Oral irrigator

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An oral irrigator

An oral irrigator (also called a dental water jet, water flosser or, by the brand name of the best-known such device, Waterpik) is a home dental care device which uses a stream of high-pressure pulsating water intended to remove dental plaque and food debris between teeth and below the gum line. Regular use of an oral irrigator is believed to improve gingival health. The devices may also provide easier cleaning for braces and dental implants.[1] However, more research is needed to confirm plaque biofilm removal and effectiveness when used by patients with special oral or systemic health needs.[2]


The first oral irrigator was developed in the 1950s by Dr. C.D. Matteson, who patented the invention in 1955.[3] Dr. Matteson's invention was designed to cleanse the teeth and gums after meals as an alternative to using hand syringes. It attached directly to a sink's faucet and featured a mechanical valve to control water pressure.[4]

Later, in 1962, dentist Gerald Moyer and engineer John Mattingly invented Waterpik. The Waterpik featured a built in reservoir and motor to pump water out of a tip at rhythmic pulses.[5] The Waterpik is now sold by Water Pik, Inc.[6]


Oral irrigators have been evaluated in a number of scientific studies and have been tested for periodontal maintenance,[7] and those with gingivitis, diabetes, orthodontic appliances, and tooth replacements such as crowns, and implants.[2]

While a 2008 meta-analysis of the efficacy of dental floss concluded that "a routine instruction to use floss is not supported by scientific evidence",[8] several studies have shown that oral irrigators are an effective alternative by reducing bleeding, gingival inflammation, and plaque removal.[9][10] Additionally, a study at the University of Southern California found that a three-second treatment of pulsating water (1,200 pulses per minute) at medium pressure (70 psi) removed 99.9% of plaque biofilm from treated areas.[11][12]

Other uses[edit]

Oral irrigators have also been used to remove tonsil stones ("tonsiloliths") in those subject to them.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ng, Ethan; Lim, Lum Peng (2019-06-01). "An Overview of Different Interdental Cleaning Aids and Their Effectiveness". Dentistry Journal. 7 (2): 6. Oral Irrigators. doi:10.3390/dj7020056. ISSN 2304-6767. PMC 6630384. PMID 31159354.
  2. ^ a b Jahn, Carol A. (2010). "The dental water jet: a historical review of the literature". Journal of Dental Hygiene. 84 (3): 114–120. ISSN 1553-0205. PMID 20579423.
  3. ^ "The Complete History of Oral Irrigation (Water Flossing) | Instafloss". 10 August 2021.
  4. ^ US 2829645, Matteson, Clarence D., "Hydraulic dental syringe", issued 1958-04-08 
  5. ^ Dulken, Stephen van (2004). American Inventions: A History of Curious, Extraordinary, and Just Plain Useful Patents. NYU Press. pp. 98, 99. ISBN 978-0-8147-8813-4.
  6. ^ "About Water Pik, Inc". Water Pik, Inc.
  7. ^ Sharma, N; Lyle, D; Qaqish, J; Galustians, J; Schuller, R (2008). "Effect of a dental water jet with orthodontic tip on plaque and bleeding in adolescent patients with fixed orthodontic appliances". American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics. 133 (4): 565–71, quiz 628.e1–2. doi:10.1016/j.ajodo.2007.12.008. PMID 18405821.
  8. ^ Berchier, C. E.; Slot, D. E.; Haps, S.; Van der Weijden, G. A. (November 2008). "The efficacy of dental floss in addition to a toothbrush on plaque and parameters of gingival inflammation: a systematic review". International Journal of Dental Hygiene. 6 (4): 265–279. doi:10.1111/j.1601-5037.2008.00336.x. PMID 19138178.
  9. ^ Barnes, Caren M.; Russell, Carl M.; Reinhardt, Richard A.; Payne, Jeffrey B.; Lyle, Deborah M. (2005). "Comparison of irrigation to floss as an adjunct to tooth brushing: effect on bleeding, gingivitis, and supragingival plaque". The Journal of Clinical Dentistry. 16 (3): 71–77. PMID 16305005.
  10. ^ Rosema, Nanning A. M.; Hennequin-Hoenderdos, Nienke L.; Berchier, Claire E.; Slot, Dagmar E.; Lyle, Deborah M.; van der Weijden, Godefridus A. (January 2011). "The effect of different interdental cleaning devices on gingival bleeding". Journal of the International Academy of Periodontology. 13 (1): 2–10. PMID 21387981.
  11. ^ Gorur, A; Lyle, DM; Schaudinn, C; Costerton, JW (2009). "Biofilm removal with a dental water jet". Compendium of Continuing Education in Dentistry. 30 Spec No 1: 1–6. PMID 19385349.
  12. ^ "Benefits of water flossing". Oralglow.com. Archived from the original on 2017-12-29. Retrieved 2017-08-04.
  13. ^ Svoboda, Elizabeth (August 31, 2009). "In Tonsils, a Problem the Size of a Pea". The New York Times. Retrieved January 8, 2011.