Flossing is something we all know we need to do to protect our gums and overall oral health, but many of us fail to do so for a variety of reasons, namely the time and effort involved in daily flossing. The good news is that you don’t necessarily have to rely on traditional flossing methods to get at food and bacteria between teeth and below the gum line that your toothbrush can’t reach.
You may have already heard of water flossing technology, but now you also have the option to utilize an air flosser, as well. What is an air flosser and how does it work? What are the benefits of choosing an air flosser over other options for oral care? Here’s what you need to know to make an informed decision.
What is an Air Flosser?
An air flosser is an oral hygiene tool designed to disrupt biofilm between the teeth, where brushing can’t reach, in order to prevent tartar and plaque buildup. This is accomplished with a stream of air containing just a few droplets of water that bursts forth from the device when it is activated. In a technical sense, it does use water, but the amount is so minuscule that this device cannot be termed a water flosser (which relies on pressurized water, rather than air, to remove biofilm and plaque).
What is the Best Air Flosser?
To date, there is only one brand offering air flosser technology: Philips Sonicare. They offer the AirFloss and the AirFloss Ultra.
The AirFloss Ultra is a redesigned and upgraded version of the AirFloss product that improves on the original by offering three different settings so users can determine their desired level of cleaning. The triple burst technology and improved, high-performance nozzle design can clean the entire mouth in as little as 60 seconds, with three bursts of air and water delivered each time you press the activation button (three times the cleaning power of the original AirFloss).
Studies have shown that using the AirFloss Ultra removes up to 99.9% more plaque than brushing alone (in treated areas), putting this technology on par with water flossing technology and traditional flossing.
This unique, interdental cleaner requires only about a teaspoon of liquid for each use, and you can either use lukewarm water or mouthwash to enhance cleaning power. In a survey of U.S. patients, 95% of inconsistent flossers said it was easy to use, 89% said it was easier than string floss, and 82% said it was easier than water flossing (specifically with Waterpik).
How Does an Air Flosser Work?
The air flosser is a cordless, hose-free, interdental cleaner that works by shooting bursts of air mixed with water droplets between teeth and below the gum line. Liquid (lukewarm water or mouthwash) must be added to the device reservoir before use. From there, you simply position the nozzle between teeth and push the activation button to induce three bursts of air, then glide the tip along the gum line to the next space between teeth, repeating until you’ve cleaned your whole mouth. The entire process can be completed in just 60 seconds.
Water Flosser vs. Air Flosser: The Differences
Water flossers and air flosser technologies are somewhat similar, as are anticipated results of using them, but there are some key differences to be aware of. First, there are physical differences.
The AirFloss Ultra is cordless and hose-free, while water flossers often have a cord and/or a hose attached to a large water reservoir. Even models that are cordless and hose-free require a large reservoir in the handheld device to get sufficient water pressure for cleaning, making them rather bulky and unwieldy. Plus, these may require frequent refills.
In most cases, you’re going to need significantly more counter space for your water flosser and you may have to tangle with cords and hoses while using it. You won’t have either of these issues with a compact and cordless air flosser, which is similar in size to an electric toothbrush and uses an upright charging base that takes up minimal real estate on your counter.
Water flossers can also be messy, dripping water and creating splash-back during use. With a water flosser, you choose your preferred tip, place it in your mouth, turn on a high-pressure water stream, and run the tip along the gum line. You have to hold your head over the sink to let the water drain out of your mouth as you floss, and this can be messy and annoying. Splash-back can leave a spray of water all over your bathroom sink, counter, and mirror.
The tip of the water flosser may also require frequent replacement (every three months is recommended), and you could experience worsening leaks over time. In contrast, the air flosser uses only a tiny amount of water droplets, leaving no mess, it’s incredibly easy to use, and because you control bursts of air and water, you can clean your entire mouth in just about 60 seconds.
On the downside, air flossers are currently more expensive than some water flossers, although cordless models are similar in price and high-end models of water flossers can cost significantly more than the Philips Sonicare AirFloss Ultra. In addition, air flossers are not ideal for removing large food particles. If you can’t get these particles by brushing, you may need string floss to get the job done. Because the water flosser delivers pressurized water, it may be better suited to this specific purpose, but by and large, the two types of devices deliver similar levels of biofilm and plaque removal between teeth and below the gum line.
One potential drawback of the air flosser is that you have to refill the reservoir with a small amount of water or mouthwash for every use, but this inconvenience is easily solved with the Philips AirFloss Fill & Charge Station. All you do is fill the reservoir on the station, dock your AirFloss Ultra, and it automatically begins charging the battery and fills the reservoir on the device. The station holds two weeks’ worth of water or mouthwash and is compatible with all AirFloss models.
How Effective is an Air Flosser?
Air flossers have been proved extremely effective at reducing biofilm and plaque between teeth and below the gum line, where a toothbrush can’t typically reach. The Philips Sonicare AirFloss Ultra removes 99.9% of plaque, it can improve gum health within two weeks of starting daily use, and it is proven to improve gum health in 97% of users.
In addition, it’s quicker and easier to use than both string floss and water flossers, it’s gentler on the gums than string floss, and it’s nowhere near as messy as a water flosser. With timed bursts of air and water, you always know how long to focus on one area before moving on, and you can complete flossing within just 60 seconds, removing the main obstacle to flossing for most people: time commitment.
What makes this product most effective is continued use. In a study of U.S. patients, 96% of infrequent flossers reported continued usage of the air flosser four or more days a week. Naturally, this is far more effective than people who use other methods of flossing only infrequently due to time constraints or inconvenience.