Review: High-tech flossing with just air and water

Credit: Alice Truong/DVICE

Okay Mr. Moneybags, so you want to trade your $2 floss for something decidedly more upscale, and you've got your eye on the $80 Philips AirFloss. Because it's fancy. And expensive. But does it work?

Lucky for you, we've gone teeth-on with the AirFloss and found that while not a complete replacement for old-fashioned string floss, it's a quick and easy substitute. At the end of the day, if you hate flossing and have money to burn, the AirFloss is a perfectly fine companion. Just remember that what you've been using (or should've been using) works as well, if not better, without carrying a hefty price tag. But let us try to convince you that string is the past, and bursts of air and water are the future.

Microburst clean

"Flossing is my favorite activity," said nobody ever. Even if you do a fantastic job brushing, a toothbrush alone will not keep plaque and gingivitis at bay. Twice a year (if we're good), we hear our dentists lecture us about flossing every day, but we sheepishly admit that we don't always do it. It takes too long. It's hard to reach back there. I'm sleepy enough as is — can't we just be proud that I even brushed at all? Our excuses always boil down to laziness. Philips aims to make flossing simpler and faster so people bear with it for the sake of their oral hygiene. Perhaps some might even look forward to it. Weirdos.

With the click of a button, the AirFloss propels pressurized air and water between teeth to dislodge food debris and remove plaque. The angled nozzle, which glides along the gum line, helps you reach the back of teeth without having to jam your fingers in your mouth. All in all, the process takes roughly a minute.

Air vs. string

While convenient, the AirFloss does come with a set of limitations. The microbursts are powerful enough to remove leftover food particles in between teeth, but it isn't perfect, especially with larger stubborn debris. Furthermore, since the power is focused primarily on the gum line, particles farther away can continue to linger.

You can choose to fill up the 10-milliliter reservoir with water or mouthwash. Opting for the latter leaves a fresh minty clean taste between your teeth. I typically make two passes, because I find that depending on how the head is angled, sometimes the air-water combination sputters awkwardly, forcing its way into my gums instead of through my teeth.

Despite that slight amount of awkwardness, the experience isn't nearly as messy as oral irrigators. Waterpik's Water Flosser, for instance, directs a water stream along the gum line continuously, massaging the gums in the process. While the company's own studies (take from that what you may) have found it more effective than the AirFloss in removing plaque and gingivitis, the experience isn't nearly as effortless — not to mention, the Waterpik takes up a lot of bathroom counter real estate. Meanwhile, Philips' own studies on the AirFloss emphasize the obvious: using the AirFloss after brushing is more effective than manual brushing alone.

The fact is, it's hard to beat old-fashioned dental floss for thoroughness removing plaque along the length of each tooth, but for certain use cases, the convenience of AirFloss outweighs the frustration of string. Those with dental bridges or braces will find the ease of use unbeatable, and the microbursts are gentle enough for sensitive gums and dental work. What it comes down to is this: flossing sucks, and if you hate flossing, you'll be way better off using AirFloss than not using anything at all.

Solution for the lazy

After reviewing Philips' DiamondClean brush, I was looking forward to trying out yet another gorgeous dental product — one with a design so dazzling that I would look forward to taking care of my pearly whites (and following through on my new year's resolution). While the AirFloss is a great fit for the lazy flosser with deep pockets and concern for one's oral hygiene, sadly, it doesn't carry the same aesthetics. This isn't a red dot product. There's no sleek induction charging or subtle vibration to signal when battery is low. Though it doesn't have the large footprint common with oral irrigators, the "ergonomic" handle remains bulky. Despite its heft, the reservoir holds only about two teaspoons of fluid, which Philips says is enough for two full uses (that might be a stretch for the more thorough AirFlossers).

While it makes sense to distinguish electric toothbrushes in a crowded market with asethetics, floss is another story. How do you instill a habit that most people overlook? For Philips, that meant simplifying the experience — forgoing the messiness associated with oral irrigators, and forgoing the string that people have learned to ignore in their bathroom cabinets. With the AirFloss, Philips has struck a good compromise between oral hygiene and ease of use.

Via Philips

All images by Alice Truong for DVICE.

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