Oral Irrigation - Yay or Nay? Part I

Written by Heather Siler

Oral irrigators have been available for home use since the early sixties, and recently, they’re gaining in popularity. New research reports their effectiveness in disturbing plaque biofilm and as a result, reducing the host’s response to the microbes in the plaque.

When oral irrigators were first developed, studies revealed that their use reduced gingivitis, but they didn’t remove troublesome plaque. Therefore, it was thought that daily oral irrigation wasn’t effective. Water flossing was mainly recommended for patients with orthodontia, crowding, and patients dealing with food impaction. Another concern was that daily use could cause bacteria in the mouth to enter the bloodstream and cause an infection, but research shows that using a water irrigator poses no more threat to infection than any other oral cleaning device.

New findings reveal that oral irrigators alter plaque formation rather than remove it altogether. Disturbing plaque formation dilutes toxins and disrupts bacterial colonies thereby lessening the patient’s immune response. In other words, even though the plaque isn’t removed, the bacteria within the plaque is disorganized, and in turn, inflammation, bleeding, pocket depths, and the patient’s immune response is repressed. Also with the correct tip and instruction, periodontal pathogens deep within the pocket are compromised.

Brushing, flossing, and rinsing with an antimicrobial product doesn’t go underneath the gumline more than one or two millimeters. By incorporating the use of a water flosser, patients remove not only food debris, but also disturb plaque formation from around the entire tooth beyond two millimeters.

Today, oral irrigators are beneficial for all patients, but especially those with orthodontic appliances, implants, crown and bridge, diabetes, periodontal disease, gingivitis, and those whose oral health is less than ideal.

In part two of this blog, we’ll discuss the types of irrigators and the different tips used for specific purposes.