Using an oral irrigator is a great alternative to flossing. Some individuals feel that using an oral irrigator is easier and more effective than flossing. Since oral irrigators are used to clean the space between teeth where bacteria and plaque are most likely to hide, it is a great asset in any oral health care tool kit.

There are many different types of oral irrigators available with a wide range of settings, attachments and configurations. Review “Tools of the Trade: Choosing the Best Oral Irrigator” to find the one that best suites you.

After selecting an oral irrigator, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for setup. This will usually include, finding a place near the sink for storing the unit, allowing the irrigator to charge for 24 hours prior to first use (for battery operated models) and filling the reservoir with water.

After setup is complete and you are ready to begin the cleaning process, follow these steps:

1. Fill the reservoir with warm water. Warm water is less likely to cause discomfort. It may be necessary to flush the lines of water that was left after the previous use.

2. Select a water pressure setting. Most manufacturers will recommend beginning with a low pressure setting and then working your way up to a higher setting. If your gums are inflamed or your teeth are sensitive this will allow you to build-up to a more rigorous cleaning. If your teeth and gums are healthy, you may be able to start with a higher setting right away.

3. Beginning with the upper, back teeth; place the tip at a 90° angle. Pause for a few seconds between the teeth allowing the water stream to wash away any particles from between the teeth. Then sweep the tip along the gum line.

4. Repeat this process for all teeth. Be sure to clean both the tongue and the cheek side of teeth.

Most oral irrigators contain special tips for cleaning dental restorations or around orthodontic appliances and for removing plaque. It is important to use these attachments in conjunction with the standard, inter-dental tip to ensure a thorough cleaning.

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