Types of Oral Irrigators and Their Uses

Oral irrigators are useful tools that will help keep your mouth clean. Today, we're going to look at the different types of oral irrigators and how to use them.
Types of Oral Irrigators and Their Uses

Last update: 30 July, 2021

We all know how important toothbrushes, fluoride toothpaste, and dental floss are when it comes to keeping your mouth healthy. But there are other tools you can use, like oral irrigators, that can improve your oral hygiene.

Today, we’ll look at the different types of oral irrigators and their uses.

Oral hygiene

Bacterial plaque is a sticky film of food debris and bacteria that cling to teeth. It’s responsible for many mouth conditions, like cavities, gingivitis, and periodontal disease.

The goal of dental hygiene is to get rid of that bacteria. In general, we can get rid of most of it by brushing our teeth. However, since there are some areas that bristles can’t reach, we must use other instruments as well.

The interproximal area, which is the space between our teeth, the parts of our mouth with orthodontics, or areas with crowns, for example, are sections that require other tools for cleaning. Flossing, interdental brushes, and different types of oral irrigators are ideal for helping to reach these areas. 

In this article, we’ll share what the different types of oral irrigators are and they work. Keep reading to learn more about them and how they can help you keep a clean and healthy mouth. 

What are oral irrigators?

Oral irrigators are devices that shoot a jet of fine, pressured water into your mouth. This jet of water works to remove food debris and bacterial plaque that has accumulated around your mouth.

People use them to reach places in their mouths that regular brushing can’t access. For example, they’re especially helpful for interdental spaces, where the teeth meet the gum line, and where people have fixed appliances or prostheses.

Oral irrigators consist of a motor that drives the pump, a water tank, and a special nozzle that helps you access the tooth surfaces. When you use this tool, it will create a fine jet of pressurized water that can gently dig out and get rid of food particles and bacteria stuck in, on, or around your teeth.

Since they’re safe and easy to handle, anyone who wants to can use this tool in their oral care routine. You can use them with just water or with some other antiseptic solution.

Types of oral irrigators

There are different types of oral irrigators. Also, there are different brands in different price ranges. Therefore, you have the option to choose between several options, which will allow you to meet your individual needs.

Next, we’ll tell you about the most common types.

Oral irrigators with a cord

When it comes to oral irrigators, this is the bulkiest and heaviest option. You have to plug it into an electrical outlet and people tend to leave it on their bathroom counters. 

In addition, they have a water tank that you need to refill once you’ve finished cleaning your teeth. They’re powerful and usually come with different heads so you can use them for different things. Also, they’re easy to find and are usually the cheapest option. 

The more advanced models come with the ability to adjust the pressure. This allows you to choose the strength of the water jet. Therefore, it’s a great option for those with sensitive gums or implants. 

oral irrigator

Wireless or battery-powered irrigators

These types of oral irrigators are smaller, thinner, and don’t take up much space. So, they’re pretty portable and you can take them with you on the go. Because of that versatility, they’re ideal for people who travel a lot. 

In addition, they have a large capacity water tank and a battery you can recharge via USB or plug-in charger. However, they don’t have as much power as the cord ones and their strength can be affected if you don’t charge the battery. 

Shower and tap oral irrigators

Shower oral irrigators connect to the showerhead. For these, you don’t need electricity or batteries, and you also don’t need to fill them up. Instead, they use the power from your water system. However, the disadvantage is that they’re more difficult to maneuver.

The tap ones are similar to the shower oral irrigators, but they have a tube that connects to the tap. Also, you don’t have to recharge them, use electricity or batteries, and they’re easier to handle. However, they’re more difficult to come by and dental clinics are usually the ones who have them. 

Oral irrigators for children

In general, anyone in the family can use these devices if they take the necessary care. When it comes to the smallest members of the household, some types of oral irrigators have special characteristics just for them.

For example, some of them allow you to choose the pressure level so it will be less powerful for kids than for adults. This keeps your children from using too much pressure on their sensitive teeth and allows them to clean more gently. 

In addition, size is important. Your children should use smaller ones so they can handle them more comfortably and easily.

How to use oral irrigators

When using oral irrigators, there are some steps you should follow to ensure you’re using them properly:

  1. First, you should brush and floss your teeth as you normally would. This will clean the interdental areas.
  2. Then, fill the irrigator tank with water or diluted mouthwash (1 part mouthwash to 4 parts water). Or, if you have a tap irrigator, you’ll need to connect it to the tap.
  3. Connect the nozzle that you want to use and adjust the water pressure to fit your needs.
  4. Put the irrigator in your mouth and allow the water to hit all of your teeth, crowns, and appliances. It’s important to clean the gum line, the interdental spaces, and, with less pressure, the surface of your teeth. 
  5. Once you’ve finished, you should clean the water tank and the nozzle.

Normally, it takes between 2 to 5 minutes to clean with an oral irrigator, depending on each person’s needs. We recommend only using it once a day, preferably after dinner and before bed. That way, you can go to bed with your mouth as clean as possible.

However, you should note that you can’t use an oral irrigator if you have any cuts, ulcers, or sores in your mouth. The irrigator could make them worse, so its use is contraindicated. 

The benefits of oral irrigators

Using oral irrigators will improve your oral hygiene and will help you take care of your mouth. Like we previously mentioned, it helps to eliminate bacterial plaque from hard-to-reach areas, which gives you a more complete clean.

In addition, it requires less manual dexterity than flossing. Using these devices provides the following benefits:

  • It reduces the possibility of inflammation in the gums and bleeding gums while brushing.
  • Irrigators remove food debris and bacterial plaque from areas that toothbrushes can’t reach.
  • They’re easy and convenient to use. You don’t have to move too much or use much manual dexterity to handle it.
  • They help people with braces remove food debris and properly clean their appliances.
  • Their use extends the life of crowns, bridges, and implants. 
  • Irrigators prevent the formation of tartar, cavities, stains on the teeth, and bad breath. 
  • They provide a feeling of cleanliness and freshness in the mouth.

However, as we’ve already mentioned, oral irrigators aren’t a substitute for brushing or flossing. Instead, they offer a more complete clean that will improve your oral hygiene. 

Oral irrigator uses

Anyone who wants to take care of their oral health and improve their oral hygiene can use oral irrigators. However, there are certain circumstances where this device could actually be the solution to a problem.

For example, if you have inflammation in the gums, whether it’s caused by gingivitis, periodontitis, or other factors, you may experience pain in the gum tissue, tenderness, redness, or bleeding. Bacterial plaque accumulation worsens this condition, so it’s important to keep your gums clean. 

For some patients, flossing can be painful, uncomfortable, and even cause more bleeding in the area. Oral irrigators allow you to gently and comfortably sanitize this sensitive tissue.

Periodontal disease is the complication and evolution of gingivitis. Like we mentioned, you can use an oral irrigator to help clean the gingival tissue and reduce your bleeding and inflammation. In addition, your dentist may suggest you use these devices with special mouthwashes. This will allow you to reach the periodontal pockets (below the gum line) and treat the infection locally.

Some patients suffer from dry mouth due to things like their genetics, specific diseases, or certain medications. In these cases, your saliva’s ability to naturally clean your mouth is decreased, which increases the risk of tooth decay and periodontitis. Oral irrigators help to moisten the oral cavity and eliminate accumulated bacterial plaque. 

In addition, patients who have fixed appliances often have issues with food and bacteria accumulation on their braces or wires. Oral irrigators help you eliminated those trapped particles and maintain proper hygiene. 

Also, because of factors like the arrangement of people’s teeth, implants or crowns, and ill-adapted fillings, some people may get food trapped between their teeth. In these cases, oral irrigators are very helpful when it comes to cleaning problem regions. 

ceramic fixed braces

Tips for choosing between the different types of oral irrigators

When choosing between the different types of oral irrigators, there are certain aspects you should analyze and take into account so you can choose the best model for you:

  • Power source: Electric oral irrigators are more powerful, but they’re bulkier. They can be battery-powered or rechargeable with a USB or an electric charger. You should take note of the type of power the appliance will need and if that will work for you. In addition, you should keep in mind whether or not you will need to transport it.
  • Water source: Portable oral irrigators usually have a built-in reservoir of 1.5 to 5 oz, which makes them easier to transport. Electric ones, on the other hand, have larger tanks that can carry up to 34 oz so you don’t have to replace the water as often.
  • Water resistance: If the product has a waterproof nozzle and is certified water-resistant, it’s more likely to be a high-quality product.
  • Water pressure intensity: We recommend that you find an oral irrigator with adjustable water pressure levels. That way, you can use it for problems that require a gentler approach as well as for those that need more intensity.
  • Nozzles and heads: The more nozzle sizes and designs the device has, the better. This variety will let you choose the nozzle that works best for each situation. In addition, some irrigators are 2-in-1, which means you can attach a brush head and use it as an electric toothbrush as well.
  • Design: You also need to consider the shape, weight, and materials of your oral irrigator. You should look for a device that’s compact, strong, light, easy to use, and that will fit comfortably in your hand.


Oral irrigators are comfortable and useful tools that will give your mouth a more complete clean.

Although they’re not a substitute for tooth brushing, they’ll help you take care of your smile. Like we previously mentioned, they will keep your mouth fresh and will eliminate bacterial plaque that’s difficult to remove.

It’s always a good idea to talk to your dentist about the most suitable option for you. They will be able to help with your purchase, and they will be able to provide more comprehensive care for your smile.

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