Jonathan Takiff: MOVE OVER, DENTAL FLOSS

AirFloss reduces the water consumption to a teaspoon or two.
AirFloss reduces the water consumption to a teaspoon or two.

Here comes AirFloss

Posted: August 17, 2011

THE GIZMO: Philips Sonicare AirFloss.

READERS' CAUTION: Today's Gizmo really rakes the muck - and occasionally a little blood - especially if you're not the greatest tooth brusher and flosser.

But trust me, it also delivers happiness. Your dentist will love and compliment you. Your mouth will look and feel cleaner and healthier - and smell better, too. And after you get used to it, running this high-tech, $90 "interproximal cleaning device" around your mouth becomes addictive and fun. The payback is obvious as soon as you "rinse and spit."

JUST A SPOONFUL OF WATER: WaterPik introduced a floss-with-water home dental care system aeons ago; the Sonicare AirFloss from Philips pushes the technology forward.

Instead of squirting a messy stream of water into your mouth (the WaterPik way) to blow away gunk stuck between teeth and tartar at the gum line, AirFloss reduces the water consumption from a liter to a mere teaspoon or two, delivered as neat "microdroplet" squirts combined with compressed air.

HIT ME WITH YOUR BEST SHOT: On first use, this cordless, rechargeable device is a mite startling.

Best deployed after you've first brushed with a conventional toothbrush (or better yet, a Sonicare electric), you position the AirFloss' rubbery-tipped nozzle between two teeth, up at the gum line, then press a trigger. The device makes a whirring noise, followed by a little "pop" as you feel the air/water combination attacking the zone.

But by the time you've circled your mouth (a 60-second undertaking) hitting all the uppers and lowers just on the outside, the noise and tingle will begin to feel normal.

LESS MESS: AirFlossing is so much easier, cleaner and faster than conventional dental floss. Don't know about you, but I hate the ritual of wrapping a slippery strand of floss around fingers and wedging it between my teeth, then pulling out the silly string with all that gunk and saliva and (sometimes) blood dripping off. (Sorry, I warned you this would get ugly.)

By contrast, attacking even hard-to-reach back molars with the elongated AirFloss nozzle is an effortless undertaking, and you can feel and even smell (sorry again) the loosened food remnants flying before you spit and see 'em landed in the sink.

When you run your tongue around your choppers afterward, they seem cleaner and smoother. Philips touts that AirFloss removes "99 percent more plaque than a manual toothbrush alone."

CONSUMERS REPORT: Have a family member who's wearing braces? User comments posted online testify that the AirFloss is an even bigger pleasure and miracle worker in cleaning around all the metal work.

Some have complained the nozzle is hard to pull off. But after the first time, it's a snap.

If family members want to share, extra AirFloss nozzles with individual identifying marks go for $9 a pair.

You're supposed to clean the device periodically and replace the nozzle every six months - more often if you load it with mouthwash instead of water.

I've gotten better than two weeks of daily use on a single charge of the built-in battery. Would be nicer still if Philips included a travel case with the AirFloss for road trips.

DON'T BE AFRAID: Not sure if this gizmo is right for you?

Philips is so confident you'll like the Sonicare AirFloss and get better dental checkups that the product is sold with a 28-day trial and full-refund guarantee.

You'll find it priced at $89.99 at Bed Bath & Beyond, Drugstore.com and Amazon.com.


Send email to takiffj@phillynews.com.

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