It’s hard to believe that the Waterpik water flosser has been around for 53 years. Since 1962 it has been removing plaque and food debris from teeth and gums leaving healthier smiles in its wake. Its pulsating action flushes bacterial toxins and food particles from along the gum line and in-between teeth. It’s especially helpful for people with restorative dental work like bridges, both fixed and non-removable, braces (orthodontic work) and shallow gum pockets. But can it release the hard tartar and calculus from teeth? Can you do without the twice-yearly dental checkups if you brush, floss and use a waterpik every day?
The short answer is no. Even if you never miss brushing twice a day and flossing daily, and even if you follow-up it all with a water flosser, like Waterpik, you should still have a dental professional examine your mouth, teeth and gums every 6 months. Not only is it important to be checked for oral cancer, but yearly x-rays can help identify problems with teeth and the surrounding tissue and bone in its early stages.
How does calculus or tartar form?
Calculus or tartar is formed from bacterial plaque which is a sticky coating. Let’s say your teeth and gums are similar to a coral reef in the ocean. Coral reefs form by attaching its larvae to a rock or other hard surface, just as oral bacteria cling to the hard surfaces of your teeth. Over time, the coral reef grows and expands in layers. Just as there are many species of corral, there are many different types of oral bacteria living together harmoniously in your mouth. These different species of bacteria are called biofilm. Left undisturbed, or when brushing and flossing is done improperly, the biofilm begins to form layers. With the aid of the minerals present in saliva, each layer has its own unique specialized structure that helps form calculus. If it is not removed while it’s still in its soft form, the bacteria or biofilms hardens into what is known as tartar or calculus.
While some studies now show that waterpiks remove plaque as efficiently as traditional floss, I do not recommend giving up the daily habit if you floss. However, a waterpik can be an excellent addition to your daily dental regimen when used in combination with floss. Folks with poor dexterity, restorative dental work or who never floss will benefit from a waterpik in addition to their daily brushing. Your breath will smell better, your mouth will feel cleaner and your dental restorations or bridgework will last longer. Here are a few helpful tips on using a water flosser or waterpik.
Once plaque hardens into tartar, removal should be handled by a dental hygienist. If you take it upon yourself to remove tartar or calculus with some home remedy, you risk harming your gum tissue, scratching the tooth enamel or worse.
Is floss better than a waterpik?
Both traditional floss and water flossing have their place. But one of the best benefits to traditional ‘string’ floss is that it’s cheap and readily available. String floss is packaged in compact designs, and come in a variety of flavors and thicknesses, making it easy to carry with you anywhere you go. That’s something you can’t do with a waterpik. Another advantage to regular ‘string’ floss, especially if it’s the waxed variety, is that it can slide into and reach areas of tight contact between teeth or crowns that a waterpik may not reach.
The benefit of using a waterpik is that its pulsating action improves gum health by alleviating the inflammation and flushing away stray debris and oral bacteria where it can reach. People with bridgework, implants, veneers and crowns will also find it beneficial because the jet stream of water can keep the tissue and surrounding area healthy, especially if it’s awkward to clean with string floss. And keeping dental restorations clean from bacteria and tartar buildup means the restoration will last longer.
To sum it up, both a waterpik and traditional floss have a place in any dental hygiene regimen. Certainly a waterpik or water flossing is better than no flossing at all. But for interdental plaque nothing quite beats old-fashioned floss. Of course, there is no single tool or technique that is a ‘cure-all’ in the fight against tooth decay and gum disease. Ultimately, a combination of dental tools and techniques that you use every day, plus seeing your dentist twice a year, is the quickest way to a healthy smile you’ll have for a lifetime.