We have discussed toothbrushes, toothpaste and dental floss; now we will dive into a discussion about oral irrigators. Offered as an alternative to traditional dental floss, oral irrigators shoot a high-pressure stream of water through a nozzle. The stream is to be positioned at different angles throughout the mouth to facilitate the removal of debris from between teeth and other hard to reach areas. It is commonly recommended to individuals who have orthodontic appliances or braces.
There are several models of oral irrigators available in the market today. They are differentiated by water source, portability and functional options.
Tankless or Self-Contained
Tankless oral irrigators operate off of a household water source; usually connecting to a bathroom sink or shower head. The oral irrigator is intended to be permanently affixed to the source and is equipped with a valve that redirects the water stream from the faucet or shower head to the oral irrigator. This configuration is a great option if you are low on space around the bathroom sink. A tankless oral irrigator provides consistent water temperature since it taken directly from the faucet; a possible downside is that the irrigator’s pressure is tied to the water pressure of the home water system. If the home has low water pressure, the oral irrigator will too.
Self-Contained oral irrigators are equipped with a water tank and are usually electric. The tank is filled with water prior to each use and a pump draws the water from the tank and through a thin hose connected to the irrigator nozzle. Although warm water can be added to the tank, it is likely to cool as it is waiting to be used. The consistent, adjustable pressure settings available on this type of unit allow the user to determine a comfortable water pressure and then make changes to it as needed.
Electric or Battery Operated
Oral irrigators are available as portable, rechargeable units (very similar to electric toothbrushes) and as electrically powered units. The cordless units are great for the individual that frequently travels while the electrically power models provide a more consistent operating period.
Variable water speeds and multiple tips are available options in oral irrigators. If you are a new user, investing in a device that offers multiple water speeds may increase usability. With a variable speed device, you can control the water pressure, thus working up to the highest pressure. Multiple tips are especially helpful for families that may have multiple types of dental restorations and appliances dispersed among multiple people. There are specialized tips for cleaning around braces, bridges and implants.
As with all of the tools discussed in this series, the best oral irrigator is the one that will get used the most. Although most manufacturers profess that oral irrigators are more effective than flossing, research indicates that for individuals without restorations or dental appliances flossing is just as effective as using an oral irrigator. However, the benefits are only seen as long as the flossing continues.