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AirFloss? Answers to your patients' questions

Sept. 1, 2011
Have you ever wondered who is writing the “scripts” for the questions patients ask, since they tend to be so similar?

by Karen Davis, RDH, BSDH

For more on this topic, go to and search using the following key words: AirFloss, flossing, oral irrigator, mouthwash, Karen Davis, RDH, BSDH.

Have you ever wondered who is writing the “scripts” for the questions patients ask, since they tend to be so similar? When I recently introduced the new AirFloss technology to patients, I quickly saw a familiar pattern emerging. Almost everyone was asking the same questions about this innovative technology designed to fill the gap for patients who find dental floss unrealistic. The following Q&A should help you prepare to respond concisely to patients’ common questions.

1. What exactly is it, and how does it work? AirFloss is a new device developed by Philips Sonicare to remove plaque biofilm from between the teeth. It uses a rapid burst of air and water droplets to disrupt the biofilm from between the teeth. It is called “miroburst technology.”

2. Is it better than floss? (Comical question since the patients I typically introduce to AirFloss are 100% averse to flossing anyway!) Studies have shown AirFloss to remove up to 99% more plaque than manual brushing alone. Thus, the addition of it to a brushing-only technique would target interproximal plaque biofilm currently left behind.

3. Is it the same thing as an oral irrigator or Waterpik? Oral irrigators work on large volumes of pulsating water to disturb plaque biofilm between teeth, while the effectiveness of AirFloss relies on the power of the microdroplets to remove plaque biofilm. AirFloss uses only one teaspoon of liquid. So the two are different technologies.

4. So which is better, oral irrigation or AirFloss? Good question. Most likely the real answer will be that both are effective tools for interproximal cleaning; however, ongoing studies are evaluating the comparison between the two technologies. These results should be known in 2012. For many patients, an important question to consider is: Will I actually use this technology? Due to the easy point-and-click design, compliance studies on AirFloss are extremely high.

5. What if my teeth and gums are sensitive? Does it hurt? The force behind the AirFloss technology is powerful enough to remove plaque while remaining gentle on teeth and gums. If cold sensitivity is a concern, you can use one teaspoon of slightly warm tap water.

6. Can you use mouthwash in the AirFloss? Yes. You can use water or an antimicrobial mouthwash to fill the small reservoir in the handle. You can also use a whitening, desensitizing, or fluoridated mouthwash, depending on the desired results.

7. How expensive is it? The retail price will vary depending on where you purchase it. But the price should be $80 to $90 at most places. You may order the AirFloss online, purchase it in stores, or purchase it from an office.

8. How long does it take to use? It takes 60 seconds to clean between the teeth. The tip is designed with a unique guide to direct you to the spaces between the teeth. Once you have it in place, click on it for the microburst technology to remove the plaque. Then repeat this point-and-click method of cleaning between all teeth, which is a bit similar to the point-and-click feel of a computer mouse.

9. Does it require another plug to keep it charged? You can charge the AirFloss either on its base, or if you already own a Sonicare, you may recharge it on that base. It will hold a charge for about two weeks. This makes it easy to travel with, and saves plug-in space for other electrical devices.

10. Does it have a removable head that has to be replaced? For optimal use, the manufacturer recommends replacement of the head every six months.

11. Should I use the AirFloss instead of dental floss? Engineers at Philips developed AirFloss to help bridge the gap for patients who need to floss but don’t. Even though some flossing patients may like the feel and ease of AirFloss — and may eventually switch to this — I recommend patients who have found dental floss unrealistic or ineffective use it.

Dental professionals introducing this new technology may wish to visit the Philips website at to learn more. Given the oral-systemic implications of disease in the mouth, assisting patients in realistic daily plaque control should be a top priority.

Karen Davis, RDH, BSDH, is founder of Cutting Edge Concepts and a trainer with the JP Institute of San Diego, Calif. She is an international speaker and practices dental hygiene in Dallas, Texas. She received her bachelor of science degree in dental hygiene from Midwestern State University and an RDH Mastership Program certification from the JP Institute. She is an independent consultant to the Philips Corporation, and can be reached at [email protected].

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