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Sept. 1, 2011
Answers to patients’ questions about biofilm removal technology

Answers to patients’ questions about biofilm removal technology

by Karen Davis, RDH, BSDH

Have you ever wondered who’s writing all the "scripts" for the questions patients ask, since the questions 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 that find dental floss unrealistic. (Figure 1) You should try this new technology for yourself, but the following Q & A can help you respond to patients’ common questions in a concise manner.

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 microburst technology.
  • Is it better than floss? (Comical question since the patients I typically introduce to AirFloss are 100% averse to flossing!) Studies have shown AirFloss is able to remove up to 99% more plaque than manual brushing alone; therefore, the addition of AirFloss to any brushing-only technique will target interproximal plaque biofilm currently being left behind.
  • Is it the same thing as an oral irrigator, or Waterpik? Oral irrigators work with large volumes of pulsating water to disturb plaque biofilm between teeth, and the effectiveness of AirFloss relies on the power of the microdroplets to remove plaque biofilm. AirFloss uses only one teaspoon of liquid, so these are different technologies.
  • So which is better, oral irrigation or AirFloss? Good question, and most likely the real answer is that both are effective tools for interproximal cleaning. However, studies are currently ongoing that evaluate the comparison between the two technologies. Those results are due to be out 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.
  • 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. You can use one teaspoon of slightly warm tap water in the AirFloss if cold sensitivity is a concern.
  • 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 your desired results.
  • How expensive is it? The retail price for AirFloss will vary depending on where you buy it, but the price should be $80 to $90 at most places. You may order it online, buy it in stores, or purchase it from our office.
  • How long does it take to use? It takes 60 seconds to clean in between the teeth. The tip is designed with a unique guide to direct you to the space between the teeth. Once you have it in place, click it on for the microburst technology to remove the plaque, and repeat this "point and click" method of cleaning between all teeth, similar to the point and click feel of a computer mouse.
  • Does it require another plug to keep it charged for use? You can charge the AirFloss either on its own base, or if you already own a Sonicare, you may recharge it on that base. It will hold a charge for about two weeks, which makes it easy to travel with, and saves plug-in space for your other electrical devices.
  • Does it have a removable head that must be replaced? The manufacturer recommends replacing the head every six months for optimal use.
  • Should I use AirFloss instead of dental floss? The engineers at the Philips Corporations specifically developed AirFloss to help bridge the gap for patients that need to floss, but don’t. Even though some flossing patients may like the ease and feel of AirFloss, and eventually switch to that, my recommendation is for patients like you who have found dental floss unrealistic or ineffective.
  • 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 one of our highest priorities.

    Karen Davis, RDH, BSDH, is the 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, Tex. Karen received her bachelor of science 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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