The best water flossers can reach deep between the teeth and below the gum line to remove plaque, bacteria and food debris that a toothbrush alone can’t reach. These electronic devices use powerful streams of pressurized water to replicate traditional flossing methods, such as dental floss or dental picks.
For those with braces or orthodontic work, water flossers can be particularly useful, targeting hard to reach areas that traditional flossing methods struggle to get to. The result? More effective plaque removal and a brighter smile.
Most of the best water flossers come with an array of nozzles, designed for people with crowns, implants or periodontal pockets — spaces that open up around the teeth and below the gum line that can become filled with bacteria. Some even offer tongue scrapers to give you that whole-mouth clean feeling.
At Live Science, we’ve tested a number of water flossers, from countertop devices that offer a generous water reservoir to portable cordless water flossers that you can take on trips. Scroll down for our roundup. To help you achieve an even deeper clean, we’ve tested some of the best electric toothbrushes too.
Best water flossers
The Waterpik Ultra Water Flosser features no fewer than 10 pressure settings to help remove up to 99.9% of plaque from the teeth. Perfect for people with braces, crowns, implants, periodontal pockets or bridges, and those who value good oral hygiene, it plugs into a shaver socket to offer continuous charge. The flosser itself is connected to the water reservoir by a lead which springs tidily back into place when you're done flossing.
Waterpik is just one of two water flosser brands approved by the American Dental Association. This means it has been tested and found to be safe and effective at removing plaque and reducing gingivitis.
The Waterpik Ultra Water Flosser offers six separate attachments for flossing, including a Classic Jet Tip and a Toothbrush Tip to allow you to brush as you floss. All these can be stored safely and hygienically in the flip-top lid at the top of the water reservoir.
The manufacturers say the Waterpik Ultra Water Flosser is 15% more powerful than previous models, while the generous water reservoir offers 90 seconds of continuous flossing. It was by far the easiest water flosser we've tested to fill and wipe clean after use, and the 90 seconds of tank capacity makes it easy to floss the whole mouth without needing to refill it.
However, the Waterpik Ultra Water Flosser won't suit every bathroom. It needs to be plugged in to operate, and not all bathrooms have a shaving socket or a shelf close enough to the basin for comfortable flossing. Those who prefer to floss in the shower will need to look for a cordless version instead.
Users love their Waterpik Ultra Water Flossers, with 4.6 stars out of five on the Waterpik website. Many say their dentists or hygienists have recommended this model to them, and they're delighted with the clean feeling they get after flossing. Negative reviews focus on the fact that just one set of attachments is included, which means an extra outlay if more than one person wants to use the flosser.
- Read our full Waterpik Ultra Water Flosser review (opens in new tab)
The unusual design of the cordless Oclean W10 Water Flosser sets it apart from many of its rivals. It includes a thick strap along the length of the unit to allow for a better grip during use. A tactile button is easy to locate while flossing if you want to change the pressure settings too.
The lithium-ion battery lasts up to a month if used once daily and recharges in around four hours using a USB connection, making this a perfect option for traveling.
This water flosser comes with four attachment nozzles, including a standard nozzle, one for periodontal pockets, one for braces and a tongue-scraping nozzle. It also includes five pressure settings ranging from gentle to intensive.
During our at-home testing, we found the water tank ran out fairly quickly during flossing, especially using the intensive mode. However, the tank was easy to refill via the plug located at the top of the flosser. It also includes a quad-pacer to remind you to switch positions and a two-minute timer to ensure you do a thorough job.
The Oclean W10 Water Flosser has garnered a very respectable four stars out of five on Amazon, with 60% of happy customers giving it the full five stars. They enjoy the easy grip with the leather strap, the long battery life and the ability to charge it via a USB. However, many users say they find the reservoir too small, having to refill multiple times during a flossing session.
- Read our full Oclean W10 Water Flosser review
The Spotlight Oral Care Water Flosser uses a combination of water pressure and pulsations to remove bacteria and plaque from below the gum line and deep between the teeth. It features three pressure settings (normal, soft and pulse) that are adjusted using the single button at the front of the handle.
It comes with a handy USB charger and takes around six hours to reach a full charge, for which you'll get approximately 30 minutes of flossing. It also includes a tongue scraper, a periodontal pocket sprinkler, classic jet tip and orthodontic spray tip. The classic jet tip is excellent for general cleaning, while the orthodontic spray is designed for users with braces. Finally, the periodontal pocket sprinkler is suitable for inflamed gums or impacted teeth.
Unusually the small water reservoir is contained within the body of the handle instead of as a clip-on or screw-on reservoir, which was a little unnerving during our at-home testing. In addition, we found it tricky to fill, and you will need to refill several times if you want to enjoy a thorough floss. Our tester only got a few seconds of use on a high setting before having to refill.
It also took some time to get used to the fact that the reservoir compresses during flossing. However, the compact size of this water flosser makes it ideal for traveling.
Reviews are fairly positive, with 3.1 stars out of 5 on Amazon. Users say their teeth feel clean, and those with braces, crowns and bridges enjoy the orthodontic tip. However, negative reviews say it's too hard to fill the reservoir, and the capacity is too small for thorough cleaning without having to refill multiple times.
- Read our full Spotlight Oral Care Water Flosser review
The Waterpik Cordless Select features a waterproof design, USB magnetic charging and two pressure settings to give you a more affordable and mobile version of the classic countertop Waterpik flosser.
The cordless design is perfect if you're already a Waterpik fan but want something to take into the shower. It features fewer pressure settings and nozzle attachments than the countertop Waterpik, but we think that's more than enough for most flossers. Nozzles include a tip for braces and a plaque-seeker tip, while it also offers two classic tips — ideal if you're sharing your water flosser with a partner. We thought the jet tip was the most useful for getting into hard to reach places on the highest setting.
Two pressure settings (a low of 45 PSI and a high of 75 PSI) offer a gentle clean, or vigorous floss. However, the small water reservoir means you're more than likely to have to refill at least once during your flossing session. That's not unusual for cordless flossers, though.
A ridged wheel at the top of the unit makes it super easy to rotate any nozzle 360 degrees, even with wet hands. We also liked the grippy handle with bumps, so you're less at risk of dropping it if you do have wet hands.
With 4.5 stars out of five on Amazon, the Waterpik Cordless Select is popular with users. They praise how easy it is to use and say the battery holds its charge very well. They also like how quiet it is during operation. As one user puts it: "I wanted a water pick that I could pack when I travel, that was rechargeable, and that was a name brand. This one met them all." Negative reviews mention a lack of power, the small water reservoir, and the absence of a travel bag, which would have been a nice touch from Waterpik.
- Read our full Waterpik Cordless Select review (opens in new tab)
The Philips Sonicare Power Flosser 5000 uses an innovative X-shaped water stream (what Philips calls "Quad Stream") to deliver four wide streams of water through the teeth and along the gum line. It also features pulse wave technology that gently guides you from tooth to tooth, giving you a thorough clean that Philips says is up to 180% more effective for healthier gums.
The Philips Sonicare Power Flosser 5000 is also approved by the American Dental Association for being safe and effective at removing plaque and reducing gingivitis.
This water flosser includes two modes of cleaning: Clean and Deep Clean. However, within each mode you can select from 10 pressure settings to adjust the pressure's intensity to your comfort and sensitivity. It includes just two nozzles, fewer than most countertop water flossers: a standard flosser and a Quad Stream nozzle. If two or more of your household want to benefit from the Quad Stream cleaning, you'll have to purchase extra nozzles.
While the 18.6oz reservoir is generous, you'll need to remove the entire lid to refill it, unlike many countertop water flossers that feature a hinged lid. There is also no handy place to store your nozzles when you're not using the flosser.
Like other countertop flossers, this offering from Philips will only suit households with a shelf and a socket close to their bathroom basin. The handle secures to the unit with a magnetic dock, which is a nice touch and automatically switches from pause to off when docked.
With hundreds of ratings on Amazon and 4.5 stars out of five, this is a popular water flosser with users. They enjoy how quiet it is during operation, the adjustable intensities and how powerfully it works to clean teeth thoroughly. One user said: "Reliable, easy to use and part of my daily routine." Negative reviews mention the lack of extra nozzles and the fact that there's nowhere to store them, while others say the unit takes up a lot of space on their shelves or countertops.
- Editor's note: This item is currently in the process of being reviewed. Once it has been tested, this guide will be updated accordingly.
The Oral-B Water Flosser Advanced uses unique Oxyjet Technology to give your teeth a deep clean. Tiny microbubbles of air are added to help eliminate plaque and bacteria while you can set the intensity of each of the three cleaning modes to sensitive, medium or intense. The cleaning modes include Multi-Jet for all-round cleaning, Focused for targeted cleaning and Rotational for gum massage. An On-Demand mode, while not a specific cleaning mode, gives you greater control over the water stream too — great for users who hate the messiness of many water flossers.
It also includes two nozzles: an Aquafloss nozzle and a Precision Jet nozzle for really deep cleaning.
This cordless water flosser doesn't specify how much flossing time you get out of a single charge, but user reviews suggest it holds its charge well. The water reservoir is fairly small but easy to access and refill from the faucet.
The Oral-B Water Flosser Advanced gets excellent reviews on Amazon, scoring four out of five stars. Users praise how effective it is at cleaning teeth and gums and how easy it is to use, with one happy reviewer remarking: "This is simply wonderful. I never imagined a powered water flosser to work so well." However, more critical reviews say they must refill the reservoir quite a few times to get a thorough floss.
- Editor's note: This item is currently in the process of being reviewed. Once it has been tested, this guide will be updated accordingly.
How do we test water flossers at Live Science?
During our at-home testing, the Live Science team uses the same protocol to test each water flosser. This includes using the water flosser on each of its pressure settings, trying out each nozzle to note any differences in performance or intensity, and checking battery duration. We also assess the design of each water flosser, how easy it is to use, and how easy it is to clean. All of this is taking into consideration to award each product a score out of a possible five stars.
Are water flossers effective?
Although independent clinical research into water flossers is still in its infancy, early results show water flossing can be just as effective as regular flossing in removing plaque.
A randomized controlled trial in the Saudi Dental Journal (opens in new tab) looked at how efficient a water flosser was compared to regular flossing. After just one use of each, they found that water flossers were as efficient as regular floss in removing interdental plaque. As a result, they concluded that water flossing could be recommended for people who struggle with regular flossing, either because of the manual dexterity it requires or because they have dental work, such as braces, bridges or implants.
Similarly, a study in the International Journal of Dentistry (opens in new tab) compared dental floss with a water flosser in patients undergoing orthodontic treatment. They found that the water flosser was as effective as the dental floss overall, but it was also more effective than the dental floss at removing plaque from the molars.
Not flossing at all carries a higher risk of oral hygiene problems, including gum inflammation and disease. A study in Compendium (opens in new tab) compared a group of people who only brushed their teeth with another group who brushed their teeth and used a water flosser. The group who added water flossing to their dental hygiene routine had significantly improved gum health after just four weeks.
Given the evidence, water flossers appear to be effective at improving oral hygiene and lowering the risk of gum disease.
Can a water flosser replace flossing?
If you find regular flossing uncomfortable or hard to manage, or if you have dental work that makes it difficult to carry out regular flossing, there's no reason why you can't try a water flosser instead.
In fact, the American Dental Association (opens in new tab) (ADA) says water flossing can be a great option for people who have trouble flossing by hand, such as people with braces, or permanent or fixed bridges.
However, while approving certain water flosser brands for removing plaque, it's worth noting that the ADA has yet to state that a water flosser is more effective than regular flossing.
If you're not sure whether to opt for a water flosser over your regular dental floss, talk to your dentist or dental hygienist. They may recommend a water flosser if they think you're more likely to use it daily. As we all know, regular flossing, rather than the style of flossing, is more important to good oral hygiene.