Dental health is something that many of us take for granted. Brushing and flossing regularly with twice annual visits to the dentist often keeps our teeth and gums in good shape. But unfortunately, our schedules can cause us to be less consistent in our efforts since the whole process takes time.  In addition, for some individuals the regular routine just isn't enough. Perhaps they have deeper pockets around their teeth where food deposits hide from brushes and dental floss or maybe their gums are receding just related to the aging process.

Whatever the reason, traditional brushing and flossing don't always work well. This is where products like the Waterpik WaterFlosser come into the picture. These devices can have an important role in dental health but for those who have never used one, it's important to understand their benefits and drawbacks before making a purchase.

1. What exactly does the Waterpik do?
It uses a stream of pulsating water to brush or floss your teeth. The force of the water stream or water pressure can be varied and different tips can be used to accomplish different objectives. Some tips have brushes that allow you to brush and others offer just a focused stream of water for the purpose of flossing without dental floss.

2. Is Waterpik the only device of it's kind?
No, there are several brands of power flossers. Conair for instance offers a water flosser as well. Many power flossers don't use the water stream, they behave more like traditional dental floss and don't offer the same flexibility with a variety of tips.

3. What are the benefits of using a Waterpik WaterFlosser over traditional flossing?
Some people find it more pleasant. It is generally considered to be easier to use than dental floss and consumes less time as well. The mouth is left feeling fresh and clean afterward and there is no feeling of trauma to the gums, no breaking dental floss, and no having to wind the floss around your fingers. This quicker, easier, more pleasant experience helps increase compliance with routine dental care.

Some dentists also report greater effectiveness as well; up to 80% more effective than using traditional floss. The water stream is particularly successful for those who have deep pockets.

The Waterpik also has special attachments that work well for people with special needs. For instance, there are special cleaning tips for people with braces and for those with orthodontic work.

4. Are there any drawbacks?
Cost could be a drawback for some people. For the Waterpik WaterFlosser Ultra, the upfront cost is generally around $55-$65. Certainly more than a toothbrush and a single pack of dental floss. In addition, the tips occassionally have to be replaced, perhaps every 6 months for a cost of around $8 to $9.

5. I need to be able to floss at lunch time while I'm at work, will I need to use traditional floss and a toothbrush at those times?
Not necessarily. While the Ultra unit cited above isn't portable, there are portable Waterpik devices that could easily pack inside a purse, briefcase, or backpack allowing you to complete your dental care routine at lunchtime or during a break between classes. The portable units are less expensive, battery powered devices.

6. How do I know if I need a Waterpik?
Certainly, many people use a Waterpik just because they prefer the experience. However, talking to your dentist is the best way to determine whether or not this device could really improve your dental health overall. It may be indicated if you currently avoid brushing/flossing because it's unpleasant,  your current routine isn't enough, or you have special circumstances (such as deep pockets) that make the water jet a better option.