once a day. Flossing or using a Waterpik, removes food captured between teeth and can also remove bacteria that can grow before it has an opportunity to harden into plaque. Using only a toothbrush cannot effectively clean between these narrow spaces.

Plaque is a problem for your teeth if it is not removed, as it can harden into tartar. Tartar is a hard mineral that forms on teeth and can only be removed by a professional dental cleaning. When you have plaque, brushing and cleaning between teeth becomes more complicated, and gum tissue may become swollen or bleed. This condition is called gingivitis, or the early stage of gum disease.


Gingivitis is tartar and plaque build-up around the base of the teeth, causing inflammation and bleeding gums. A patient may not notice a small amount of bleeding when brushing, but it is an early sign that something more serious could be beginning. Fortunately, gingivitis is a treatable stage of gum disease and can be reversed. Dentist approved mouthwash, flossing, and brushing can help reduce symptoms and the bacteria and plaque.


Flossing, or floss, is an interdental cleaning tool used to remove plaque from the narrow spaces between teeth and the gums. It is recommended that flossing before you brush helps make the brushing much more effective; this is because less plaque gets caught between your teeth, so the fluoride in toothpaste can get to more parts of your mouth.

The region where the gums and teeth meet are where flossing plays an essential role. Tiny particles of food can get lodged in there, and plaque in this region can harden over time, which causes tartar, a thick deposit that only the dentist can remove with a scraper. Tartar build-up can lead to gingivitis. If left unattended, the tartar and plaque can spread even deeper below the gum line, causing periodontitis: a severe gum disease that causes acute inflammation and eventual tooth and bone loss.

There are a few different types of floss on the market. Floss may have different flavors, such as mint or candy, to make flossing more pleasant. Some come waxed coated, and others do not. But there is no difference in the effectiveness, as it is generally not what type of floss is used, but how well and how often the floss is used.


Woman flossing


Using a Waterpik is an easy-to-use alternative to flossing and very useful, as it removes waste that brushing leaves behind and is clinically proven to improve oral health. Using a Waterpik has considerable benefits. It can improve your gum health; remove plaque and bacteria; and reach areas that your toothbrush or floss cannot get to, as it uses a jet stream of water to clean between your teeth. A Waterpik also focuses on particular dental needs, including cleaning braces, orthodontics, or implants and dental work such as crowns, bridges, and veneers. A Waterpik is 3-4 times more effective in fighting gingivitis as it goes deeper into the tooth pocket than regular floss can, without causing your gums to bleed.

Since a Waterpik is a water flosser, you should use it as frequently as string floss – at least once per day and preferably in the evening – as you do not want food to stay in-between your teeth the whole night and causing bacteria.


Young woman using a Waterpik
Come and see Dr. Brannon and his team at BrannonSmiles, where we can show you options and techniques to keep your smile at its optimum level.