Best Flossers for You & How to Use Them

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Table of Contents

  1. What Is a Flosser?
  2. Why are Flossers Used?
  3. Is a Water Flosser Good for Teeth?
  4. Water Flosser vs Alternatives
  5. Most Effective Flosser
  6. Best Flosser for Braces
  7. Resources

The best flossers include disposable plastic flossers and water flossers. They make it easier to floss regularly, ensuring a cleaner, healthier mouth.

Flossing is an essential part of any effective daily dental care routine. Without it, plaque and bacteria can overtake our oral health and cause cavities, bad breath, gum disease, and even losing teeth. Still, many people have trouble keeping up with daily flossing

Part of the problem may be people’s aversion to, or inability to use, standard rolled dental floss. Using regular floss requires mobility, dexterity, and technique — from pulling and cutting the floss to guiding it in between and through teeth to ensuring not to reuse a dirty portion.

Flossers are designed as an alternative to regular floss. Plastic flossers (floss picks) and water flossers (electric flossers) can make it easier to clean in between teeth and maintain a healthy smile.

What Is a Flosser?

A flosser is a device or object used to clean in between teeth. They are used as an alternative to or in conjunction with, regular dental floss.

Why are Flossers Used?

Flossers serve the same purpose as regular dental floss. They remove or reduce the plaque and particle buildup between teeth.

Understanding Plaque

Plaque is a layer, or film, of bacteria that is always forming and reforming on teeth. The bacteria in plaque create damaging acids after eating or drinking, especially after eating or drinking sugary snacks or drinks. 

Plaque bacteria can eat away at tooth enamel, harden into tartar (which is filled with bacteria and can only be removed by a dentist), and even form under gums on tooth roots, where it can attack the bones that support the teeth and jaw. This can lead to decay, cavities, and tooth loss.

Plaque bacteria also irritate gums and cause inflammation. This can lead to gum disease: first gingivitis (the mildest form of gum disease, with irritation around the gumline) and eventually periodontitis, which is severe gum disease. 

With periodontitis, gums recede from the teeth. Pockets form between teeth and gums. The pockets become filled with plaque, food particles, tartar, and bacteria. This can result in deep and serious infections as well as tooth loss. 

Gum disease can also lead or contribute to a cycle of chronic inflammation that can affect other systems of the body, including the heart.

How Do Flossers Help?

Poor oral hygiene is the leading cause of tooth decay and gum disease. Without proper cleaning and care, plaque bacteria can become out of control and harden into tartar, attack tooth enamel, and begin damaging gums. Flossing (with regular floss or flossers) is an essential part of any daily oral hygiene routine.

The area between teeth is especially vulnerable to plaque and particle buildup. Food and bacteria can easily get trapped in these small areas and pockets. They’re narrow and hard to reach and clean. Brushing alone will often not get to them. Plaque may accumulate and cause damage, especially near the gum line. 

Like dental floss, flossers are designed to get in these tough areas and address plaque buildup. By removing bacteria from these hard-to-reach spots, flossers help to stop plaque from hardening or becoming a more serious problem. 

Flossers, like regular dental floss, also help teeth to appear brighter and cleaner. By removing the film of plaque and bacteria, teeth look whiter and healthier.

Flossing with floss or flossers also helps to prevent bad breath by removing the bacteria and plaque that cause odor in the mouth.

Why Use Flossers Over Regular Dental Floss?

There are a number of reasons some people don’t (or can’t) use regular dental floss. Some people don’t like the way dental floss feels in their mouth or find it difficult to navigate the long thread of floss properly around the teeth. Others may have accessibility or behavioral issues that make using floss impossible.

Flossers and flosser devices offer an alternative when it comes to flossing and oral hygiene. Most experts agree that any safe and effective flossing option that helps you keep up with a strong dental hygiene routine is a good choice.

Types of Flossers

Floss picks are plastic tools that have an easy-to-grip handle. The end curves into a “U” shape that holds a piece of dental floss. A pick is disposed of after cleaning. It should not be reused.

Pros: Many people find floss picks easier to use and handle than regular dental floss. A 2007 study found that floss picks cleaned in between teeth “at least as good as” regular rolled floss.1

Cons: Because they are made of disposable plastic and thrown away after each use, plastic flossers are not considered a very eco-friendly option. Also, if the same flosser is used to clean between multiple teeth, there is the chance of spreading bacteria.

Water flossers are handheld devices that shoot a stream of water in between teeth to remove particles and plaque. After filling a reservoir with water, you hold the flosser up near the gumline before turning it on and releasing the stream of water.

Pros: For gadget-lovers, a water flosser can make oral hygiene more appealing. A water flosser’s pulsating motion may also help to alleviate gum irritation and swelling (which may be signs of early-stage gum disease). Water flossers are easier to use than regular floss and generally less abrasive.

Cons: Some people may experience sensitivity issues when first using a water flosser, especially regarding water temperature. Water flossers may not be as effective as regular floss or floss picks, especially when it comes to plaque reduction (see more information below).

Water flossers are also called electric flossers or oral irrigators. Another type of electric flosser is an air flosser. However, air flossers may be considered water flossers too, as they use both a stream of air and droplets of water to clean in between teeth.

Is a Water Flosser Good for Teeth?

Water flossers are popular, and there are always new options available. But when it comes to their effectiveness when compared to other flossing tools, there remains some controversy. 

A 2019 study indicated that water flossers were effective in reducing gum irritation and the symptoms of gingivitis, in part because of their pulsating motion and their ability to reach into “pockets” of gums.2 But the same study also indicated that water flossers were not as effective at reducing visible plaque. 

However, the American Dental Association has given its Seal of Acceptance to many electric and water flossers on the market. They even provide a list of ADA-accepted water flossers.

Water Flosser vs. Other Flossing Options

Compared to other flossing options on the market, including plastic flossers and standard rolled floss, water flossers have some advantages and drawbacks to consider.

  • Cost: Water flossers require a considerable investment, costing around $50 to $200 depending on the model and make. A pack of 75 plastic flossers may cost less than $5. Regular floss is also much more affordable.

  • Accessibility: For those that have difficulty using other flossing tools, water flossers may be an easier option as they are user-friendly and don’t require the detailed maneuvering that regular floss does.

  • Convenience: While their ease of use makes water flossers a convenient option for at-home daily flossing, flossing on-the-go (including flossing while traveling and after meals out) will require planning and possibly toting the water flosser around or using another option.

  • Special features: Some water flossers offer features like gum massage, sensitivity settings, and deep pocket-targeting.

  • Sleek appeal: Many water flossers are modern and aesthetically pleasing, making them a favorite among tech and design fans.

  • Kid-friendly options: Children-oriented water flossers are smaller and use a gentler water flow.

  • Ideal for older adults: Because of their non-abrasive cleaning action and easy-to-use handheld design, water flossers may be ideal for older adults who are dealing with issues like dental bridges, arthritis, and dental implants.

Most Effective Flosser

Considering that the American Dental Association has approved both water flossers and plastic disposable floss picks (flossers), the most effective flosser may be whichever one you are most comfortable with, as this will help you establish and maintain an effective oral hygiene routine.

Which Flosser To Use If You Have Braces

With practice and care, many people will be able to choose whichever flosser they’re most comfortable with while wearing braces.

The American Dental Association recommends that those who are having trouble flossing with braces try a water flosser. Water flossers may make it easier to clean in the many hard-to-reach areas between braces and teeth and gums. Some water flossers even feature a special setting for users with braces.


How Many Americans Floss Their Teeth? (May 2016). U.S. News & World Report. Date fetched: October 21, 2022.

Proper Flossing. American Dental Hygienist Association. Date fetched: October 21, 2022.

Flosser. Cambridge Dictionary. Date fetched: October 21, 2022.

Dental Plaque. (October 2020). Cleveland Clinic. Date fetched: October 21, 2022.

Periodontitis. (February 2020). Mayo Clinic. Date fetched: October 21, 2022.

The Link Between Gum Disease and Heart Disease. (May 2022). Penn Medicine. Date fetched: October 21, 2022.

Oral Hygiene. (April 2022). Cleveland Clinic. Date fetched: October 21, 2022.

Importance of Flossing. (May 2022). University of Illinois Chicago. Date fetched: October 21, 2022.

If You Hate Floss, It’s O.K. to Try These Alternatives. (September 2019). The New York Times. Date fetched: October 21, 2022.

Should You Use a Floss Pick or Regular Floss? What Dentists Recommend. (September 2020). from Reader’s Digest. Date fetched: October 21, 2022.

Should You Consider a Water Flosser? (November 2022). Colgate. Date fetched: October 21, 2022.

Can an Electric Flosser Make Flossing Easier? (November 2022). Colgate. Date fetched: October 21, 2022.

The 6 Very Best Water Flossers. (August 2022). New York Magazine. Date fetched: October 21, 2022.

6 Best Water Flossers, According to Our Tests. (August 2022). Good Housekeeping. Date fetched: October 21, 2022.

Medical Resources

1 Evaluation of the Plaque Removal Efficacy of Two Commercially Available Dental Floss Devices. (2007). The Journal of Clinical Dentistry. 

2 An Overview of Different Interdental Cleaning Aids and Their Effectiveness. (May 2019). Dentistry Journal.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.