Last updated: August 12, 2021

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Today we will talk all about oral irrigator, the ally of dental hygiene that combines technology, practicality and efficiency. Whether sipping soup or enjoying popcorn, any food leaves residue in our mouths, trapped between our teeth or pressed between the protrusions of our gums.

With a directed water jet, the oral irrigator promises to make the elimination of these remains a faster and easier process. In this Guide, we will tell you everything you need to know about the product so you can choose the model when buying: the best units, the criteria to differentiate them, as well as objective information on how it works and its main benefits.




The most important facts

  • The oral irrigator does not replace dental floss or brushing. Its best performance is as a complement to these activities. Besides, it is recommended to consult a dentist before starting to use the product.
  • There are fixed or table models, with a larger volume reservoir, and the portable ones, with their own mini-reservoirs, without the need for a hose and with an internal battery.
  • Their price ranges start from £ 30, depending on the capacity of the reservoir, materials and technology used.

The Best Oral Irrigator: Our Picks

Oral Irrigator: Shopping Guide

Although many people do not know the importance of the oral irrigator and make use of it only in the dentist's office, this equipment is a great ally in oral health and better brushing. As the health of our mouth is a serious matter, we brought in this Buying Guide all the information you need to know about the product, to clarify which is the best type and the best model for you and your care.

Imagem mostra uma dentista atendendo um menino. Ela está com ambas as mãos delicadamente na boca do paciente.

Although beneficial, the use of oral irrigator should be consulted with a dentist. (Source: jarmoluk / Pixabay)

What is the oral irrigator?

The oral irrigator is a device created to assist the daily hygiene of the mouth, that is, the whole process of brushing and rinsing the teeth, gums and tongue that we should do every day. It operates by firing a pulsating jet of water, directed by a nozzle.

Through this jet, the device emits ultrasonic pulses, usually at a frequency of 1,200 to 1,600 per minute. These pulses vibrate plaques, germs and food remains - the three main targets of oral hygiene - and thus attack the adherence of these bodies to the teeth and gums. The pressure of the jet and the water itself do the rest of the work, carrying the leftovers until they are expelled from the mouth.

The irrigator was invented in the USA, in 1962, by the company now known as Waterpik. In the technological innovation fever of the 50s and 60s, the product was conceived as an electronic substitute for toothpicks and dental floss. It works between the teeth and below the gum line, the same as its two "competitors". Today, however, it is understood as a complement to dental floss and brushing.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of the oral irrigator?

The fact that the product is perceived as a complement says a lot about the nature of its advantages and disadvantages. This is because it offers comfort and efficiency in cleaning plaque, germs and debris and, to a certain extent, practicality.

However, it does not deliver a complete clean, not even without its area of action. In the scope of advantages, let's start with comfort. With the right pressure, the irrigator is as gum-friendly as a mouthwash, only a little stronger. Thus, it is very difficult to make small wounds, which can occur in incorrect flossing, for example.

Imagem mostra um close das cerdas de uma escova de dentes azul, com uma pasta cristalizada sobre elas. Ao fundo, o corpo da escova sob uma superfície azul.

The oral irrigator cleaning is more efficient as a complement to brushing. (Source: George Becker / Pexels)

This comfort leads us to another advantage, which is the "coverage" that it gives to people with teeth and / or delicate and sensitive gums, resulting from gingivitis, implants, crowns, even diabetes, to be aware. A study published in the prestigious American Journal of Orthodontics and another in the Journal of Dental Hygiene attest to the effectiveness of the product in these cases, as well as for braces users.

If we think of the flossing procedure - tooth by tooth, gap by gap - the irrigator is much more practical. Simply point, squeeze and clean.

This, however, can also be a disadvantage. Inside the mouth, the operation is quite easy, but to get there, not so much. To spray, the product obviously needs a water source - and therein lies the problem.

Whether the models have their own tank or use tap water, the process of making it possible to use it is not as practical as the use itself. Afterwards, the appliance is not 100% efficient in cleaning residues, especially the smallest ones between the teeth, on the gum line, as well as visible plaque. That is why its use does not exclude brushing and flossing.

Advantages
  • Comfortable and friendly to the mouth
  • Efficient for delicate and sensitive mouths
  • Quick cleaning
Disadvantages
  • "Only" a complement to hygiene
  • Inefficient against apparent plaque and minor residues
  • Process for impractical use

Oral irrigator with its own reservoir or external?

The reservoir of the irrigator is a crucial point of its functionality. For this very reason it is an aspect that generates variations in the product. There are those with their own reservoir, with tanks similar to those with filters, to serve drinking water even.

The ones used for irrigators, however, are much smaller. Most have a volume of 600 or 650 ml. This type, the most common, has the advantage of being "independent", and can be used wherever its owner wishes, as well as guaranteeing a good number of uses without the need to refill.

Imagem de mulher sorrindo.

The oral irrigator acts mainly between the teeth and below the gum line. (Source: ShaeShae / Pixabay)

On the other hand, there's no getting away from this refill, plus it's somewhat spacious - at least compared to the reservoir-less ones that attach to faucets. These don't need refilling and can offer jets as long as your home's water supply. On the other hand, they are less practical to use, as they need to be attached and detached from a tap each time.

Reservoir External source
Efficiency Medium: jets limited by volume High: uninterrupted jets
Practicality Medium: few refills Medium: attach and detach from the tap each time

Oral irrigator with or without hose?

Another aspect of the oral irrigator is the hose. Indispensable in most models is also who limits its practicality. The models that count with it are more efficient and durable, at least the quality ones. The hose, however, may be an inconvenience, either because of its size, its maintenance, that is, its correct use in order to extend its useful life, which is not usually the longest.

The units without the flexible tube do not have these problems. With their own mini-tank, the models are also portable. Their downside is the very limited use per tank filling, given the small capacity of their small size. There is also the burden of the battery, which needs to be changed or recharged periodically, like all portable source product.

Imagem mostra um irrigador oral com reservatório de água e mangueira.

The oral irrigator with a hose is more efficient but less practical. (Source: Konstantin Gushcha / 123RF)

Purchase criteria: Factors to compare different oral irrigator models

We will now bring some choice criteria, which are aspects of the product to pay attention to both when choosing the model and when completing the purchase.

  • Water pressure
  • Nozzle
  • Reservoir size
  • Compatibility: hose and battery

Now, we will detail each of these aspects, so that you arrive prepared to choose the ideal model for you.

Water pressure

For the sprinkler to work as a comfortable and efficient jet and, mainly, suitable to your taste and needs, it is necessary to pay attention to the water pressure. The most indicated is to have a model with adjustable pressure, or at least that has different intensity levels available for you to choose from. If neither of these is the case, avoid models with more than 50 PSI and always, let's remember, talk to a dentist, orthodontist or other specialist before you start using the product.

Nozzle

Another very important aspect of the irrigator is its nozzle. First of all, look for models whose nozzle has the best possible reach, with the possibility of turning and wider angles, as well as a material that is comfortable for your mouth.

Then, the larger the number of nozzles, the better. This way, your model will be more hygienic, because you can change the nozzle as soon as necessary; more durable, because its components are always as efficient as possible; or even shareable, for a family, to top it off. In this last case, it is best if the nozzles are coloured, so that nobody gets confused.

Tank size

It is necessary to pay attention to the water reservoir, if there is one. Its capacity varies from 200 ml to 1 litre for most models. This aspect is what will determine its use, between individual or shared; the place where it will be positioned, for its size; its efficiency, for the duration of the jet; and its practicality, for the intervals between refills, proportional to the volume of the reservoir.

Compatibility: hose and battery

Finally, it is recommended to pay attention to the compatibility of your chosen models with your use or with the place where it will be used.

In the case of the "fixed" ones, this attention falls mainly on the size of the hose and the plug wire, and they take into account the distance between the place where they will stay and the sink where they will be used.

For the portable ones, what you should pay attention to is the battery's power, that is, if its charge can hold enough for its intended use and if it fits the time you have available to charge it or even to change it.

(Featured image source: Daniel Frank from Pexels / Canva)

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