For as long as I can remember, I have dreaded going to the dentist. It started as the usual struggle between a fat-fingered dentist and a small-mouthed child. As an adolescent, it morphed into an angst-ridden show of defiance when I decided to lock my mother out of her own car in the dentist's parking lot, just to get out of a cleaning. Once I reached adulthood and could no longer be forced, I avoided going altogether. It was only after a very expensive emergency dental procedure in my 20s that I was finally convinced that I needed to go regularly. Even still, my relationship with dentists remained somewhat hostile. I'd reluctantly floss daily for the two weeks leading up to a visit. My gums would still bleed during the cleaning, and I'd get a lecture about the importance of flossing and the dangers of gum disease. I'd lie and promise that I would start flossing regularly. Lather, rinse, repeat, every six to nine months.
So when I heard about a new electric toothbrush on the market that promised I'd never have to floss again, I knew I had to try it. The Waterpik Sonic-Fusion Flossing Toothbrush combines a standard electric toothbrush with a built-in Waterpik, allowing you to brush and "floss" with a high-pressure water stream at the same time.
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The toothbrush itself looks mostly like a regular electric toothbrush, with a relatively small brush head, a sizable handle that holds the battery, and a charging stand. The only difference is that the charging stand also contains a 15-ounce removable water tank, with a detachable hose that connects to the toothbrush for its water flossing function. On the side of the stand is a dial with 10 settings that lets you control the intensity of the water flow. The setup is simple and takes just a few minutes.
There are two settings — brush and floss — which you can use individually or simultaneously by pressing the buttons on the toothbrush handle. The brush setting has an automatic two-minute shut-off timer with brief pauses at 30-second intervals to remind you to switch sections of your mouth.
The toothbrush comes with a sturdy travel case, and the battery-operated brushing function works well when away from the charging stand and water tank; the floss function, however, requires the full setup, which plugs into a standard outlet.
The ease of use of a two-in-one flossing toothbrush can't be overstated. I find the Waterpik to be vastly easier to use than traditional floss, especially because I have a permanent retainer behind my bottom teeth. For folks with braces, crowns, permanent retainers, or any other dental work that makes standard flossing cumbersome or slow, this is a game changer.
It also makes the process of flossing a bit more hygienic, since you don't need to jam your fingers into your mouth and there's little chance of icky food particles being flung onto your bathroom mirror. Other features like the dishwasher-friendly water reservoir, built-in timer, and global voltage compatibility are all appreciated. But the bottom line is that this device has finally turned me into a daily flosser, and there's no bigger "pro" than that.
That being said, there is a bit of a learning curve to mastering the simultaneous brush-and-floss technique. The first few times I tried it, I wound up rinsing away all of my toothpaste well before the two-minute timer was up. I also had a few incidents where I forgot the flossing mode was still on before I took it out of my mouth and sprayed water all over my bathroom mirror. After about a week of use, I discovered the easiest method is to start with just the brushing function on and do a quick once-over of your mouth to distribute the toothpaste; then, work in sections, first brushing and then "rinsing" with the floss function. It also helps to lean over the sink and leave your mouth slightly open while you're flossing. It's not the most flattering look, but it is effective.
Other minor gripes include the stiff water hose that doesn't wind up very neatly for storage when not in use. A clip or larger compartment to store the hose within would be a nice design improvement. The water tank is also small and usually needs to be refilled after each use. (This is a trade-off I'm personally willing to accept to maintain the small footprint on my bathroom countertop.) For frequent travelers, the fact that the unit must be plugged in for the flossing function to be utilized is also less than ideal.
Last week, after using this device for about three months, I had my first visit to the dentist in more than a year. My usual dread in the days leading up to the appointment actually turned into excitement, because I knew I was not going to be shamed for my irresponsible behavior again. In fact, the hygienist told me my gum measurements were perfect and Dr. Park even complimented me on my excellent oral care. I'm only a little bit embarrassed to admit that I came home and gleefully bragged to my husband that "I got straight As" at the dentist.
In other words, I absolutely recommend the Waterpik Sonic-Fusion Flossing Toothbrush. The $152 price tag may seem steep, but from my perspective, that's an inexpensive insurance policy against the cost and inconvenience of a filling or root canal. It's a worthwhile investment and would also make a great gift for the bad dental patient in your life.