We include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Here’s our process.

Medical News Today only shows you brands and products that we stand behind.

Our team thoroughly researches and evaluates the recommendations we make on our site. To establish that the product manufacturers addressed safety and efficacy standards, we:
  • Evaluate ingredients and composition: Do they have the potential to cause harm?
  • Fact-check all health claims: Do they align with the current body of scientific evidence?
  • Assess the brand: Does it operate with integrity and adhere to industry best practices?
We do the research so you can find trusted products for your health and wellness.
Was this helpful?

Most people know to brush and floss their teeth regularly. However, many people have questions about whether water flossing is an alternative to traditional flossing.

Read on for more information on each of these techniques, and whether one is better than the other.

Brushing the teeth is an effective way of removing food plaque from the surfaces of the teeth. However, it is not a great way to get rid of food that is in between the teeth or below the gum line.

flossingShare on Pinterest
Flossing may be recommended as it is an affordable and quick way to remove food particles that a toothbrush cannot reach.

The process of flossing uses a thin piece of string that is passed in between each of the teeth. This string gently scrapes up and down each surface of the tooth to move plaque and food particles off of the tooth and out from under the gums.


There are several advantages to traditional flossing. It is a very efficient method of removing excess food off of the teeth.

Floss does not cost much money and is easily accessible from any pharmacy or grocery store. Flossing is quick and easy, and can be done anywhere.


Despite the many advantages to flossing, there are several disadvantages as well. These include:

  • difficulty reaching some areas of the mouth with floss
  • flossing can cause minor bleeding, especially if not done regularly
  • worsening or causing gum sensitivity
  • floss can sometimes be difficult to handle by some people

Even with these negatives, it is still important to floss regularly. If people find flossing especially difficult or painful, they should check in with the dentist to make sure that there isn’t a more serious problem.

Click here to buy from a range of dental floss products. Please not that this link will take you to an external page.

How to use floss

Flossing is a relatively simple process. The dentist or dental hygienist is a great resource for additional information or clarification on these procedures.

When someone wants to floss, they should:

  1. Take a piece of floss around 18 inches long and wind it around the middle fingers of each hand.
  2. Pinch the floss between the thumbs and first fingers on each hand, leaving around 1-2 inches free between the two hands.
  3. Pull the floss tight between the two hands and use the index fingers to guide the floss between two teeth with a gentle sliding back and forth motion.
  4. Wrap and hug the tooth and gently slide the floss up and down along the surfaces of the teeth and under the gums.
  5. Start on the bottom teeth, moving from one side of the mouth to the other and repeat on the upper teeth.

Water picking is also known as water flossing and is different to traditional flossing.

Share on Pinterest
Water picking can reach areas that flossing may not, but the device can be expensive and is not easily portable.

Water picking utilizes a special machine that directs a stream of water into the mouth and gums. Rather than scraping the teeth to remove plaque, water flossing uses the pressure of the water to massage the gums and push the food away from the teeth.


Water picking has many advantages. A waterpik is easy to use, especially for people with braces, or other types of dental work like permanent or temporary bridges.

The massage action can also improve gum health and reach areas that can’t be reached with traditional floss.


There are many disadvantages to using a water flosser as well.

A waterpik can be expensive to purchase, and will need space for storage. It requires access to electricity and water, making it difficult to use outside of the home.

Click here to find water piks for purchase. Please note that this link will open a separate page.

How to use a waterpik

It is important for users to read all of the instructions thoroughly and be sure that they understand them.

Each device may work a little differently, but the general steps will be largely the same.

When someone wants to water pick, they should:

  1. Place the tip into the holder. Fill the water reservoir with warm water and place it back into the base of the device.
  2. Plug in the device, if required and adjust the pressure control. It is better to start with a low pressure and adjust it to be higher if necessary.
  3. Lean over the sink and place the tip into the mouth with the lips closed and turn the unit on.
  4. Start with the back teeth, aiming the tip at just above the gumline and work toward the middle of the mouth.
  5. Pause briefly with the tip between each tooth to allow water to flow out of the mouth and into the sink.
  6. Turn off the unit, eject the tip, and clean the unit according to the instructions.

It is important to defer to the instructions for the specific unit being used.

Which of these two techniques is best is an ongoing question and there really is no right answer. The most important thing is to clean between the teeth and under the gums each day.

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Dentistry compared the efficacy of a water flosser to string floss used in combination with a manual toothbrush. The researchers found that the group who used the waterpik had a 74.4 percent reduction in plaque as compared to a 57.7 percent reduction in the group who used the string floss.

Other studies also found that people who used water picking saw a greater reduction in gingivitis and gum bleeding as compared with string floss.

However, many dentists and hygienists still recommend string flossing, either in addition to or instead of water flossing.

In addition to string flossing or water picking, there are several best practices that are associated with good oral health. They include:

  • brushing the teeth thoroughly twice a day
  • flossing once a day
  • flossing with both string and water, if possible
  • visiting the dentist regularly for cleanings, X-rays, and check-ups

Good dental hygiene is not just essential for healthy teeth and gums. Good dental care is known to impact one’s overall health as well.