Water flossers can easily remove food and other debris from around the brackets on the teeth. Many brands have specialised tips for braces to achieve even better results.
Removing food and plaque will reduce the risk of decay on these tooth surfaces. They also have some positive effects on gum health, as proven in independent research.
Dr. Gemma Wheeler regards them as a good option for people who have braces, but also recommends using interdental brushes:
“If you have braces I would recommend a water flosser in addition to brushing and interdental brushes to get between the teeth.
Interdental brushes are still recommended for interdental cleaning with braces because the overwhelming evidence shows that interdental brushes are the most effective method for cleaning interdentally.”
In this post we recommend reliable water flosser choices based on extensive hands-on testing, and provide advice on how to get the most out of your water flosser.
What to look for in a water flosser for braces
In this post, we offer recommendations for both corded (countertop) and cordless water flossers.
When you have braces, particularly fixed, it can be useful to take your dental products with you as you normally need to clean your teeth more frequently (3 times a day). If you do want good portability, it’s best to go for a cordless flosser.
If portability isn’t too important to you, we recommend a countertop flosser. In our testing we’ve found them to be slightly more comfortable to use — we explain this in more detail in this section.
Both types of flosser come with similar features. Not all of them are necessary. From our testing, the most essential features of a water flosser are:
- 45 seconds or more flossing time: enough time to get a thorough clean without having to refill
- 2 or more pressure modes: important if you have any sensitivity
- Rotating nozzle (or handle if it’s a countertop flosser): to help you reach all parts of the mouth
- Comfortable grip (for a cordless): a large area for the palm and fingers to grip onto is better than a slim handle. It’s also helpful if the grip is made from materials that prevent slippage
- Water control button on the handle (countertop): this makes it easy to stop, start and pause the jet of water
- Hose storage (countertop): this helps to keep the bathroom tidy
Waterpik Ultra Professional WP-660
*Prices correct at time of writing
Why it’s the best countertop flosser for braces:
The Waterpik Ultra Professional has been approved by the Oral Health Foundation and American Dental Association. This means that the flosser has been assessed by an independent panel of experts, and that it is safe and that it has the benefits it says it does.
The supplied orthodontic tip and rotating nozzle help you clean well around the wires and brackets of braces.
Because flossing with a brace takes longer, the large water tank of the Ultra Professional gives several minutes of use, without requiring a refill.
The chunky rotating dial makes it easy to adjust the intensity, which means less pressure on sore gums and longer flossing times.
And despite the decent sized reservoir, it doesn’t take up all that much countertop space.
Read our Waterpik Ultra Professional Review.
What we like
- 80+ second flossing time
- Easy to rotate the nozzle
- 10 pressure settings
- Orthodontic tip included in the box
What we dislike
- No place to stow excess power cable
- It’s a more expensive option
Waterpik Cordless Advanced WP-560
*Prices correct at time of writing
Why it’s the best cordless flosser for braces:
The Cordless Advanced is one of the most comfortable cordless flossers we have used. The textured surface helps achieve a secure hold of the flosser.
The large fins at the top of the unit make it effortlessly easy to rotate the nozzle so you can reach all areas of the teeth and clean the entire mouth effectively. You get 45 seconds of cleaning time from the most powerful of the 3 modes.
Like the WP-660, it has all the features we recommend and has been approved by the Oral Health Foundation and American Dental Association.
If you often feel like you need to floss when out and about, the portability of the WP-560 makes it a better choice than the WP-660. A travel pouch is included in the box, as is a plug to go into the top of the flosser to prevent leaks.
The battery life was impressive in our testing and the magnetic charger makes it simple to top-up when it is required.
Read our Waterpik WP-560 Review.
What we like
- 45+ second flossing time
- Easy to rotate the nozzle
- Grippy handle
- Easy to attach the magnetic charger
- Travel pouch included in the box
What we dislike
- Price – it is expensive
*Prices correct at time of writing
Why we chose it:
Finding a reliable water flosser on a tight budget can be tricky. There are inevitably potential compromises manufacturers have to make to achieve ‘budget’ pricing.
Look on Amazon and you will find several products under £30. But, we’ve generally found that long term reliability and support to be the main con of these more affordable water flossers, when you compare them to better known brands such as Sonicare or Waterpik.
One such example is Fairywill, which is arguably the best-known ‘cheap’ brand that makes these kinds of products.
Fairywill products are no longer available on Amazon. This is due to the way it has gone about gathering positive reviews for its products. As a result of this, and because of direct reports we have received about how frequently Fairywill products fail, we no longer recommend Fairywill as a budget alternative. However, we are still including the Fairywill 5020E in this instance because there are very few alternatives if you want a budget recommendation. And truth be told it’s hard to argue with the value you get from this if it lasts a few years.
If you can afford to, we strongly advise going for one of our other recommendations above. Failing that, you could consider the Panasonic EW-DJ10 (Amazon, Ebay), although it is more basic than the 5020E. The EW-DJ10 does have the advantage that it folds up, so it is a good option if you travel about a lot and want to take it with you.
The Fairywill 5020E has a few more features, but again, you may run into reliability issues. It lasts an impressive 90 seconds when using the most powerful of the 3 modes available. In our testing, the cleaning performance was comparable to other water flossers. The mouth felt clean after each use. But, it is not supported by clinical evidence. The studies simply haven’t been completed.
The nozzle can be rotated to help reach all areas of the mouth. But we found it much more difficult to rotate than the WP-560, particularly when in use.
The battery life is great and the USB charging is a nice touch, but there is a port cover to remove, that can be easily lost and it’s a specific cable which can be difficult to source should you lose it.
What we like
- 90+ seconds flossing time
- 3 pressure settings
- Long battery life
- USB charging
What we dislike
- Reliability issues reported by some users
- Difficult to rotate the nozzle
- No orthodontic nozzle
- Warranty is only 1 year
- Small port cover that is easy to lose
Our choices explained
If you haven’t yet had it drilled into you, cleaning between the teeth is very important when you have braces. This will be made very clear during your orthodontic treatment.
Interdental cleaning (commonly referred to as flossing) can be frustrating, but dentists insist on it for good reason.
It helps to ensure your teeth and gums are healthy. It limits any complications during your time wearing braces.
Even those who have removable braces need to ensure they brush and floss thoroughly.
A couple of our team have undergone orthodontic treatment as teenagers and as adults. We speak from first-hand experience.
Our in-house dentist Dr. Gemma Wheeler has researched the various types of interdental cleaning.
Evidence shows that interdental brushes are the most effective method for cleaning interdentally. Dental (string) floss is the least effective.
According to the limited evidence available, water flossers are more effective than string flossing.
As a brace wearer, you face more challenges than most in keeping the teeth clean, and a water flosser can really help with this. That is because they also help clean around the brackets and wires as well as between the teeth.
The WP-660 Ultra Professional is the best choice in our opinion.
As a countertop unit it boasts a larger water tank and 10 pressure settings.
This means you have longer flossing time on a single fill of the tank. And the ability to gain more precise control of the pressure.
Your teeth and gums can be very sensitive after each tightening of the archwires, and new braces wearers will suffer from sores and cuts on the cheeks.
With the WP-660 it’s easy to adjust the pressure to drop that intensity when your mouth is most sensitive. You may even find the warm water soothing on those irritated mouth surfaces.
It can be a fine art getting in and around the brackets, but the rotating nozzle on the WP-660 makes it a little easier because you can twist it to get the right position. Waterpik’s orthodontic nozzle can also help to effectively clean around those brackets.
The handle is slim and comfortable to hold. There is a slider switch on the handle that you can use to control the water flow. This means there is no need to stretch to the base unit to turn it on and off as you are lent over the sink.
The main downside to countertop water flossers is that they are not portable. If you want the benefits of a water flosser whilst away from home, e.g. at work, school or college, or when staying overnight elsewhere, you are going to need a cordless option.
The Waterpik Cordless Advanced WP-560 is a great option here.
A 207ml tank offers a minimum of 45 seconds of flossing time when set to the highest pressure setting. If you want to spend extra time cleaning, then you will either need to change the mode or refill the tank.
The shape of the unit and the large area of raised dots on the back make it comfortable to hold.
Like the WP-660 the Advanced has a rotating nozzle. It is effortless to turn it. In fact, it is easier to rotate than the nozzle on the Ultra Professional. The large wheel used for rotating the nozzle feels natural to use with good feedback. Being able to rotate the nozzle makes it easier to reach all parts of the mouth.
You get an orthodontic tip included in the box with the Cordless Advanced, as well as a travel pouch.
The pouch is basic, but serves the purpose. It doesn’t prevent accidental activation, but the plug for the top does stop it from leaking.
It is powered by a rechargeable battery. The magnetic charger is easy to use when you need to top it up. And you have a clear indicator on the handle to show you when it is time to recharge. It takes just 4 hours, so it is nice and quick.
Both the WP-660 and WP-560 are fairly quiet in operation. Both are backed by clinical evidence that has been independently verified.
The majority of Waterpik models have been approved by the Oral Health Foundation and the American Dental Association. This means a panel of experts have verified that the performance and claims are true to Waterpik’s claims.
You don’t get quite the same peace of mind with our budget option from Fairywill, the 5020E.
The 5020E does not have specific clinical evidence. Whilst we found in our testing that the Fairywill cleaned comparably to Waterpik models, we have received direct reports from users about its products failing sooner than they should.
Fairywill is no longer available on Amazon, and we advise proceeding with caution if you do decide to opt for it.
We strongly considered the WF-03 Cordless Freedom as our budget option, but the average price is a bit higher than what most would call ‘budget’. It is too powered by AAA batteries, so this adds to the ongoing ownership costs.
With the Fairywill you can’t get an orthodontic tip, which is beneficial, but not absolutely essential. Without an orthodontic tip, you don’t get the extra scrubbing action of the bristles from the nozzle.
One of the big bonuses with the Fairywill is the 90 seconds of usage time. This is possible even when set to the most powerful of the 3 modes, you will struggle to find any other cordless model to compete with this.
It not only allows enough time for a thorough floss, but you can afford to take longer cleaning around the brackets and wires. You can clean for longer and worry less about needing to refill.
It comes with an impressive 8 nozzles in the box, which really helps keep the cost of ownership down. You won’t have to buy replacements for years.
And, given that it is often teenagers who wear fixed braces, the Fairywill is an affordable option for them to have in their school bag. It is all too easy for such an item to get left behind or mislaid. Whilst you don’t want to have to replace it as a parent, you will feel far less annoyed if replacing a ‘cheap’ unit like this. It is basically 2 for the price of 1 compared to the Cordless Advanced.
For the cost savings, it is fair to say there isn’t a massive compromise here. The warranty is only 1 year and the finish isn’t as good as the larger brands. But, it is more than good enough and does the job fairly well.
Other flossers we have tested
In choosing the best water flosser for braces we have to consider extra factors.
With braces, there comes an increased need to brush and floss. You will likely be cleaning your teeth at times and in places you hadn’t previously imagined.
Examples include at school, college or work after lunch. Out in town after a drink and snack with friends. Thus some of the considerations change.
Countertop units give the greatest benefits in pressure settings and running times. But, you can’t take these to work or school with you.
So as a brace wearer the preference is likely to be a cordless unit. It gives the portability and flexibility a corded option can’t.
Those models with orthodontic tips are slightly more desirable. The bristles give that extra dimension to the clean. There is limited clinical data to confirm the benefits. But you can physically see the bristles brushing away some debris stuck around the braces.
The Sonicare Cordless Power Flosser 3000 is a very good option from a reputable brand. It is very closely matched to the Cordless Advanced, but the extra grippy handle and ease of rotating the nozzle just tipped the Advanced as our favourite.
The Burst cordless oral irrigator is super powerful and able to blast debris off brackets and the orthodontic appliance. But, the 110ml water tank is drained far too quickly to really be that useful.
Panasonic’s EW1511 flosser ticks so many boxes and would really be a contender for one of the best, if it were not for the overpriced and tricky to source replacement tips.
Avoid the Waterpik Sonic-Fusion.
It isn’t strictly a water flosser. It is a hybrid product. A flossing toothbrush.
It isn’t very good. You are better served by an electric toothbrush and a separate water flosser.
We have tested both the Aquacare 4 and 6 Pro-Expert from Oral-B.
They are satisfactory. Yet, given they are made by one of the leading oral care brands the actual product is a little disappointing. They don’t stand out from the crowd of options that you have to choose from.
In all honesty, they are no better than the Fairywill 5020E. They are more expensive and don’t come with such good box contents.
The Cordless Plus is a slightly more affordable cordless option. It looks and feels a little dated. Not to mention the build quality isn’t up to the same standard as newer models from Waterpik.
The WF-10 Cordless Select, on paper at least, looks like a good option. It lasts for at least 45 seconds, has 2 pressure settings and an easy to rotate nozzle. Sadly, gripping this device in hand is awkward. It really isn’t that comfortable. You have a very stifled grip towards the top of the unit. There is a night and day difference between it and the Cordless Advanced, which is our main recommendation for a cordless water flosser.
The Cordless Select does have a very nice magnetic charging cable, which is more convenient and travel-friendly. It would be preferable if the Cordless Advanced had this as well, but the fact that it doesn’t isn’t a deal breaker.
We like the concept of some of the collapsible water flossers that exist on the market. The limited options generally come from lesser known brands, which isn’t necessarily a problem. But, there are often other shortcomings (build quality and reliability). When considering the pros and cons, we favour the scientifically endorsed alternatives.
The Waterpik WF-06 and WF-05 are 2 countertop models that have ‘whitening’ capabilities. The WF-05 Whitening Professional is the premium model.
Both allow you to add whitening tablets into the handle of the flosser. As the water passes through, it dissolves the tablet. It results in a mildly abrasive solution being pushed against the tooth surface. The idea is that it will remove light surface stains from your teeth.
As a general rule, we don’t advise ‘whitening’ the teeth during orthodontic treatment.
However, the whitening tablets contain glycerine which just helps to lift stains off the tooth surface. They don’t contain peroxide so have no true whitening effect – only stain removal.
This stain removal is fine for brace wearers. In fact, brace wearers may be more likely to pick up extrinsic stains between the teeth and on the composite (white filling material) that holds the metal bracket to the tooth.
They are quite expensive solutions though.
Most Waterpik units have gained American Dental Association and Oral Health Foundation approved status. You can be assured of product performance. It is a small thing, but a subtle extra that adds peace of mind.
Buyer’s guide: useful pre-purchase advice
Dr. Gemma Wheeler, BDS (Hons)
With the help of our in-house dentist Dr. Gemma Wheeler, we’ve added useful notes and tips from our research and testing. In the sections below, we include the most relevant and important information about shopping for a water flosser for braces. If you want even more detail, we include a buyer’s guide in our more general best water flosser post. It looks more closely at the scientific evidence for water flossers and expands on some of the topics below.
Water flossing vs string flossing with braces
There is agreement that having braces slightly increases your risk of things like tooth decay and gum disease. That is because the brackets stuck to your teeth retain more bacteria, compared to if they weren’t there. Some dentists fall back on the recommendation of string floss for cleaning between the teeth when you have braces.
There are very few studies that directly compare floss and water flossers for brace wearers. Those that do, such as Jolkovsky or that by Pithon et al have mixed results. They seem to agree that both floss and water flossers both remove more bacteria than tooth brushing alone. But they can’t agree that one is much better than the other. String flossing is very technique sensitive. In non-brace wearers it is normally found to be the least effective technique for cleaning between the teeth.Wearing braces makes using floss an even bigger challenge.
The wires get in the way of pulling floss down between the teeth. A flossing tool can help you use string floss. For example, a floss threader allows you to get the floss above the wire and between the teeth. A platypus tool is used like a flossette – it holds the floss tight and the thinner plastic arms mean you can slide it under the wire no problem. Using a water flosser can be easier.
Also, the physical contact of string floss can be more beneficial than water. But when cleaning around a brace, using string floss can be very time consuming and awkward. Water flossers enable you to clean all around the bracket as well as between the teeth. They dislodge food particles. And it is believed that the water flow acts to massage the gums and reduce bleeding from the gums.
Overall, interdental brushes are the most effective option for cleaning. But when it comes to floss vs water flossers, there is no definitive right or wrong answer — it’s about finding a cleaning method that works for you. There is certainly a place for water flossers. Ideally, though, you want to be combining the use of a water flosser with interdental brushes.
How a water flosser can help with braces
The design of a dental brace means you have more surface area for bacteria and food to stick to. Food particles get caught in brackets and wires. Getting food particles and dental plaque trapped around your braces can increase your risk of dental disease.
The increased surface area and nooks and crannies of the fittings give more opportunity for plaque to build up on the teeth. It also makes the plaque more difficult to remove.
Failing to clean around these can result in:
- Staining of the teeth
- Decalcification (white spots) on the tooth surface
- tooth decay
- Gingivitis (gum disease)
- Bad breath
Good plaque removal is vital to prevent the onset of gum disease
To remove plaque, you should brush around all parts of your brace and all of the surfaces of your teeth. There is a mixed consensus about when to brush your teeth if you have braces. Ideally, you should brush each time you have eaten. Generally, the advice is to brush straight away. This is especially true if you are wearing removable braces as it means you can put them in as soon as possible. Sometimes, the advice is to leave it about 30 minutes after every meal or snack, before you brush. This would be the recommendation if you have eaten or drunk something particularly acidic. This includes fruits and fizzy drinks.
A manual brush works well if used correctly, but our advice is to invest in an electric toothbrush. A study by the American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopaedics found that electric toothbrushes promote better cleaning habits. If you find toothbrushing difficult, switching to an electric toothbrush has an even better effect. We have compiled a list of the best electric toothbrushes for braces.
You need to floss in addition to brushing
Even the best toothbrushes and brushing technique won’t remove all the plaque around a brace. You need to use other flossing tools in addition to brushing. The wires and brackets restrict the movement of floss in between the teeth and up into the gum line. This makes flossing with braces awkward.
You do not need a water flosser as a brace wearer, but you do need to clean interdentally. Water flossers make it more convenient to clean these surfaces and reach the gumline. The water and the pressure at which it hits the teeth gets into the smallest of gaps. It also disrupts the bacteria chains that cause gum disease. The evidence doesn’t support water flossers removing plaque, but it still has a positive effect on the gums.
An orthodontic flossing tip can be useful
There are a variety of interchangeable tips available for water flossers. The orthodontic tip can be very useful for braces. It combines a traditional jet tip with bristles to wash and sweep away the debris. The manual action of the bristles gives an extra dimension to the clean. They can help dislodge and disrupt debris and bacteria.
Not all water flossers come with them, but they can usually be purchased separately. Our two main recommendations above — the WP-660 and WP-560, do come with an orthodontic tip supplied in the box. Nearly all of Waterpik’s models are compatible with the orthodontic tip, so Waterpik is a good choice in that respect.
Cordless vs corded (countertop) water flossers
If you have space (approx 6 x 6 inches) for one in your bathroom, we recommend going for a countertop water flosser over a cordless water flosser.
We’ve found countertop models slightly more comfortable to use. They also have larger water reservoirs, meaning they have longer cleaning times and need to be refilled less often. They often come with extra features, such as extra pressure settings or a built-in timer.
There is no evidence to suggest one is better than the other. There are scientific studies that confirm the effectiveness of both. In our own hands-on testing, we have found them to be as effective as each other.
That being said, a cordless water flosser is still a perfectly good option if you don’t have space for a countertop model, or if you travel a lot.
Countertop units need a power outlet. They need to be plugged in for them to work. You are therefore more restricted on where you place them.
Cordless units are wire-free. This makes them more portable and convenient, particularly if you don’t have a socket in your bathroom.
Some cordless options are waterproof too, meaning you can use them in the shower, reducing the mess you make in and around the sink.
What makes a good water flosser for braces
From handling and testing lots of water flossers, we’ve come to regard some features as essential, and others as nice to have but not a dealbreaker if they are missing.
We deem the essential features of a good portable flosser to be:
45 seconds or more flossing time
Flossers with a water tank of around 200ml will achieve this. 45 seconds is enough time to get a thorough clean between the teeth and along the gumline without having to refill. It can make the flosser slightly heavier but it is a worthwhile trade off.
You may need to refill if you want to focus on the brackets and wire of the brace in addition to just the usual interdental spaces.
2 or more pressure modes
If you have sensitive gums it is useful to be able to adjust the pressure.
Water control button on the handle (countertop)
A button or switch on the flosser handle allows for much greater control of the water flow. This makes it easy to stop, start and pause the jet of water. No need to use the on/off switch on the countertop unit itself.
Rotating nozzle (or handle for countertop)
Having a 360 degree rotating nozzle makes it easier to reach all parts of the mouth.
Comfortable grip (cordless)
From our testing, a large area for the palm and fingers to grip onto is better than a slim handle. It’s also helpful if the grip is made from materials that prevent slippage, particularly when wet.
Hose storage (countertop)
Having a convenient place to tuck away the hose when not in use avoids trailing cables around the bathroom.