Air flosser blown away by alternatives


As you contemplate your Christmas shopping you probably could use some ideas for that person on your list who has everything.

If they are health conscious, or if you would like them to be, you may have noticed a new product being proudly advertised, the Sonicare AirFloss by Philips.

You will see them on display at Costco, Bed Bath and Beyond, Walmart and at various other retailers.

When I first saw the advertisements for this product my interest was piqued. I know how important it is to clean between the teeth.

Almost all gum problems start between the teeth.

Fun fact: On Aug. 30 of this year the Centers for Disease Control said “periodontal disease is an important public health problem in the United States.”

An estimated 47.2 percent of Americans have some form of periodontal disease. Rates increase to 70.1 percent in the over-65 age group, according to the most comprehensive study to date, reported in the ADA news Oct. 15.

Why should you care about periodontal disease? What’s the loss of one tooth more or less? Most people start adulthood with 28.

If a slow moving infection was threatening a persons fingers or toes would they say, “what’s the loss of one finger or toe, more or less. I have 19 more?”

The infection that caused the periodontal (aka gum) disease signals the body to marshal its immune system. The flood of white blood cells and chemicals sent to fight the periodontal infection course throughout the body raising inflammatory markers such as cardiac reactive protein or CRP.

The latest scientific research shows periodontal disease is a risk factor for heart disease, diabetes and other health concerns linked to inflammation.

So, obviously, at the first opportunity I bought this new device. Any product that makes cleaning between the teeth easier and more effective has top priority for my healthcare dollars.

The AirFloss has a tiny reservoir that you fill with water or mouthwash. A battery powers what I presume is a miniature air compressor.

A slender plastic tube extends from the handle to a round focusing “button” that you place between your teeth. Pressing on the eject switch causes a blast of compressed air and the liquid of your choice to be forced between your teeth.

Move on to the next tooth and repeat. In theory, doing this would help to remove plaque.

Is it easier than flossing? Absolutely! Does it work effectively? According to my extensive “clinical trials” I would have to state that it’s efficacy is close to negligible.

In my opinion, it has no noticeable effect on removing plaque, bacteria or chicken shreds from between your teeth. It does however produce an amusing sound as the compressed air is released.

The most positive thing I can report is that it would be very difficult to inflict any damage with this device as the jet of air is so anemic.

If you want to give something that actually works, buy a water flosser such as a Hydro Floss or Waterpik.

These devices work by directing a stream of pulsating water between the teeth. The pressure and pulsations break up plaque, force out popcorn particles, and lift bacteria from underneath the gum line and flush them out.

Unlike the AirFloss, you can vary the water pressure increasing the effectiveness of the cleaning action. A word of caution, never point the stream of water directly into the gums at high pressure.

It works most effectively when directed between the teeth so water flushes out the opposite side. For more precise instructions on using a water flosser go to

The Hydro Floss and Waterpik are equally effective when used properly. However the Hydro Floss has more user-friendly features that will result in less water being splashed on your mirror during the learning curve.

The Hydro Floss is, in my experience, much more durable and therefor the better choice. The Waterpik can be purchased anywhere health care products are sold. The Hydro Floss can be purchased online or at your dental office.

As for the Philips Sonicare AirFloss, no matter what the sale price, this is not a product that would have been worth being trampled over on Black Friday. In my opinion, of course.

Dr. Eric Gustavsen practices dentistry at Southpoint Dental Center, 1129 S. Second Ave. More information on his practice can be found at


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