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Flossing should be part of everyone’s dental routine, but many of us forget it or even actively avoid it. Some don’t like the sensation of floss or dental tape between the teeth, or crowding makes the whole process awkward. Getting into the tight spaces or to the back molars can be an effort if you haven’t got a good routine. The best water flossers offer an end to all that frustration – and often in a fraction of the time it takes to floss.
How do they work? In most cases, they fire a stream of water under pressure around the gum line and into the gaps between your teeth. This removes any food particles left behind after brushing and chips away at any plaque. They’re particularly good in areas of the mouth where you might struggle to floss, and can also help clean around bridges, braces and false crowns.
There’s a level of controversy over whether using a water flosser is an effective replacement for regular flossing or not. Manufacturers such as Waterpik will tell you that clinical studies have shown that water flossing can be equally effective when cleaning between your teeth, and even more effective at tackling gingivitis (the most common form of gum disease) and plaque.
However, some dentists believe that standard flossing does a better job of cleaning between your teeth and preventing the build-up of tartar, so you might not want to drop it altogether.
Best water flossers: At a glance
How to choose the best water flosser for you
All water flossers are trying to do much the same job, meaning your choice comes down to how much you want to spend and whether any extra features are worth paying extra for. Things to look out for include intensity settings, pulsating jet modes and whether any additional tips are provided beyond the basic squirting nozzle. These might help you get between crowded teeth or clean around a brace or bridge.
You should also look at the capacity of the water tank, which defines how long you can floss without a refill, and how it’s powered. Most flossers are now cordless and have a built-in lithium-ion battery, but they’ll need to be plugged in or placed on a charging cradle periodically to keep them going. This means that a battery charge indicator is another real plus.
Finally, the controls are really important. Using a water flosser can be a messy business, particularly if you’ve never used one before. Having easy-to-find and intuitive controls can help you avoid a nasty squirt in the face or across the bathroom mirror.
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How to use a water flosser
Using a water flosser isn’t as straightforward as using an electric toothbrush and it can take a little getting used to. You start by filling the reservoir, before putting the tip of the flosser in your mouth with the nozzle pointing at your gum line. Only at this point should you switch it on and select the mode you want to use.
Once it’s on, you need to run the nozzle slowly across the gum line, making sure you get between the teeth, starting with the lower teeth then moving to the upper teeth. Keep your mouth closed as much as possible, but let the excess water run out of your mouth into the sink as the jet won’t do anything in a mouth full of water.
The sensation will be odd at first and might even be a bit uncomfortable. If you have problems with gum disease, you’re likely to see some blood for the first few uses. Stick to the weaker intensities or modes to begin with, but persevere. Your teeth and gums will thank you for it later.
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The best water flossers you can buy in 2023
1. Panasonic EW1511: The best water flosser for most people
Price: £80 | Buy now from Amazon
Panasonic’s update of the excellent EW1411 is a fantastic water flosser. It’s easy to assemble and easy to fill, with a lithium-ion battery you can charge up in an hour to get ten minutes of use, which will easily get you through a week or two of daily flossing. It has five modes to cover everything from cleaning between the teeth to cleaning out the pockets on the gum line, and it uses an ultrasonic pulse to give a really intense clean. Of all the flossers we’ve tested, the EW1511 does the best job of leaving your teeth and gums feeling spotless.
What criticisms we have are fairly minor. The charging cradle and its two-pin shaver plug are slightly bulky, while the placement of the buttons can make it tricky to switch between modes midway through cleaning. Otherwise, though, this is a very practical and effective water flosser.
Key specs – Pressure: Up to 93.8psi; Tank capacity: 200ml; Modes: 5; Tips provided: 2; Battery: Li-ion; Battery life: 10 mins; Charger: Charging cradle; Dimensions: 75 x 85 x 210mm
2. Philips Sonicare Cordless Power Flosser 3000: The best water flosser for deep cleaning
Price: £92 | Buy now from Philips
The Sonicare Cordless Power Flosser 3000 is the one to buy if you’re looking for a really intensive clean. It delivers a really powerful jet on the highest of its three intensity settings, and the deep clean mode pulses the jet to help dislodge any clinging plaque or debris. You might even want to dial it back to medium intensity when you start flossing, as the impact on your gumline is so fierce.
Philips supplies two tips. The first is a standard single-stream effort, and the second is a unique quad-stream tip that fires out an X-shaped jet that hits a wider area across and in between the teeth and around the gums. I found this great for a quick overall clean before hitting problem areas harder with the single jet. In fact, it’s possibly the best clean I’ve had from any water flosser.
Philips has also done a great job with the practical aspects of the design. The Power Flosser 3000 charges over a standard USB-Type C port, and Philips bundles in a cable, compact charger and soft drawstring case. The main power button is big enough to find with ease when you’re rushing in the morning, and the mode and intensity buttons have simple indicators, so that you know what mode and setting you are in. The nozzle also rotates 360-degrees for easy aiming at the hard-to-reach areas of your mouth. This is one of the more expensive options, but if you have problem teeth and gums then it’s worth every penny.
Key specs – Pressure: Not stated; Tank capacity: 250ml; Modes: 2; Tips provided: 2; Battery: Li-ion; Battery life: 14mins; Charger: USB Type-C, cable and charger provided; Dimensions: 60 x 75 x 280mm
3. Waterpik Cordless Advanced: The most versatile water flosser
Price: £86 | Buy now from Amazon
The Cordless Advanced is Waterpik’s high-end cordless flosser, and while it shares some of the same weaknesses as the Cordless Plus below, it also has a few advantages. It’s a shame it still packs the same NiMH battery, which Waterpik advises charging once per week if you floss once a day, but at least this model comes with a swanky magnetic charger that clips onto the front of the device and will charge from any USB socket in just four hours.
It also has a battery indicator, which the Cordless Plus lacks. Meanwhile, the 207ml tank will hold enough water to run for approximately 35 seconds in the highest intensity mode.
The key thing, as with the cheaper model, is that the Cordless Advanced does a brilliant job of cleaning while covering a range of different needs. At its lowest intensity setting, you get a gentle clean that’s good for new users or more sensitive gums, while there’s enough welly at the top setting to clean deep between your teeth and all around the gum line.
What’s more, you get two classic flosser tips, an orthodontic tip and one plaque seeker tip for handling crowns and implants. If you’re having or have had any orthodontic work done, these can really help you keep that hardware clean and battle any build-up of debris. With a change of battery and a slightly lower price, this might be our pick of the best flossers, but it’s still the most versatile.
Key specs – Pressure: 45-75psi; Tank capacity: 207ml; Modes: 3; Tips provided: 4; Battery: NiMH; Battery life: 7 days; Charger: USB magnetic charging cable (12V adapter provided); Dimensions: 71 x 102 x 294mm
4. Waterpik Cordless Plus: Affordable, effective cleaning
Price: £60 | Buy now from Amazon
The Cordless Plus is the entry-level rechargeable model in Waterpik’s Cordless range. Features are basic: you get a choice of just two intensities and a switch that turns it on and off, while it charges through an adapter with a plug-in cable rather than any fancy wireless charging cradle. We’d also be happier if Waterpik replaced the NiMH battery with a newer lithium-ion cell that needed charging less than once a week and didn’t take a good 18 hours to charge.
Yet the important thing is that the Cordless Plus still delivers an excellent clean. The lower intensity isn’t too weedy, making it ideal for starters or users with sensitive teeth, while the higher intensity does a great job of cleaning around the gum line and between your teeth without going overboard and making things uncomfortable.
It also scores extra points for bundling four tips, with the standard and orthodontic tips joined by a plaque-seeking tip for cleaning around crowns and implants, plus a tongue-cleaning tip for scraping the tongue and battling stinky breath. There’s room for improvement, but this is still a great water flosser for anyone who wants to give one a try.
Key specs – Pressure: 45-75psi; Tank capacity: 210ml; Modes: 2; Tips provided: 4; Battery: NiMH; Battery life: 7 days; Charger: 12V shaver adapter; Dimensions: 69 x 96 x 295mm
5. Waterpik WF-05 Whitening Professional Water Flosser: The best water flosser for whiter teeth
Price: £130 | Buy now from Amazon
The WF-05 has two obvious downsides: it’s a big unit that needs to be out permanently, so you’ll need a good-sized bathroom with countertop space, and it also needs to be mains-powered from a 12V shaver socket. However, all of the above plays into its upsides. It doesn’t need charging, you won’t run out of water mid-floss and, instead of wielding a chunky handheld flosser, you’re using a smaller wand and nozzle attached by a flexible plastic pipe. This makes it much easier to hold and get to those difficult back teeth.
The other advantage is control. You get a choice of floss and gentler massage modes with ten different intensities, so whether you have sensitive gums or want a really powerful jet, you can find something that’s exactly right for you. What’s more, this model supports whitening tablets that slot inside the head and are designed to counter any stubborn stains around the gum line or in the gaps between your teeth. It’s a big, expensive unit, but its drawbacks are worth putting up with if you want professional results.
Key specs – Pressure: 10-100psi; Tank capacity: 651ml; Modes: 2 modes, 10 intensities; Tips provided: 4; Battery: Mains powered; Battery life: N/A; Charger: 12V power adapter; Dimensions: 119 x 965 x 292mm
6. Oclean W10: The most stylish, compact water flosser
Price: £38 | Buy now from Amazon
Where most budget water flossers follow the same basic design, the Oclean W10 treads a different path, adding a faux-leather trap to the back of the unit, coloured to match the clear plastic base of the water tank below. While you can remove that section for cleaning, this isn’t how you fill the flosser up with water. Instead, the top clasp of the strap doubles as a flip-cap, and you simply fill it straight from the tap. Meanwhile, the W10 charges from a USB-C port concealed beneath a watertight stopper at the front. It takes four hours and a full charge lasts for roughly 30 minutes.
The W10 has five power modes, running from a pulsating jet to a gentle stream to a more intense blast of water. Oclean also bundles in four nozzles, including an orthodontic tip for working around braces, a periodontal tip for getting in the soft gum pockets and a scraper tip for tackling the roof and floor of your mouth, along with your tongue. The clean isn’t quite as good as you’ll get from the Waterpik Cordless Advanced or Panasonic EW1511, but it’s better than most budget water flossers, while the design makes it easier to handle. It’s a good low-cost option with its own distinctive style.
Key specs – Pressure: 20-90psi; Tank capacity: 200ml; Modes: 5; Tips provided: 4; Battery: Li-ion; Battery life: 30mins; Charger: USB connection; Dimensions: 50 x 70 x 270mm
7. Oral-B Aquacare 4: The best water flosser for sensitive gums
Price: £95 | Buy now from Amazon
It’s fair to say that sheer power is not the Oral B Aquacare 4’s forte. It provides a choice of two power modes and a two-pattern nozzle, giving you a choice of a focused jet and a lighter, rotating spray, and in three of the resulting combinations it feels weedy and ineffectual.
Luckily, the fourth combination is a different story, with the Aquacare 4 developing enough oomph to get right in between your teeth and give the gums a decent clean and massage. Another plus is that it’s easy on sensitive teeth and gums, making it a good option if the fiercer flossers scare you.
It’s a well-designed unit, filling quickly from an inlet on the back and charging easily on its wireless charging station. It’s not perfect, though: the 150ml tank empties in roughly 30 seconds, and the dated Ni-MH batteries require 14 hours of charge time for 20 minutes of use.
For some, the Oral-B Aquacare 4 might be too gentle on the gums – if you want intensive cleaning look elsewhere – but if you want a softer touch on your gumline then the Aquacare may be just the ticket.
Key specs – Pressure: Up to 93.8psi; Tank capacity: 150ml; Modes: 2; Tips provided: 1; Battery: Ni-MH; Battery life: 20mins; Charger: Wireless charging station; Dimensions: 60 x 75 x 280mm