It's fairly easy to find an affordable, high-quality oral irrigator these days. Since price is not a major factor, this review focuses on oral irrigators that efficiently cover a broad spectrum of consumer requirements.
Each of our five finalists could be the right answer to just about any individual's gum health and dental hygiene needs.
We do not accept products directly from manufacturers for our reviews; we use our own funds to purchase the same “off-the-shelf” products that you do. And when we've finished our testing and consumer reviews, we donate all these products to charities and other non-profit organizations.
Our picks are:
All oral irrigators use carefully controlled jets of water to clean in and around the teeth and gums, but you might be surprised at the number of different ways this is achieved.
In this part of the ratings, we look at the benefits that modern design and electronics can bring. Some of our finalists are relatively simplistic; others offer a multitude of options.
The fact that a gadget is clever and/or scientifically advanced doesn't guarantee that it's easy or pleasant to use. The latter is vital because if you don't like using it, you're likely to skip an important health routine. Owner feedback is invaluable in this part of our ratings.
Although none of these oral irrigators (or "water flossers," if you prefer) will break the bank, there is still quite a difference between our least and most expensive items. In this section of our ratings, we help you determine whether paying more really does get you a better product.
Denise has a background in healthcare and physical therapy. She also has the unique experience of raising three boys. Through the years, she has coached her sons and many of their friends through their share of childhood health problems and accidents. When not helping others recover from their injuries, you may find Denise working in her garden or reading.
There seems to be no middle ground with the Profloss 4190 Waterflosser; people love it or hate it. Its basic construction is a good example. All you do with this oral irrigator is attach it to your faucet. Some owners thought it a brilliantly simple idea, but others couldn't get it to fit anywhere in their home. You need either a male 55/64-inch or female 15/16-inch thread to fit this waterflosser — or an adapter, which you'd have to buy separately. We think that's pretty clear, and we have to wonder if the people who complained about the product didn't read the directions thoroughly.
Relative simplicity is an attractive feature of the Panasonic Water Flosser EW-DJ10-A. It's powered by a small, battery-operated electric motor and has its own integrated water reservoir, making it completely portable. How much of an advantage this is will depend on how much water you use. The tank holds 165 ml (about 5.5 ounces). Many owners thought this was fine, but a few complained that they had to refill it too often. It takes two AA batteries to power it (which are not supplied). There's no charging function in the Panasonic Water Flosser, and rechargeable batteries are not recommended, so it is not the most environmentally conscious solution.
Like the Panasonic, the ToiletTree Products Oral Irrigator also has an integrated water tank. The tank is moulded stylishly into the rear of the unit; slight ridges make it easy to grip. In the past, customers lodged two common complaints about this model: the batteries didn't hold charge long enough, and the tank was difficult to fill. However, the manufacturer has attended to both of these concerns by incorporating lithium-ion batteries and a wider tank opening into the package. Tank capacity is still on the small side, and it attracts some of the same criticisms as the Panasonic.
Given that the Philips Sonicare Airfloss Rechargeable Electric Flosser employs the same idea as the Panasonic and ToiletTree oral irrigators, it's not surprising that customers make similar complaints about water capacity. Philips claims it's sufficient for a 30-second oral hygiene routine, but clearly many owners take longer, and the need to fill it twice or three times is often quoted. It's a sleek unit, and many owners choose it for its slender design, the small amount of space it consumes, and the good reputation of the Philips name.
Waterpik is arguably the biggest name in oral irrigators and this model, the Waterpik Aquarius Water Flosser, definitely impresses visually. It is quite a big unit — a characteristic that is not popular with everyone — and it sports on-board storage for a couple of piks (tips) and a reservoir that will run for 90 seconds between refills. (This lengthy time means that users are unlikely to run out of water too soon!) Some owners suggest that the water pipe between the reservoir and flossing unit is a bit restrictive, and the unit does have to be plugged into an outlet to work. However, as an electrically powered unit, it's never low on charge.
You might think that you wouldn't get much in the way of features on a budget-priced water flosser like the Profloss 4190, but in some ways, the lack of "extras" is a feature in itself. There are no reservoir problems, no difficulty charging, no mains cable to find an outlet for — all you have to do is attach it to your sink. Pressure is controlled by how far you open your faucet and then further regulated by a four-stage control knob on the unit itself.
If you're looking for portability, the Panasonic Water Flosser is just about unbeatable. The ToiletTree and Philips are both relatively good, but the Panasonic is self-contained in a much more complete sense. Both of these parts slide into the empty water reservoir and, as a result, are half the normal height. This is especially ideal for those who travel frequently and want to save space. With just two speeds, the Panasonic doesn't have quite the pressure regulation of the Profloss, but it is does have a pulse function that operates at a rate of 1,600 pulses per minute.
ToiletTree may not be a brand that's as widely recognized as some, but they've certainly put some thought into their Oral Irrigator. There's a choice of colors (bright white or midnight black), the construction is BPA free, and the unit itself has earned FDA approval. Rather than operating at different "speeds," this model offers three different "modes": Normal, Soft, and Pulse. There's also a release button for the pik; this feature was apparently added to the product in response to owner comments about the previous version being difficult to remove. It's a thoughtful addition, though most competitors make do with "push and pull" fitting (like you find on electric toothbrushes). One very useful feature for travelers is the ToiletTree's universal voltage, which means you can take it just about anywhere.
Perhaps surprisingly, it's the Philips Sonicare Flosser that is short on features (rather than the Profloss and Panasonic, both of which cost far less). In their advertising, Philips presents this simplicity a benefit: just fill, point, and clean. The manufacturer also focuses on "microburst' technology" — a fine mix of air and "micro" droplets of water — and emphasizes how much better an oral irrigator is than brushing alone. That may be true, but that hardly sets them apart from their competitors, all of whom are justified in making similar claims.
The Waterpik Aquarius Water Flosser provides an impressive list of functions to help owners attain the "perfect clean." Water pressure is regulated by a rotating knob with ten increments. Users enjoy two-step "pulse modulation" technology; one step is for flossing, and the other is for gum massage (to improve circulation). There's an on/off button for water flow on the hand unit and another on/off button for the pump on the base of the device.
On the one hand, it's difficult to imagine what could be easier to use than the Profloss Waterflosser. You attach it to a faucet, turn it on, and floss. The flip side of that (as we've already mentioned) is many people's frustration with getting it to attach — and stay attached. Once again, owner feedback gives opposing views. Some people think it lacks the flexibility of others (which is true); some think it's a complete waste of time and money. The majority, however, think it does a great job of blasting food debris — which, after all, is the whole point. The Profloss comes supplied with two identical tips.
In a lot of ways, the Panasonic Oral Irrigator is as simple as the Profloss. Fill with water, choose one of two water flossing pressures, and away you go. Panasonic likes to focus on the EW-DJ10-A's fuss-free nature. It's 100 percent waterproof, washable, and compact for travel. In terms of how well it does its job, our research turned up mixed reports. Quite a few would have liked more pressure, and the appliance did decline as batteries aged. Unfortunately, the irrigator only comes with one tip, but extras are readily available.
Having established that the ToiletTree Flosser and Philips work in very similar ways, we need to look at owner feedback to see what kind of job each does of maintaining tooth and gum hygiene. Any model that's as popular as the ToiletTree is bound to attract its fair share of complaints, but in this part of our ratings, we're only looking at factors that relate to ease of cleaning. It seems that there are very few problems. Owners like the fact that the ToiletTree comes with two tips, each with a different colored band for easy identification. The frequency of water top-ups annoys some, and a couple of people said it sprays water all over the place — yet others would like more force. Overall, most owners are very pleased with the product, and many say that the ToiletTree has made improvements to their oral health that dentists and hygienists have noticed.
The Sonicare Electric Flosser only has one pressure and one kind of jet. The jet has a wider spray than some, and the manufacturer claims that the air and water combination does a better job than water alone. Owner reaction to this idea varies. The majority feel that it does a good job of cleaning out debris from the teech. Only one tip is provided.
With its larger-than-average reservoir and multiple settings, the Waterpik Aquarius provides a solution for every oral irrigating situation. This is reinforced by a large selection of pik tips: three "classic" jets, an "orthodontic" tip, a "pocket" tip, a "'plaque seeker" tip, and a toothbrush tip. (It's the only model on our shortlist that could actually replace your toothbrush!) The Waterpik Aquarius is extremely popular. Some owners feel that the tubing between the main unit and flossing handle gets in the way a bit, and some complained that they got water everywhere. (This seems to be a common issue with water flossers!) Overall, owners are very positive about the Waterpik Aquarius and would recommend it to others.
$18 is all you'll pay for the Profloss 4190 Waterflosser. Although it's quite a basic model, many owners find this to be an advantage. As long as you can attach it to a faucet (and if yours currently has an aerator attached, it should swap in just fine), you have an effective, variable-speed flossing tool. A few are critical about build quality, and it may not be as durable as some, but as numerous happy owners have pointed out, it's tough to beat the value.
At just $29 the Panasonic Water Flosser is a budget solution to your oral hygiene needs that gets particularly high ratings from owners. It's no surprise that low-cost items usually sell in high numbers but, on balance, you usually get plenty of complaints as well. From what our research has uncovered, that's not the case here. It's not perfect: some thought the pressure a little low, and a few didn't like the short life of the ordinary AA batteries. However, others love the fact that batteries for this device are easily accessible. In general, customers appreciate this irrigator's simple, compact nature.
The ToiletTree Oral Irrigator costs $39. While that's more than many of its competitors, this product has a lot of very satisfied owners —many of whom think it's worth the price. It's certainly designed well, but the sleek look is also cited by some as a bit of a drawback because water capacity is compromised. ToiletTree focuses on the improvements they've made in response to user feedback, and buyers who have had cause to contact the company said support was very good. On the down side, there appears to be a rare issue with charging that has rendered some units unusable.
We've already spoken about the similarities between the Philips Sonicare Flosser and the ToiletTree Oral Irrigator. At a cost of $151, the Philips' price is one of those similarities. In use, it shares many positives and negatives with the ToiletTree. The only real difference that owners have pointed out is that the ToiletTree comes with two nozzles whereas the Philips only includes one. Buying an extra will cost you upwards of $8, so any initial monetary savings may very well be lost. While it has plenty of fans, our research did turn up a fair number of consumers that weren't particularly satisfied with the Philips' component quality or, importantly, its efficiency.
A competitive price of $59 makes the Waterpik Aquarius Water Flosser something of a bargain. It's a handsome unit, and while some aren't keen on the amount of space it takes up, the Waterpik's larger size does mean that there's a good deal more room in the reservoir than in many others. Some owners have said that it's a little noisy, but complaints relating to operational faults are comparatively few. In general, it's a highly praised appliance — both for how well it cleans and for the value it represents.
Each of our finalists has a strong following, but the product that gets our Best of the Best oral irrigator award is the Waterpik Aquarius Water Flosser.
Waterpik has taken steps to address many people's criticisms of this kind of machine. It isn't too small; the water reservoir is large enough that you're not constantly refilling it. The generous base boasts a powerful and flexible motor, allowing users to take advantage of two modes and ten different pressure settings. A variety of piks is included with the package so that different hygiene tasks may be easily undertaken. Implants and braces have been specifically addressed by this product. Finally, Waterpik is confident enough in their product to offer a 14-day "money back" guarantee to anyone who isn't satisfied.
The Waterpik's all-round quality is underlined by the majority of owner comments. Not all feedback is positive; a few units have broken down, and not everyone is comfortable with the tube that stretches from the base unit to the handle. However, these negatives are vastly outweighed by those who tell us that tooth cleanliness and gum health are much improved with the use of their Waterpik Aquarius Water Flosser.
All of the oral irrigators on our shortlist represent good value, but the Best Bang for Your Buck on our shortlist is the Panasonic Water Flosser.
At just $59, you might expect the Panasonic Water Flosser to be a sub-par product in some way. However, that's not the case. The device, when not in use, is cleverly self contained: the pik lodges in the motor body, and the motor body slides into the empty reservoir section. This makes for an ideal portable flosser. The fact that the Panasonic operates on ordinary AA batteries means that you can take it just about anywhere in the world; there's no need to worry about varying voltage requirements or socket types. Not everyone likes the fact that the batteries aren't rechargeable, but some people find it to be a definite benefit.
The Panasonic Water Flosser's reservoir is relatively easy to fill, and while it doesn't have the constant flow of the Profloss — or the large reservoir of the Waterpik — it's on a par with the ToiletTree and Panasonic. Several owners have complained that it lacks power, but these folks are in the minority. Others complain that it sprays water everywhere. This comment could be made about most oral irrigators on the market today, and we don't see it as a flaw! What's surprising, particularly with a budget item like this, is the amount of positive feedback this item generates. Some owners argue that it's simply the best oral irrigator on the market today.