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How Does a Water Pik Work?

author image Meg Brannagan
Meg Brannagan has worked as a registered nurse for more than 10 years, specializing in women's and children's health. She holds a bachelor's degree in nursing from the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
How Does a Water Pik Work?
A waterpik works to clean teeth and reduce gum disease.

Regular oral care is important to maintain healthy teeth and gums. Brushing twice a day, flossing daily and visiting a dentist regularly are all important aspects of oral hygiene. Some people acquire gum infections because they are unable to remove food particles after eating. Using a waterpik flossing system can help to clean the teeth and gums as well as manage signs of gum disease.

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The Periodontium

The structures of the mouth are called the periodontium. The teeth are surrounded by the gums, or gingiva, and each tooth has a portion found both above and below the gums. The upper portion of the tooth is the crown, and the lower portion is the root. The sulcus is the area of gums found between each tooth. Poor dental hygiene can cause a build-p of plaque, which sticks to the surface of the teeth and can attract bacteria, causing infection.


A waterpik is a type of oral irrigation system that, when used on the teeth, provides a small amount of forced water that reaches between the teeth and gums. The system is similar in effect of using string floss. Waterpik® is the brand name of a company that manufactures many of these systems. According to Waterpik®, using a water flossing system is 93 percent more effective at maintaining the health of gums and teeth than brushing and using string floss.


A waterpik provides concentrated water to gently remove residual food and plaque buildup in places that are hard to reach with a toothbrush. Using a waterpik can reduce bleeding in the gums that may be associated with use of string floss. The flow of water also massages the gums, improving circulation. The Waterpik® has a pulsation device that provides bursts of water, which can reach bacteria found deep within pockets of the gums.


A waterpik water flossing system can be used to treat and manage several conditions that affect the teeth and gums. The concentrated water can reach around some of the metal brackets of orthodontic braces and some types of dental bridges. It can gently remove bacteria and reduce gum bleeding often found in people with diabetes. The system also manages and prevents gingivitis and periodontal disease by washing away plaque and accumulated bacteria.


Although using a waterpik can improve oral health, it is important to use it correctly to prevent damage to the gums. According to Dr. Stephen J. Howard, DDS, a waterpik should be set on a low-pressure setting and should not be aimed directly at the gums. Instead, it should be held at a 90-degree angle to the teeth and moved slowly along the gum line. This will wash away bacteria and debris that may have been dislodged during brushing.

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