We all know we should be flossing once a day as part of our oral health routine. But it’s an all-too-easy step to skip when we’re rushing out the door or exhausted and desperate to fall into bed. Traditional dental floss can also be hard to use correctly, especially if you’ve had certain dental work including crowns and braces, and it’s non-biodegradable so not a great choice for the environment.
A water flosser – also known as an oral irrigator – sprays a high-pressure jet of water between your teeth to clean the spaces brushing misses and removes food and bacteria. This helps keep plaque at bay, reduces the risk of cavities, helps prevent gum disease and even fights bad breath.
“Water flossers can be a great option for people who have trouble flossing by hand,” says Dr Rhona Eskander, dentist, co-founder of Parla, ambassador for WaterPik and owner of Chelsea Dental Clinic. “People who have had dental work that makes flossing difficult – like braces or permanent or fixed bridges – might also like to try water flossers.”
Although they can take a little getting used to initially, it’s best to only switch on the device once the tip is inside your mouth, then keep it at a 90-degree angle to the gum line as you go and always lean over the sink as it can be messy.
They come with a refillable water tank so you can spray as you work from the back teeth to the front and may include extra features such as a massage feature for healthy gums, variable pressure settings and even a tongue scraper. It’s worth looking for a flosser that comes with an orthodontic tip too if you wear a brace or gentler settings or dedicated heads if you have implants, crowns or sensitive teeth.
How we tested
We used these water flossers one at a time over several weeks, using each once a day on consecutive days. We considered how easy each was to use, how clean our teeth looked and felt and any extra features the water flosser offered. We also flossed our teeth with ordinary tape floss after use to check how effective the water flosser had been. These are the ones that came out on top.
The best water flossers for 2022 are:
- Best overall – Philips sonicare cordless power flosser 3000: £119.99, Philips.co.uk
- Best for travelling – Spotlight oral care water flosser: £71.96, Lookfantastic.com
- Best for newbies – Waterpik cordless plus water flosser: £54.99, Superdrug.com
- Best for whitening – Waterpik whitening water flosser: £89.99, Waterpikukonline.co.uk
- Best combined brush and flosser – Fairywill electric toothbrush and cordless oral irrigator water flosser: £35.09, OnBuy.com
- Best for USB charging – Polished London aqua XP water flosser: £59.99, Polishedlondon.com
- Best for healthy gums – Panasonic rechargeable oral irrigator with ultrasonic technology EW1511: £68.60, Amazon.co.uk
Philips sonicare cordless power flosser 3000
This was the priciest water flosser we tested but we really noticed the difference. The relatively slim handle meant it was also one of the easiest to use, even though it still had a fairly decent 250ml reservoir which lasted around a minute before needing an easy refill.
Once we got the hang of flossing, this was almost enough time to manage our whole mouth thanks to a nozzle that rotates 360 degrees and pulse wave technology that guides the device from tooth to tooth in Deep Clean mode. When using the quad stream nozzle, we could finish cleaning even faster as the flow is separated into four water jets, which cover more surface area between teeth in less time. Just keep your mouth closed while you do it or you’ll get an unexpected soaking.
There are three intensity settings and two flossing modes and even the standard clean mode left our mouth feeling super-fresh, visibly dislodging any food particles trapped between teeth. The device comes with a travel bag, power adaptor and a USB charging cable so you won’t be able to charge it in your bathroom, but our battery showed no sign of fading even after nearly two weeks of daily use.
Our one grumble is that, for the price, we would’ve loved a tongue scraper included as well as the quad stream and standard nozzle. Still, our mouth has never felt cleaner.
Spotlight oral care water flosser
Best: For travelling
Space is always tight in a bathroom cupboard so it makes sense to choose the most compact water flosser you can find. Developed by dentists Dr Lisa and Dr Vanessa Creaven, this dinky device was one of the smallest and most portable we tested, and is cordless and rechargeable just like an electric toothbrush making it one of the few flossers small enough to take on holiday.
Its water tank is fairly easy to fill and has a 190ml capacity, but we did have to refill this more than once during cleaning. There are three operating modes – normal, soft and pulse – which is useful so you can build up from the gentlest setting when you first start using it. We especially liked the 360 degree rotating nozzle which really made us feel like we were getting into every nook and cranny, and our mouth felt sparkling clean afterwards.
The device also comes with four different tips so you can really adapt this flosser for your needs and these include a classic jet tip, an orthodontic spray tip, a periodontal pocket sprinkler and even a tongue scraper for a full mouth makeover.
Waterpik cordless plus water flosser
Best: For newbies
Waterpik are the world’s best-selling water flosser brand and therefore know a thing or two about keeping your teeth clean. The brand claims that its flossers are scientifically proven to be more than 50 per cent effective than traditional dental floss for improving gum health and remove up to 99.9 per cent of plaque from treated areas.
And this cordless and rechargeable flosser certainly feels like it’s getting the job done. It has a 360 degree rotating head and four tips – classic jet, orthodontic tip, plaque seeker tip and tongue cleaner. There are just two pressure controls but the lowest setting is perfect for sensitive gums or those trying water flossing for the first time, without being too weedy. The non-slip grip makes it easy to hold when wet and it’s straightforward to operate without too many gizmos to complicate matters.
Our only grumble is the 210ml water capacity needs refilling around every 45 seconds, but we liked the fact this kept the flosser compact. You can even add a small amount of mouthwash to the water for minty freshness, making this an all-around great buy for anyone new to water flossing.
Waterpik whitening water flosser
Best: For whitening
This whitening water flosser delivers a double whammy when it comes to keeping your teeth and gums in tip-top condition. As well as water flossing, this clever device whitens as it works, with Waterpik claiming it removes an additional 25 per cent of stains versus brushing alone.
Simply pop one of the included fresh mint whitening tablets into the flip-top tablet compartment and floss as normal – we definitely thought our teeth looked a little brighter after a couple of weeks of use. When the initial supply of 30 tablets runs out, it can then be used as an ordinary water flosser although replacement tablets can be bought whenever you need a whitening boost.
It’s an excellent flosser even without the additional tablets with a choice of ten pressure settings – though start low if you’re new to water flossing as the higher ones are quite forceful. It comes with four tips including two jet tips, so could even be shared between a couple if needed. That’s handy as the separate reservoir – attached by a cord to the device – does take up quite a bit of space on a bathroom shelf, although this means the water lasts for a whole flossing session without needing to be refilled. It’s definitely not one you’ll be able to travel with though.
Fairywill electric toothbrush + cordless oral irrigator water flosser
Best: Combined brush and flosser
Not sure you’ll stick to water flossing? Give it a go without blowing the budget by trying this fantastically priced flosser from Fairywill and even if you don’t keep it up, at least you’ll have a decent new toothbrush.
However, we were suitably impressed with the results from the flosser for the price. Though it’s fairly chunky to hold, it comes with a large 300ml capacity water tank for uninterrupted use and three operational modes with LED indication including a massage mode. Impressively, four classic tips – and four replacement toothbrush heads – are included in the box, although anyone with braces or a lot of dental work would be better off choosing a flosser that comes with alternative heads.
Also be aware that both the toothbrush and flosser are charged with the included USB cable rather than a traditional shaving socket, so both will need to be charged outside the bathroom.
Polished London aqua XP water flosser
Best: For USB charging
Oral care expert Polished London was founded in London’s Harley Street by a teeth whitening specialist keen to devise effective dental products that could be used at home. The company has since released various toothpastes, mouthwashes and an award-winning electric toothbrush, but has now introduced an excellent water flosser.
It comes with three modes – soft, regular and pulse – and three different nozzles including one for tongue cleaning and a periodontal tip for sensitive areas. The nozzle rotates 360 degrees to get to hard-to-reach areas and we could actually see the food particles it removed, which is grimly fascinating and very satisfying.
Though it’s fairly chunky to hold, we liked the high placement of the on/off button so we didn’t accidentally press it mid-floss and the water supply didn’t run out too quickly either. There’s a magnetic USB charger in case you’re short on bathroom space or don’t have an electric shaver charging point too.
Panasonic rechargeable oral irrigator with ultrasonic technology EW1511
Best: For healthy gums
Our teeth felt so clean after using this Panasonic flosser just once that we’re certain we beamed at everyone we met. The Ultrasonic technology works a treat, with increased water jet speed that generates water vapour bubbles on the surface of the teeth to amp up the cleaning power. This also helps clean sensitive periodontal pockets to target plaque left after brushing and gently stimulates gums for an all-around healthier mouth. It can be used on orthodontic braces and bridges too.
The device doesn’t feel too hulking to manoeuvre when it’s in the mouth either. The slimmer top half of the cordless flosser makes it comfortable to hold, although it still has a decent 200ml water tank. This lasts around 60 seconds on the level 5 water pressure setting but we did need to refill once during cleaning. Otherwise, it’s a fuss-free addition to any nightly routine as it charges in just one hour and remembers your last chosen water flow strength so is ready to go whenever you are.
The verdict: Water flossers
For maximum cleaning power in moments, the Philips sonicare cordless power flosser 3000 is unbeatable and got our teeth noticeably cleaner, faster. If colour is a concern, try the Waterpik whitening water flosser instead to do two jobs in one and keep those pearly whites sparkling.
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