What is an Electric Flosser?

Laura A.

An electric flosser is a battery-operated device that cleans between the teeth. This dental tool contains a floss-like string that is vibrated rapidly between the teeth to eliminate some of the manual work required during flossing. It’s similar in theory to an electric toothbrush and is designed to make flossing easier for people who have trouble with traditional flossing.

Good dental hygiene is crucial for maintaining a healthy smile.
Good dental hygiene is crucial for maintaining a healthy smile.

Dentists cannot overstate the importance of flossing, yet many of them report that the vast majority of their patients do not undertake this vital dental task on a regular basis. Flossing entails inserting a string between the teeth and moving it back and forth to swipe away the plaque or other material that naturally collects there. Neglecting to floss can lead to the buildup of plaque and eventually a serious gum disease known as gingivitis. Flossing daily is the best way to avoid these complications.

Flossing may help prevent gingivitis.
Flossing may help prevent gingivitis.

Many people do not floss at all, and others do not floss effectively. An electric flosser can help people to clean plaque between the teeth more efficiently because of the vibrating action it creates. This means that the floss passes over the teeth more times than it would during manual flossing, thus removing more buildup. It also reaches below the gum line and stimulates the gums more than traditional flossing. Gum stimulation can help prevent and even reverse periodontal diseases such as gingivitis.

The reason that some people are averse to regular flossing is because they have trouble executing proper technique. For many people, wrapping the floss around the fingers can be irritating or painful because it slightly restricts circulation. An electric flosser eliminates the need to wind floss around the fingers.

Other people have trouble reaching in between the teeth, particularly in the back of the mouth. An electric flosser can reach in between the back teeth more easily than hands and fingers can. In fact, most models of electric flossers can be operated using just one hand. These devices also are designed to slide in between tightly packed teeth with ease.

Most electric flossers come with replaceable tips. Some also offer a dental pick tip for removing food stuck between the teeth. Hygiene is very important when it comes to dental tools, so the tip should either be replaced or cleaned thoroughly after each use.

Some varieties offer similar characteristics to string floss, such as whitening ability or a mint flavor. Not all models will work for people who have braces on their teeth. People with braces should look for an electric flosser specifically designed to be compatible with orthodontic devices.

Not all models of electric flosser work for people who have braces on their teeth.
Not all models of electric flosser work for people who have braces on their teeth.

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Discussion Comments


If you are considering a power flosser but it seems like overkill, there are other options to make flossing easier and don't involve wrapping the floss around your fingers (ouch). Apparently, a lot of men in particular have trouble with flossing because they have larger fingers.

I'm hooked on my Reach Access flosser. It's basically a toothbrush-type handle with a replaceable flossing head. You get a much better angle than with those disposable flossers that you can buy.

Now, I guess you don't get the extra gum stimulation that you would with an electric flosser, but if you don't really need it (that is, you don't have gum disease) and you've been avoiding flossing, then the Access could be the thing. My dental hygienist recommended it to me.

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