So, you want to know which is better, Waterpik or Sonicare Airfloss?
All things considered, Waterpik is technically the better product, and from the Waterpik range, we pick the WP-660 as the best water flosser.
But, Sonicare’s Airfloss is a very strong performer and is the more convenient tool to use on a daily basis for most people.
Both Waterpik and Airfloss have been shown to have beneficial results on your oral health.
Read on to learn more about the differences and which is better suited to you.
Waterpik – A brand of water flossers
Waterpik is the name of a company and brand, who are best known for making a type of product called water flossers.
They are not the only brand that make water flossers, but they do dominate with their range and market share.
From my own hands-on experience, their products do tend to be the best.
Several of their products appear in our list of the top water flossers, and the WP-660 also takes the number 1 spot.
As a result, their name has become synonymous with such and the name Waterpik and the product water flosser are often used interchangeably, when technically they are different.
For the remainder of this article, I too will use the brand name Waterpik interchangeably with the term water flosser.
Countertop and cordless water flossers
Water flossers including those made by Waterpik come in 2 different styles, countertop and cordless.
As the names imply, the cordless option is cable free and tends to be powered by a built-in rechargeable or user replaceable battery. By its very nature, it is smaller and portable.
A countertop flosser is larger, more powerful, more capable and relies typically on being plugged into the mains to operate.
Sonicare Airfloss – A product
Airfloss is a type of product, made by international brand Philips, marketed under their dental health brand Sonicare.
Whilst the aims of Airfloss are similar to a water flosser (Waterpik), the way in which they work are different.
At the time of writing, Airfloss products are designed to be cordless and portable.
Airfloss vs water flossing (Waterpik) – the same aim, 2 different approaches
The aim of both products is to aid with interdental cleaning or flossing as most of us know it as.
As much as 40% of the tooth surfaces are not cleaned with regular brushing alone so it is vitally important to clean in between the teeth.
Traditional string floss or tape that you might use can be fiddly, awkward and uncomfortable to use. This can put you and me off from cleaning away the plaque between the teeth. Products like interdental brushes make life a bit easier, but the variable size of gaps between teeth means an array of brushes and more expense.
The idea is that both Waterpik and Airfloss will remove plaque and food debris buildup from in between teeth and under the gumline, areas of the mouth that regular brushing simply does not reach with more ease and a greater level of convenience.
The fundamental difference between these 2 products is how they work.
- WaterPik uses a stream of water, delivered at a constant pressure.
- Sonicare AirFloss uses bursts of air, interspersed with small micro droplets of water, or microbursts as Sonicare call it.
How to use
The 2 different approaches to cleaning mean the way in which you use the Waterpik and Sonicare Airfloss are slightly different.
With the Airfloss you move the tip of the nozzle to the interdental space you want to clean, press the button, the jet of air and water is delivered into the gap. You then move it to the next gap and repeat the process until you have cleaned the whole mouth.
With a water flosser, the stream of water is normally continuous. Whilst you move from one interdental space to another, there is a need to be more controlled and focused with your approach, following the gumline as you go.
How you use either are best demonstrated in the following promotional videos.
Advantages and disadvantages
As you might expect there are pros and cons to both water flossing and using the Sonicare Airfloss, but what are they?
Here are a list of the positives and negatives from my point of view having used both.
- Less messy – The small bursts of air and water mean you can complete a clean without needing to spit out waste mid way through.
- Cordless – The wire free design allows you to move around with ease and without much limitation.
- Convenience – The size, shape and ease of use make it a very convenient product to use on a daily basis.
- Battery life – The built-in rechargeable battery lasts about 2 weeks between charges.
- Automatic power off – A simple but neat feature, it will automatically power off after 4 minutes, which saves you having to turn it off and is more than enough time to do what you need to.
- Charging stand – Uses the same charger as Sonicare electric toothbrushes, meaning you can interchange the Airfloss and your toothbrush with the same charging stand if you use a Sonicare electric toothbrush.
- Reservoir size – In my opinion, it could be bigger. You can complete at best 2 full flossing sessions before it needs refilling.
- Pressure control – There is little or no control (subject to model) over the force at which the jet of air and water is fired at.
- Difficult to share – The nozzles are replaceable but do not interchange with as much ease or offer storage locations like many Waterpik options.
- Effectiveness – They clean the interdental spaces really well and are clinically the best.
- Pressure settings – You typically have more control over the pressure and flow rate of the stream of water cleaning the teeth and gums.
- Dislodges bigger particles – The consistent stream of water is better at dislodging large food particles that may be stuck in the teeth.
- Cordless and countertop – Choice comes in the form of cabled and cable free water flossers, so you can have one most suitable for you.
- Different nozzles – Various nozzle types make it more practical and suitable for sharing in families and for use by those with more bespoke dental needs. Tips for periodontal pockets and orthodontics are just 2 examples.
- Control – Most water flossers have rotating nozzles that allow for a greater degree of accuracy when positioning and maneuvering it within the mouth.
- Messy – After a few goes you can master the technique, but the volume of water and the need to lean over the sink when using makes it more difficult and more likely to be a messier experience. It is relatively easy to spray the bathroom.
- Size – Both the cordless and countertop units are bigger and heavier than the Airfloss and take up more space.
- Portability – As a consequence of their design they are not all that portable.
- Time – It can take longer to clean with a water flosser.
- Reservoir sizes – The different reservoir sizes on cordless and countertop units can mean you may or may not have enough water in the tank not to have to refill to complete the clean.
A word on cost
For many people, the price of a product is an important consideration and I would certainly not disagree with factoring it into your decision making process.
The price of a Waterpik or an Airfloss depends on the model you are buying and where you are buying it from. There can be considerable variance.
You can get some very cost effective water flossers for $30 but you can easily pay up to $100.
The Airfloss tends to be fairly consistently priced at around $60-90 subject to model.
As a consequence, this is in part why it is hard to compare the 2 on price alone. You need to factor in what is most important to you.
As a general rule, you can get better value from water flossers as opposed to Airfloss, particularly if you look at countertop options.
Which is better – the clinical studies
In 2012, a team from BioSci Research Canada conducted a clinical study comparing the Sonicare Airfloss and a Waterpik Water flosser, looking to see which was better at plaque removal.
The conclusion of the study found that both were able to provide a significant reduction in plaque, but it was the Waterpik that showed significantly higher reductions overall. The figures were 74.9% for Waterpik vs 57.5% for Airfloss.
Looking at specific areas within the mouth, the results are as follows marginal (58.6% vs. 36.7%), approximal (92.1% vs. 77.4%), facial (83.6% vs. 69.1%), and lingual (65.7% vs. 45.4%), with the Airfloss scoring worse in all 4 areas.
The research by BioSci was independent and significant. Not only does it show both products work, but it does show quite clearly that from a clinical cleaning perspective water flossing is best.
Waterpik have helped fund many research projects that assess and compare water flossers in many different ways to show the power and capability in removing plaque and helping with oral health.
One example is a 2015 study by Goyal and team, compared the Sonicare Airfloss to the Waterpik, specifically looking at the reduction of bleeding, gingivitis and plaque over a 4 week period.
The results showed that the Waterpik Water Flosser was significantly more effective than the Sonicare Airfloss Pro at reducing gingival bleeding for all areas measured.
54% more effective was the water flosser for reducing bleeding and 32% for reducing gingivitis compared to the Airfloss Pro at 4 weeks. The Water Flosser was also 28% more effective for reducing plaque compared to the Airfloss Pro.
Daily use – sensitive/bleeding gums/orthodontics
The pros and cons above along with the clinical studies give a good insight into how these compare.
I want to give a bit of extra context and understanding from my experiences of using both on a daily basis.
For me using the Airfloss is a much easier and more convenient solution. It feels less hassle, yet effective and a great alternative to string floss (ideally you should do both).
It feels much quicker to get started, cleaned and finished in my opinion. It is more of a point and click approach and a full clean can be completed in as little as 30, but usually around 60 seconds.
The significantly smaller volume of water used means you can retain that in your mouth as you complete the cleaning and spit it out at the end when you are done. You can easily stand in front of the mirror to help with alignment and aiming the nozzle, without fear of spraying the mirror.
Water flossing, on the other hand, takes a little more time and requires more control.
You certainly need to be lent over the sink to allow the excess water to drain away. It works, but it takes more practice to get a smooth flow and expel the water without spraying the jet of water across the room. Some models of Waterpik have a button on the handle that can easily control the flow, stopping and starting it with more ease.
There are of course benefits to the cordless options but the smaller tanks and need still to expel the water, in some respects can defeat the benefits. For travel, they are much more convenient, if a bit bulky.
Unless well practiced, the water tanks on the cordless units can be considered too small. You can clean the gumline in the 45 seconds or so you get from the tank, but it does not always feel as thorough as when you spend a little longer with a countertop unit that has a longer cleaning time.
There is no denying that using the Waterpik units are much better for those with sensitive teeth and gums, inflamed or bleeding gums as well as those with braces and health issues like periodontal pockets.
The flow of water, variable pressure controls and interchangeable nozzles are much more versatile and better suited to specific needs.
You are given more control. Airfloss is limited on pressure settings, whereas Waterpiks have up to 10 levels of pressure.
Different nozzles are available with most water flossers, some with brushes or rubber tips that aid interdental cleaning.
Inflamed or bleeding gums can be very sensitive and the Airfloss can feel much harsher, with a higher likelihood of the gums bleeding when used.
With the water flosser, the flow of water will stimulate good gum health and will be more enjoyable to use and help reduce bleeding and inflammation with less pain.
Brace wearers and those diagnosed with gum disease and periodontal pockets will want to opt for Waterpik, the effectiveness and way in which they clean in there circumstances are noticeably better.
Whilst both have proven their worth, the water flosser is certainly for those most serious about oral health.
Airfloss is a much more convenient and appealing option for most average people though. In my mind, it fits into the lifestyle of those who would never floss, but know they should, an opinion backed by dental hygienist Karen Davies, “The engineers at the Philips Corporations specifically developed AirFloss to help bridge the gap for patients that need to floss, but don’t.”
What about normal flossing – what do dental professionals say?
Professional opinion is mixed on the use of Waterpik and Airfloss products.
It is very common for 1 dentist to have a different opinion to another and most like to see clinical evidence that they are effective and better than the age old floss and interdental brushes.
As I have shown there is evidence to show that both are effective at plaque removal.
How they really compare to more traditional methods is still to be researched.
The most recent study, in 2017 by Mwtha and team found that AirflossPro provides a similar reduction in gingivitis and plaque to string floss.
String floss has for a long time been a recommendation of dentists nationwide and organizations like the Canadian Dental Association endorse the use of such.
There is a very strong argument that the physical contact the floss or interdental brush makes with the tooth surface is much more effective in dislodging and removing plaque.
For maximum benefit, the recommendation from dental professionals is to ideally use a combination of both floss or interdental brushes and products like water flossers and Airfloss.
Despite many years of recommendation, the reality is that too few people clean interdentally.
According to Flosstime the makers of an automated floss dispenser, as much as 80% of the population are failing to floss daily.
Therefore, whilst professional opinion may on the whole favor floss and interdental brushes, it is about finding the products and tools that are right for you and your needs and will ultimately encourage you to floss.
89% of patients surveyed in the US, found that flossing with Airfloss was easier than string floss, a statistic I can agree with.
Waterpiks, Airfloss, string floss and interdental brushes are all tools to help clean those surfaces of the teeth that regular brushing simply does not reach.
My opinion, as well as the results of clinical trials, are all well and good, but what are the dental professionals that have daily contact with patients saying?
Dentist Barry Gibberman recommends both.
The team at Somerset Dental agree with my view of finding the right tool and say,
“It’s important to identify which one you would actually use on a regular basis as well as which method would be right for you based on your needs.”
Dentist Scott Frey of Frey Smiles is personally not a big fan of Airfloss, but says
“if it gets people who aren’t flossing at all to clean between their teeth something is better than nothing”
In-house dentist Dr Gemma Wheeler also has come reservations, explaining:
A water flosser or air flosser will work ok in patients who have healthy gums or mild gum disease. For advanced gum disease, I always recommend interdental brushes as the most effective way to remove the disease-causing bacteria.
Dr Gemma Wheeler – In-house dentist – GDC Number: 259369
Dr Angely Ly demonstrates the cleaning power of Sonicare Airfloss in her hands-on video, but advocates that it is used in addition to regular floss, to complement and improve your cleaning.
The Sonicare Airfloss range is limited in comparison to Waterpik water flossers, but that makes your purchasing decision easier.
There is just 1 version of the Philips Sonicare AirFloss available in Canada.
It is known as the AirFloss Pro or AirFloss Ultra.
In other countries different versions exist, primarily a standard and the Pro model like that available here in Canada.
The image below shows the 2 side by side. It is the green nozzled version that IS NOT available or sold here.
To help clarify the model designed and sold here, you want to ensure it is part number HX8331/01.
Replacement nozzles come in packs of 2.
Part number HX8032/64 are compatible, but there is a newer version of Airfloss Pro replacement nozzles, HX8032/23.
At the time of writing, there are 15 different water flossers available from Waterpik. That does not include the different colored units.
5 of these are cordless.
Each of these have their own pros and cons. Some have more or less features, bigger or smaller tanks, more or less in the box. Many we have gone hands-on with and reviewed.
However, you probably want to know which are the best to go for.
The best countertop option is the Waterpik WP-660 and, perhaps unsurprisingly, it is also the winner of our roundup of the best water flossers.
It is the standard to beat. It offers all the desirable features.
- A 90 second run time
- Built-in timer/pacer
- Water control button on the handle
- 10 pressure settings
- 7 tips included in the box
- A slimmer profile than many other models
- Quieter than other models too
Backed by many clinical studies and approved by the American Dental Association (ADA), the Aquarius is a great balance between features, size and price.
The Candian Dental Association does operate its own seal of approval program, but Waterpik have, from what I can see, not submitted their products to the panel for approval. It is highly likely they would obtain the seal, like they have with the American Dental Association.
The Aquarius does too come in a range of colors, so you need not be stuck with the standard white color option.
The best cordless options is the Waterpik WP-560.
No need to be bound by wires with the WP-560, this is a cordless flosser that has to been approved by the ADA also.
The 360 degree rotating nozzle allows for excellent access to all areas of the mouth.
3 different flossing tips are included and 3 pressure settings allow up to 45 seconds of usage time from a full tank.
A new magnetic rapid charge system ensures you can easily recharge the unit when required too.
For those that travel a pouch is included too.
Not stuck with just 1 color choice you have the option of 5.
- Pearly White – WP-560
- Brilliant Black – WP-562
- Classic Blue – WP-563
- Radiant Orchid – WP-565
- Rose Gold – WP-569
Conclusion – Waterpik vs Airfloss: which should I choose?
The decision has to ultimately be made by you, based on your current circumstances, your oral healthcare goals and desires.
Waterpik products are clinically the better product, the evidence is clear to see. They have been proven to be more effective in removing plaque and bacteria and will overtime be best for your oral health.
They are also more gentle on gums and better suited to those with particular oral health needs, such as being able to clean braces better and thoroughly clean periodontal pockets.
However, the reality is that for many, whilst there is an advantage to go for a Waterpik, the Sonicare Airfloss provides a convenient and effective way to aid with interdental cleaning on a daily basis.
The Airfloss represents an easier, more user-friendly approach that will bring benefit for those never likely to turn to make use of conventional flossing methods.