The oral irrigator – a practical helper for dental care

Proper teeth cleaning is essential for good dental health. An oral irrigator can be a useful helper, especially for cleaning the spaces between your teeth. So does an oral irrigator replace dental floss? And what should be considered when using and cleaning oral irrigators? Here you will find tips about the function and handling of oral irrigators.

Why thorough dental care is important

When it comes to dental care  , attention is often  paid to exposed tooth surfaces. However, cleaning the spaces between the teeth is at least as important, since these areas make up around 30 percent of the entire tooth surface. Plaque  can form there as well as on the surfaces of the teeth.

Throughout the day, food particles collect between the teeth. Since normal  brushing  often does not reach all areas of the tooth, bacteria can often multiply unnoticed in the spaces between the teeth. This can lead to  inflammation  of the gums and tooth decay.

Oral irrigators for cleaning the interdental spaces

When it comes to thorough cleaning between your teeth, it makes no difference whether you use a regular toothbrush or an electric  toothbrush  .

Dental floss  is therefore helpful when cleaning narrow spaces between the  teeth. Interdental brushes can be used for slightly larger  gaps  .

In addition to these tooth cleaning  methods, oral irrigators  can be used, which are particularly helpful in certain situations.

What is an oral irrigator?

Oral irrigators are used as an aid in daily oral hygiene to quickly and easily remove leftover food and loose plaque from teeth and interdental spaces using a water jet.

Oral irrigators do not replace the use of a toothbrush, but unlike dental floss they can also  reach difficult places,  for example under bridges or implants.

What does an oral irrigator do?

The regular use of an oral irrigator in addition to tooth cleaning with a toothbrush should offer the following advantages:

  • Disposal of leftovers
  • Reduction of  bad breath
  • Prophylaxis and, if necessary, even alleviation of  gingivitis
  • Flushing of hard-to-reach areas in people with implants or bridges
  • Cleaning of teeth and interdental spaces in people with fixed  braces  or dentures
  • Alternative to dental floss for the elderly and people with restricted mobility
  • less application time than dental floss
  • general improvement in oral and dental hygiene

Studies suggest that using an oral irrigator as a complement to brushing your teeth can be effective in counteracting gingivitis.

What types of oral irrigator are there?

There are different types of oral irrigators available:

  1. An oral irrigator that is connected directly to the tap  with a hose  does not require a water tank and therefore has no problems with bacterial growth in the water tank – in contrast to stationary models. Such models are usually cheaper, but require close proximity to a (suitable) water tap.
  2. stationary electric oral irrigator  is often a little larger, usually has a removable water tank, but in some cases does not allow much flexibility due to the hose and the necessary proximity to a socket. For reasons of hygiene, the water tank should be cleaned regularly.
  3. In contrast, a  mobile oral  irrigator (travel oral irrigator) is operated either with a rechargeable battery or battery and has an integrated water tank, so that a cable and hose can be dispensed with. However, the water tank is smaller than in stationary models and also needs to be cleaned regularly.

Note the differences in the water jet

There are also differences with regard to the water jet: There are oral irrigators with a single water jet, which can rinse food residues from the interdental spaces in a targeted manner due to the bundling.

Devices with  a multi-beam  setting are also available, which have a massage effect on the gums and thus prevent gingivitis.

In many models, the strength of the water jet can be regulated, and there are also variants with a pulsating or rotating jet.

accessories and accessories

In addition, some oral irrigators allow certain antibacterial additives to be mixed into the water and thus precisely introduced into the periodontal pockets.

Furthermore, various attachment nozzles are often included in the accessories or are available separately, for example for wearers of fixed braces.

Which is the best oral irrigator?

A large number of different oral irrigators are now available. In addition to well-known brands such as Braun® (Oral-B®), Panasonic® or Philips®, oral irrigators are also available from lesser-known suppliers such as Waterpik®. In a study, larger standing devices performed better in comparison.

Each oral irrigator has different properties. Which type of device you choose as a user depends crucially on the result you want to achieve and which type of oral irrigator is best suited for the application.

Due to the constantly growing number of offers, you should first compare current test results before buying or carry out a test yourself, for example at the dentist.

How do I use an oral irrigator?

The handling of an oral irrigator is uncomplicated. If you are using an oral irrigator for the first time or if you have sensitive gums, you should  ensure that the water jet is initially set to a low pressure  to avoid injuring your gums. If you already know how to use an oral irrigator, the water jet can be increased to a medium pressure range if the gums are healthy.

During use, the water jet must be aimed away from the gums in the direction of the tooth crown as far as possible in order to remove plaque. You can then direct the water jet in the direction of the gum pockets so that further deposits are washed out there. With high-quality oral irrigators, you can choose between a cleaning or massage mode.

The duration of the cleaning process can be monitored using a timer   in order to avoid overstraining the gums.

How often should you use an oral irrigator?

The oral irrigator should be used daily in the morning and evening before or better after brushing your teeth. But you can also use the oral irrigator in between, for example to remove annoying leftovers.

How do I clean my oral irrigator?

Note the following tips for hygienic cleaning of your oral irrigator:

  • After each use, oral irrigators should be rinsed with hot water and dried with a cloth to avoid limescale build-up.
  • The device must be disinfected at regular intervals to prevent bacteria, viruses or other germs from multiplying in the nozzle or hose.
  • A simple mouthwash solution can be used to help clean the mouthpiece or handpiece. In the case of stationary oral irrigators, it is recommended to fill the cleaning solution directly into the water tank. The cleaning agent can then be rinsed out again through the hose.
  • Models with a water tank should be cleaned regularly – ideally at high temperatures in the dishwasher.

Which is better: oral irrigator or dental floss?

You can use dental floss or just an oral irrigator to get rid of food debris stuck in your teeth. Dental floss is often perceived as cumbersome and time-consuming to use. The oral irrigator is therefore popular as a quick and convenient alternative for “dental floss muffles”. However, unlike using an oral irrigator, using dental floss does not entail any cleaning effort.

The oral irrigator can also be an alternative to dental floss in the following cases:

  • If  the teeth are wide apart  , the oral irrigator is more suitable than dental floss.
  •  An oral irrigator is therefore an important means of cleaning teeth , especially for people who wear  fixed braces  or  dentures and who can hardly reach the teeth and interdental spaces with a toothbrush and dental floss.
  • The use of an oral irrigator is also advisable for  bridges or implants  , since the hard-to-reach spaces under crowns and dentures can be rinsed through in a targeted manner.
  • Sometimes so-called tonsil stones (tonsil stones) form in the area of ​​the tonsils in the pharynx due to the deposit of food   residues, which lead to strong bad breath. The oral irrigator can help here by directing the water jet of the oral irrigator specifically at the pharynx and thereby rinsing out the tonsil stones.
  •  Careful use of an oral irrigator can also relieve symptoms and prevent gum disease in people with  gingivitis.
  • People with restricted mobility or  the elderly  who find it harder to floss can use an oral irrigator to minimize the risk of dental disease.

Basically, to clean teeth with healthy teeth, you should use a combination of an electric toothbrush with sonic or ultrasound, oral irrigator and dental floss in order to achieve the best possible cleaning result.

For whom is an oral irrigator unsuitable?

In the case of acute inflammation of the gums, small injuries in the mouth or  periodontitis  , it is better to refrain from using an oral irrigator, otherwise things could get worse.

At best, the oral irrigator can be used carefully and with little pressure in such cases, for example to gently  massage the gums . Dental floss and interdental brushes are then more suitable for cleaning the spaces between the teeth.

People with an increased risk of  endocarditis  (inflammation of the inner wall of the heart), for example people with heart defects or artificial  heart valves , are generally advised not to use oral irrigators. Because there is a risk that the endocarditis pathogens will be carried out of the oral cavity and into the bloodstream through the oral irrigator.

Conclusion: Does an oral irrigator make sense – yes or no?

Oral irrigators are useful when used correctly and can be used in addition to toothbrushes. Purchasing an oral irrigator is recommended, especially if you rarely use dental floss or if it is not possible to use it so that you cannot regularly clean the spaces between your teeth.

Oral and dental hygiene can be significantly improved through regular use of an oral irrigator. However, under no circumstances should the oral irrigator replace the toothbrush – and in the best case scenario, dental floss as well.

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