There is no denying that the Airfloss from Sonicare is an expensive alternative to regular floss, but the convenience and speed it can allow you to achieve an interdental clean is amazing.
If flossing really is your enemy, then you can now fight back with ease.
I like this a lot and it has won a place in my bathroom.
Many dental professionals would advise using floss or interdental brushes in preference to this, but all would rather you do something than nothing.
- Different modes
- Battery life
- Automatic power off
- Reservoir size
Consider these other flossers
My ultimate choice for a cordless water flosser today is the Waterpik Cordless Advanced WP-560.
It could be argued that the AirFloss isn’t a water flosser, so it isn’t a fair comparison, but they are similar.
The WP-560 is bulkier than the Ultra, it is messier than the Ultra too, but it feels like it is doing a more thorough job.
There are many different water flossers you could consider. But, one of the main appeals of the Airfloss Ultra is the portable nature and the convenience it gives to the process of interdental cleaning. It makes it feel effortless.
For a more detailed comparison of buying options, see our article on the best cordless water flossers.
Sonicare AirFloss Ultra in-depth review
If you are anything like me, the thought of flossing is one that just makes you sigh. It is one of those jobs you know has to be done when cleaning your teeth, but we would all rather do without it.
It takes time, can be fiddly and hurt. It is one of those necessary evils in life, or so it seems.
Whilst interdental brushes are the best tool to use, there is a place for the AirFloss, particularly if it encourages you to clean between the teeth when you would have otherwise skipped this.
What is the Philips Sonicare AirFloss Pro/Ultra?
A handheld device that contains a reservoir of water or mouthwash. When activated the AirFloss fires a small burst of air mixed with the water or mouthwash into the user’s mouth in between the teeth.
It is a bit like a water flosser, but it does not provide the more constant stream and volume of water that they do.
How does the Sonicare Airfloss work?
The mix of air and liquid fired in between teeth and along the gumline loosens and dislodges plaque, bacteria and residual food particles that normal brush cleaning might not manage to reach.
Where normal flossing relies on the floss to touch, grab and wipe away such, the AirFloss relies on the liquid and air combination to do this via the pressure at which it passes by and touches the teeth and gums.
How to use the Philips Sonicare AirFloss
It is very easy to use, there are just 3 simple steps.
Step 1: Fill
Use with water or a mouthwash like Philips Sonicare BreathRx.
Step 2: Point
Press the power button once to turn it on. Press it a 2nd or 3rd time to select 2 or 3 bursts, if desired.
Aim the nozzle tip in between the teeth. Hold down for continuous automatic bursts, or press and release for manual burst mode.
Step 3: Clean
Micro-droplets of air and liquid remove plaque between the interdental areas.
Variants of this water flosser
There is 1 version of the AirFloss Ultra.
It is white in colour and has model number HX8331/01.
Sonicare does offer in the USA a white and a black variant. Technically these are the same, aside from the colour differences and the fact that the US variant comes with an extra nozzle, bottle of BreathRX and holder for the nozzles.
There was previously another model of the AirFloss (non ultra variant). This appears as if it is being phased out and is no longer available. There are a few differences, notably, it doesn’t have as many modes and had a smaller water reservoir. I would go for the Pro over the original version.
It is also worth noting that the Ultra is sometimes referred to as the AirFloss Pro.
Please note: Black coloured AirFloss images used for illustration purposes.
What’s in the box?
- 1 x Philips Sonicare AirFloss Ultra handle
- 1 x AirFloss Ultra nozzles
- 1 x Charging stand
- Make cleaning between teeth easier
- Can improve gum health in just 2 weeks
- An entire clean takes less than 60 seconds
- Long battery life
- Automatic power off
Design, usability, clean & general use
The AirFloss Pro/Ultra feels somewhat of a strange product. It doesn’t conform to the typical cordless water flosser design and operation, so it is smaller and lighter in hand.
Yet, it feels quite big considering the small water tank that it has. But, one must remember packed inside the handle is the pump and all the components that make this unit work as effectively as it does.
The handpiece is about 1.5-2 times the depth of a regular toothbrush and a fraction wider.
It doesn’t feel as comfortable to hold. It certainly isn’t uncomfortable, you just don’t end up wrapping the hand around the unit in quite the way you might expect.
Generally, you can be assured of good product quality when buying a Philips. From most angles, it looks and feels well constructed and helps you justify the price.
The weakest point is certainly the reservoir door. The plastic door and hinge feel a little fragile. The fact that Philips sells replacement doors is perhaps a sign that they are vulnerable to wear.
I previously owned the original AirFloss and the door did fail on that, unfortunately.
I am not alone. Many others report similar issues online.
The AirFloss is perhaps a more unusual item to have to store in your bathroom, but it is not unsightly and could potentially share a charging stand with your Philips Sonicare electric toothbrush.
The main body of the flosser contains the rechargeable battery and the mechanics that allow the flosser to do what it does along with the reservoir for the water or mouthwash.
Using mouthwash is a more expensive option.
I am calling the front of the unit, the part of the AirFloss that sits directly under the nozzle.
This is free of any ports or controls, just the Sonicare logo in the upper half of the body. It is primarily smooth to the touch.
On the upper half of the left and right sides are a series of raised dots that create a textured surface to assist with grip. The lower half of the handpiece remains as smooth touch plastic with no additional gripping points.
The whole body of the AirFloss has a sweeping curve design to it and your hands are led to the back of the unit where you interact most with it.
At the very top is the trigger/function button that controls the flow of water that comes out of the nozzle. This is a clear/grey colour.
Below this is an opaque plastic door to the reservoir. It has a tap icon on it. This is hinged from the bottom. You can fill this up with water, mouthwash or a combination of both if you like.
It is quite a small reservoir You can get 2 uses from single and dual burst modes. It’s a bit touch and go to get 2 uses on the triple burst mode. I found I ran out of water on the last couple of teeth. It might sound daft, but because it is so small, it can be very easy to overfill the tank, if you are not paying attention. This results in water or mouthwash spilling out and over the handpiece.
This plastic door is very tight and forms a good seal on the unit. Although as I have mentioned, I know this is potentially a weak point.
Towards the bottom of the AirFloss is the power come mode button.
The button has a nice tactile feel and will not be activated very easily. There is a very subtle clicking sound when pressed.
A single press will turn the unit on, whilst additional presses will allow you to choose between the 3 different burst modes on here.
- Single burst
- Double burst
- Triple burst
Surrounding the button are icons and LEDs which illuminate based on the mode selected.
- Single burst: 1 LED
- Double burst: 2 LEDs
- Triple burst: 3 LEDs
Press and hold the button for approx 2 seconds to turn it off.
It will remember the last mode used. It doesn’t default to the single burst, which is good.
On the bottom of the unit is a recess into which the prong of the provided charging station fits. It does however sit upright on a countertop despite this.
Back to the top of the unit, where the activation/trigger button is, where you attach the replaceable nozzle.
There is only 1 style of nozzle and each is designed to be used for up to 6 months.
They simply push into and pull out of place. They fit snuggly and it makes a reassuring clicking sound when pushed into place.
When fitted, the nozzle stretches up and out from the AirFloss unit itself. Look at it side on and you will see the nozzle is angled. This is designed to help put the nozzle in the ideal position to complete the interdental clean.
Unlike Waterpik water flossers where the nozzles can be rotated, they cannot be on the AirFloss, it is fixed into place.
I can see the pros and cons, but in truth, I haven’t felt that I have missed out by not being able to rotate it.
All in all, I have found the orientation and use of the AirFloss to be straight forward.
I keep mentioning water flossers because the AirFloss is most similar to them. In reality, it is its own separate product category, but cordless water flossers are the closest comparable product.
Where a water flosser is generally offering a constant stream, the AirFloss is offering shorter bursts of water.
As the cleaning mode//burst modes imply you get a single, double or triple burst upon use, depending on what you select.
There are manual or automatic modes when using the AirFloss Pro.
With manual mode, you align the nozzle to the space, press the trigger button once and the mix of air and water is fired out.
You then move the nozzle and repeat.
With the automatic mode, you keep your finger on the trigger button. The AirFloss Ultra sends out 1, 2 or 3 bursts, subject to the mode selected, pauses for approximately 1 second then repeats this until you take your finger off the button.
The 1 second gap gives you enough time to move from 1 tooth to another.
You may start with the manual process, but switching to automatic is quicker and you soon find your rhythm.
With auto mode you can complete a cleaning in under 60 seconds.
It will take a few days to get used to using the AirFlosser. Firstly some may find it a little powerful and secondly getting the positioning right.
On my first few attempts, I managed to spray the mirror I was standing in front of with the spray that bounced back off my teeth, but you quickly get the hang of it.
It is quite interesting to see other people’s reactions for the first time when using it. Maybe show friends and family if you get one, just for a little laugh. It’s an odd sensation initially.
As you use it, wastewater is naturally collected in the mouth, just spit this out at the end. One of the benefits of AirFloss in comparison to the more traditional water flosser is the smaller volume of water means you don’t have to be constantly dribbling out into a sink.
You can complete a full clean with the Ultra and only have to expel the water once you have cleaned in between all the teeth, not as you go.
One fundamental difference with the AirFloss is that you are only cleaning in between the gaps of the teeth. This is known as the ‘interproximal’ area. This is the same space into which an interdental brush would fit.
Compared to a traditional water flosser, you can’t clean along the full gumline. The more constant stream and nozzle design of Watepik models allows for the water to be directed at the gumline along every tooth, rather than just in between the teeth. Although technically you could try it with the AirFloss it is not effective.
The AirFloss not only appeals to those who don’t like regular flossing, but it does to serve those who may struggle with regular techniques due to mobility issues. It is certainly a little less technique sensitive.
Another big draw here is that this device is really quite portable. Many water flossers are countertop units, rather than cordless. Although some great options exist. But, the AirFloss Pro is still smaller than most of these, making it more travel friendly.
It is much larger than a reel of string floss and it does not come with any form of travel case. It is unlikely to become activated, just be sure to drain the reservoir prior to travel. I would also advise disconnecting the nozzle.
The AirFloss Pro is suitable for almost any age. The size and the way this needs to be controlled is generally going to be used by adults, but I would suspect any child from about 8 years old would be perfectly fine with it.
There is just 1 type of nozzle, not multiple options like you get with most other water flossers. This helps keep things simple and easy to use. But, it does mean this is not ideally suited to some users. For example, those with advanced periodontal disease, and brace wearers might not benefit in quite the same way.
You get about 6 months from each nozzle, you do not need to replace it every 3 months as you do with a normal electric toothbrush head. The nozzles don’t wear out in the same way a brush head might. Many people will use them for longer than 6 months. Just be sure to clean it regularly and thoroughly if you wish to extend the usable life.
To spread the cost and benefits, you can share this with another user in your household. I would strongly suggest each user has their own nozzle. They are simple enough to replace, just pull off, and push back on.
Sadly there is no storage option for additional nozzles.
Despite writing about dental health products, I will hold my hands up and say I am not perfect with daily flossing. Certainly, I am better than average, but there are odd days I do miss.
Typically I will use a combination of interdental brushes and string floss. However, it is hard not to be impressed by the AirFloss. There is an unparalleled level of convenience and I am now using this almost daily. Most days I will floss at least twice a day. Once with this and then with my normal tools. It is even great for a quick freshen up of the mouth throughout the day.
Probably a psychological effect more than anything is my teeth feel cleaner after the AirFloss compared to normal flossing, but that could have been the ‘power’ of the jet making me think this.
It does not come cheap and this could be argued to be a bit of an over the top solution to regular string flossing. But, the big thing here is that you are more than likely to floss use this more regularly. It is more convenient.
Sonicare have results from testing that proves it is effective as floss, helps with gum health improvement, reduces plaque and gum bleeding.
Although clinically proven it is likely that your dentist or hygienist will have their preferred approach. But, I believe most would agree they would rather you do something than nothing at all.
Because I personally flossed regularly prior to using this, I noticed no sensitivity, bleeding or other side effects. For you, the experience could be different. Best to start with the single burst as you get used to it.
Sensitivity and a bit of bleeding are normal if you have not been cleaning between the teeth regularly. It is typically the sign of early stage gum disease. More often than not this is reversible. The bleeding should stop within 7-14 days. If it doesn’t, consult your dentist.
It is probably worth noting that the flosser is water resistant and is protected from splashes, but don’t go immersing it and keep the charging stand well away from water.
It does come with a 2 year warranty, which will cover you against manufacturing defects, should the worst happen. And unfortunately, it seems quite possible it will, please refer to the reliability section of this review. The warranty doesn’t cover accidental user damage.
Summary of design, usability, clean & general use
- A very convenient option to achieve interdental cleaning
- Can floss all teeth in as little as 60 seconds
- Grips on the unit for a secure hold
- 3 different burst modes
- LED’s to show which mode selected
- Manual and automatic setting for more controlled or quicker cleaning
- Good overall quality – reservoir lid weakest point
- Can use mouthwash, water or a combination
- Different colour options are available
- Nozzle to be replaced every 6 months
When you first use an AirFloss Ultra you need to charge it for 24 hours.
It comes provided with its own charging stand. It is the same as that provided with a Sonicare electric toothbrush. Therefore if you already have a Sonicare brush you can share 1 charging station for 2 devices.
The charging stand itself is white or black in colour depending on which variant you chose. It has a single prong which the flosser sits on and conducts the charge through.
When on the stand, it is fairly secure.
The charger supports 100-240v and the 2 pin power cable is hardwired into the stand.
The LEDs around the power button indicate the remaining power in the battery.
- 1 green LED – 33% charged
- 2 green LEDs – 66% charged
- 3 green LEDs – 100% charged
When it is fully charged, AirFloss Ultra has an operating time of up to 11 days when it is used in triple burst mode and up to 33 days when it is used in single burst mode. This assumes use just once a day.
Therefore the exact usage time will depend on the modes you use.
It would be nice if the battery lasted longer, particularly on the triple burst mode. But, given it is delivering 3 times the bursts, it isn’t all that surprising it lasts about a third of the time.
If the AirFloss Ultra is turned on, but not used, the automatic power off feature will kick in to conserve power, turning it off after 1 minute of inactivity.
When depleted or needing a charge (less than 3 uses left), the LED flashes yellow.
Similar to Sonicare brushes, this uses a Lithium-Ion battery.
Summary of battery life
- Rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery built-in
- Anything from 11 to 33 days of use subject to the mode used
- Takes up to 24 hours to fully charge
- Charging stand included in the box
- 1 green LED – 33% charged
- 2 green LEDs – 66% charged
- 3 green LEDs – 100% charged
- Automatic power turns off after 1 minute of inactivity
Price & where to buy
I have included links to buying options here at the start of the review.
In the section below, I discuss the price more generally and in relation to similar products.
The recommended retail price is CDN $99.99.
Make no mistakes about it, this is not cheap.
Regular string floss is considerably cheaper, but it is for many a far less convenient option.
It is safe to say that the AIrFloss Ultra is a luxury product.
Whilst it is not cheap, it is priced similarly to other equivalent products from the likes of Waterpik. Good, because you know it is comparable, bad, because it is still not the best value dental care product.
The AirFloss Ultra isn’t subject to quite the same discount as the Sonicare toothbrushes, but it is not too difficult to get this for about $15 less at CDN$85.
We like to price items over a 3 year period here at Electric Teeth to give a benchmark for comparison.
Given that you get 1 nozzle in the pack, you will need a further 5 over 3 years.
Nozzles come in packs of 2.
The part code for the 2 pack is HX8032/23. They have a retail price of CDN$9.99 which by Sonicare standards is pretty reasonable. That makes each nozzle $5 each. However, it isn’t impossible to pick these up for $8, so $4 each. As a general rule they are going to cost $4.50 each.
With a CDN$85 purchase price, plus $22.5 ($4.50 x 5) for replacement nozzles, the total ownership cost is CDN$107.5.
This works out at CDN $0.10 per day.
Our top rated cordless water flosser, the Waterpik Cordless Advanced WP-560 is slightly more expensive at $0.11 per day.
There isn’t much in it. If anything the AirFloss is potentially worth a premium for the convenience it offers.
We can’t hide from the fact that there are lesser known brands selling cordless water flosser products for much less. It isn’t uncommon to find something, with multiple nozzles included for CDN$40-50. At a third of the purchase price, it can be quite difficult to justify the additional premium that the Airfloss commands.
Regular string floss generally works out at around $0.02-0.04 per day and interdental brushes a cent or so more. And these are often more favoured by dental professionals.
Please note that all prices quoted are approximates and will vary based on location, supplier and time of purchase. These figures were correct at the time of writing and should not be relied upon as hard fact, but used as a guide during your decision process.
Summary of price & where to buy
- List of buying options included here
- Recommended retail price of CDN$99.99
- Can be purchased for around CDN$85
- Replacement nozzles typically cost CDN$4.50 each
- Daily cost around CDN$0.10 per day over 3 years
- Slightly cheaper than the competing water flosser
- Regular flossing tools are cheaper
Reliability & long term use
It is virtually impossible to guarantee a product from failing.
Electronic products have more potential failure points. Add in the fact it is a product that is used around water and used at least once a day and this becomes an even bigger challenge.
However, on the whole reliability of Sonicare products are pretty good.
The AirFloss Ultra is potentially an exception to the rule.
Now, to be fair, the Ultra has proven reliable during our weeks of testing.
However, we do know from our own experience, with the original AirFloss the plastic hinged reservoir door is a possible weak point. The seal can fail and the hinge break.
This has not been improved on the latest version.
It also seems quite common for the pump to fail, meaning no water gets shot out from the nozzle. Many also stop turning on too.
Of course there is no pattern to this, and most should be covered under the 2 year warranty.
However, you only have to look at some of the user reviews online to find that the reliability of the AirFloss isn’t as good as it could be. It certainly does not appear to be as reliable as the brands electric toothbrushes.
I really do like this product and I can tell you it has certainly won a space in my bathroom, despite the concerns of the reliability.
Yes, it is more expensive than regular floss, but it is so much more convenient.
I like the choice of modes and the automatic setting makes interdental cleaning super quick.
A possible frivolous purchase, I do agree.
But if you do not like interdental cleaning and this does not convert you I am not sure what will; the whole process is effortless.
The conscious may still like you use a bit of string floss too for peace of mind and maybe when travelling.
- Height (without nozzle) – 17cm
- Height (with nozzle) – 24cm
- Width – 3cm
- Thickness – 4cm
- Weight (without nozzle) – 161g
- Weight (with nozzle) – 163g
All are approximates
- How long does the battery last?
- The battery lasts up to 33 days if used on the single burst mode setting. Used on the triple burst mode and the battery life is 11 days. This assumes use once a day.
- Does it come with a charger?
- Yes, a charging station is included with the AirFloss Ultra.
- How long does it take to charge?
- Up to 24 hours.
- What does the yellow flashing light mean?
- The battery is low and requires charging.
- How often do the nozzles need replacing?
- Nozzles should be replaced every 6 months.
- Can I use mouthwash in the AirFloss Pro?
- Using AirFloss with mouthwash may enhance your oral health results and leave you with an even fresher feeling mouth. Most mouthwashes can be used in the AirFloss. However, mouthwashes containing Isopropyl Myristate should not be used in the AirFloss as this can harm the plastics in the device and possibly even cause loss of function.
- Mouthwash is not required though. Water is perfectly fine.
- Can I use the AirFloss in the shower?
- Yes, but be aware that whilst the AirFloss is water resistant it is not designed to be immersed in water if it can be helped.
- Does it come with a travel case?
- My gums bleed when I use AirFloss. Is that normal?
- Bleeding gums may be a sign of infection and a little bleeding can be normal when starting a new oral care routine, as you may be cleaning in areas not previously reached. However, if bleeding is excessive or does not stop within a few days of regular use of AirFloss, consult a dental professional.
- How often should I floss?
- At least once a day is advised.
Do you own or have you used the Sonicare AirFloss Ultra?
Are there certain features that you really like or dislike?
Let us know what you think about this brush and let others who may well be considering purchasing one know your opinions before they do.