The Oral Irrigator: Sixty Years of History and How It Helps Your Oral Health

The key element for good oral health is good and consistent habits. It’s why smart oral hygiene campaigns start by targeting children when they are in elementary-school age. Forming good habits early goes a long way. Brushing well one day a week won’t do a whole lot. Brushing effectively every day will prove the best defense against cavities, gingivitis, and other oral health problems. 

As innovation and technology improve, there is room for the advancement of dental tools and treatments to help people maintain these good habits. In recent years, renewed interest in this battery-powered apparatus has created a brimming market for a small apparatus that has shown considerable benefits for those who use it. 

What is an Oral Irrigator? 

You’ve likely seen these water-shooting devices before. In recent years, they have increased in popularity. Also called a dental water jet, water flosser, or water pic, this small device uses pressurized water for oral hygiene.  Most water irrigators today consist of a rechargeable battery or electric component with a motor. They have a small compartment that is filled with water and once turned on, the motor will cause a pulsating motion and jet out water in rhythmic pulses. The device will create a jet-stream of pressurized water that knocks off food particles and plaque. The pulsations are a big part of the effectiveness of the device because it creates a compression and decompression phase. 

The Start of This Hand-Held Action-Packed Plaque Fighter

The Waterpik oral irrigator was introduced in 1962 as a homecare health device. It was designed to remove plaque, debris, and food particles. It was originally designed by a dentist in Colorado experimenting with ways to improve his patient’s oral health and enlisted the help of a hydraulic engineer. 

Over the years, many studies have been conducted in an effort to observe and document the efficacy, safety, and outcome of using the water flosser. 

The Effects of the Oral Irrigator on Plaque

A study conducted in 1971 reported a considerable reduction in the accumulation of plaque. Other studies have reported similar findings of at least 50% of the water-flosser group. These studies were done with patients that suffered from gingivitis, periodontitis, orthodontic appliances, and diabetes. Many early dental experts were concerned that the water pressure might actually push back bacteria into the periodontal pocket and into the bloodstream, increasing the risk of infection. Research shows, however, that this is not the case. On the contrary, studies have shown the reduction of bacteria with consistent use. 

How Does the Oral Irrigator Work? 

The idea behind the device is to reduce harmful bacteria and help combat periodontal disease. Using this small device has proven to help against gingivitis, reduce bleeding, and other pathogens. The pulsating effect of the device helps knock off the bacteria in the hard-to-reach areas of the gumline. 

Gingivitis and the Importance of Keeping it at Bay

This is a commonly seen form of gum disease. It refers to inflammation of the gums. When gingivitis goes untreated for a long time, it can lead to tooth decay, tooth loss, and other complications. According to the American Dental Association, Gingivitis and periodontitis are common causes of tooth loss in adults. Gingivitis is characterized by puffy and swollen gums or those that bleed easily. A water flosser or oral irrigator, of course, is not a substitute for regular brushing and flossing.

Who Should Use an Oral Irrigator?

An oral irrigator can be recommended to you by your dentist or orthodontist. 

  • People with braces: If you wear braces, it can be an effective way to get food out from between the braces.  It can be a great way to supplement regular dental hygiene. Studies performed on adolescents showed that the regular and proper use of an oral irrigator helped to reduce plaque and bleeding over 4 weeks. 
  • Other patients including people with diabetes—who are more susceptible to periodontal disease— can greatly benefit from adding an oral irrigator to their daily dental hygiene routine. 
  • Patients with gingivitis: People with varying degrees of gingivitis may see relief from symptoms with proper and careful use. 
  • Patients that are prone to gum disease or tooth decay or those with dental implants, crowns, and more. 

First Things First, Visit Your Dentist Regularly 

While there is good evidence that shows oral irrigators can be great supplements to regular dental hygiene, taking care of your teeth should begin with proper tooth-brushing and regular visits to your dentist. Your dentist will let you know the state of your teeth and gums to guide you towards a better self-care routine. Our dental experts will help you understand any issues, pain, or discomfort you may be feeling or help you avoid it as much as possible by learning good dental habits.  

Come by Lee Trevino Dental today for your dental check-up and find out more about good dental hygiene!


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