How a water pick could transform your smile

Nikhita Mahtani, CNN Underscored
Updated Tue June 18, 2019

Story highlights

  • Traditional brushing and flossing have always been part of good dental hygiene
  • Water picks have been gaining in popularity, promising to help fight these common problems with less effort

Traditional brushing and flossing have always been part of good dental hygiene, helping you avoid problems like gum disease and tooth decay. Recently, water picks have been gaining in popularity, promising to help fight these common problems with less effort. But since they're significantly more expensive than the brushes and flosses we're used to, we had to ask — are they worth it?

What exactly is a water pick?

A water pick is a device that aims a stream of water at your teeth to blast out plaque and food debris stuck between your teeth. They are also known as oral pulsing irrigators, and come in a number of sizes and varieties. While not normally considered a substitute for flossing, water picking (also referred to as water flossing) can be done fairly easily by people who have issues using traditional floss — for instance, people with braces, or those who have sensitive gums.

How do water picks work?

A water pick combines water pressure with steady pulses to dislodge tartar and food bits from teeth. To use a it, you simply fill the reservoir with hot water and choose your tip option (the smaller the tip, the more concentrated the pressure). If you're new, pick the lowest pressure setting, as you can always go higher if you feel like it isn't doing anything. Then, lean against the sink and turn the pick on, allowing water to splash into your mouth. Make sure to aim against the gumline, and use it until you've hit every tooth. You should see the water carry away all the particles as it leaves your mouth.

While there are several options out there, the leading brand currently is Waterpik. The company says clinical studies indicate that it is 52% more effective than traditional floss at reducing gingivitis, and significantly more effective than traditional floss at reducing plaque as well.

You can also shop around for other brands: The only caveat is they should be have a seal of approval from the American Dental Association. If a brand is approved, it will have the ADA Seal of Acceptance on the label, so just be sure to look out for that.

Which water pick should you buy?

There are currently several types of water picks out there that work for almost any budget — and luckily, they all boast some pretty stellar reviews. Check out Waterpik Whitening Water Flosser ($69.99; target.com), Philips Sonicare Airfloss Ultra ($89.99; bedbathandbeyond.com), Waterpik Cordless Express Water Flosser WF-02 ($29.99; target.com), and Waterpik WP-100 Ultra Countertop Water Flosser ($119; jcpenney.com).

If you absolutely hate flossing, these water picks will definitely help clean your teeth without much effort — and with so many different price points and sizes available, it shouldn't be hard to find one that works for you.