Water Flosser vs. String Floss

From twigs and horse hair to electric-powered water flossers. It is has been discovered by anthropologists that dental floss dates back to the ancient times. In 1815 an American Dentist, Dr. Parmly introduced the idea of using a silk thread to clean between the teeth. In 1962 Waterpik (at the time known as Aqua Tec Corp.) creates an oral irrigator which becomes patented in 1967. Manual floss has evolved, but is still widely used so there can be a lot of confusion over the question of whhich is better; water flossing vs traditional flossing?

In this article we will discuss the advantages/disadvantages of a water flosser vs dental floss, and bring you one step closer to making the right purchase for you.

What are the Main Differences Between a Water Flosser & Dental Floss?


Water Flosser

A water flosser runs on electricity or battery power to operate. It cleans between the teeth and gums with a stream of water that is held in a tank/reservoir. It does not replace brushing teeth.

String Floss

String floss is a thin silky or waxy strand that is utilized by the fingers to clean between the teeth.

Is a Water Flosser Better than Regular Flossing?

There are many things to consider when looking at a water flosser vs string floss. It would be a good idea to try both to discover your personal preference. Below are some considerations and information to keep in mind:

Water Flosser

Regular Floss





  • Easy to use
  • proven to be very effective
  • works well for people with braces, implants, etc
  • Many tips available for different uses
  • requires power
  • takes up more space than manual floss
  • not as cost effective upfront
  • can be messy if not used properly
  • Inexpensive
  • does not take up much space
  • does not require power
  • can be challenging and time consuming
  • gets in the way of dental appliances
  • can cause gums to bleed if too much pressure is applied



There are conflicting views over which is more effective; water flosser or manual floss. There have been numerous clinical studies to show the efficacy of the water flosser over string floss. After a single use, the Waterpik water flosser was proven to be more effective at reducing plaque in the entire mouth vs. string floss. Other studies reveal they are up to 51% more effective in reducing gingivitis and twice as effective at reducing gingival bleeding. The proof is out there. In addition to brushing which cleans the visible surface of the teeth, water flossing is an effective, easy option.

However, some would still argue that string floss has a more effective scraping motion over the surface of the teeth rather than a rinsing motion. Manual flossing can be effective as well if it is done properly. It may sound simple to use string floss, but many mistakes can be made.


When it comes to cost alone, manual floss is the ideal choice. While manual floss should cost less then $5 per package, the upfront price of a water flosser can range greatly, but usually in the double digits. Water flosser tips are an additional cost and should be replaced every 3 to 6 months. Water flossers require either battery or electrical power which is also an additional cost.

Space Required

String floss takes up a very small amount of space in comparison to a water flosser, whether it be a countertop or portable model.


Many find it a challenging, daunting task to properly floss with regular string floss. It seems as though patients will find any reason to avoid it. More than one third of Americans would rather partake in other unpleasant activities over flossing.

Using a water flosser is fairly simple and especially great for orthodontic patients as it is proven to be 3 x more effective for those with fixed appliances. The job can be completed in under 1 minute.

Can a Water Flosser Replace String Floss?

Regular floss and water flossers are meant to do the same job: remove plaque and debris from in between the teeth where a toothbrush cannot reach. Therefore you could say that a water flosser can replace string floss. A combination of brushing and flossing is an important part of our daily oral care routine.

The Verdict

Based on the clinical research carried out by The National Center for Biotechnology on the efficacy of Waterpik water flossers, we believe that if using a water flosser increases compliance from patients, then it is a suitable choice over manual flossing. Although string floss is cheaper and takes up less space, efficacy and compliance are the most important considerations when looking at a water flosser vs string floss. Using a water flosser to remove plaque and debris is simple and results can be achieved in under a minute per day.






Aurora is the lead editor here at pearlywhytes.com. She is one of those people who actually likes going to the dentist. She loves to write about anything health related, but oral health is her most passionate topic. Her free time is spent partaking in family activities and experimenting in the kitchen.

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