Educators during the lunch hour: Innovations in water flossing led to CE innovations too

Sept. 1, 2017
Ann-Marie DePalma, RDH, explains how Waterpiks' innovations in flossing devices led to lunch-and-learn seminars.

By Ann-Marie DePalma, RDH, MEd, FADIA, FAADH

“Flossgate” happened in 2016. For those of you who may have forgotten, under the Freedom of Information Act, the Associated Press asked the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture for evidence to support the use and effectiveness of dental floss. When the federal government issued its latest dietary guidelines, the flossing recommendation had been removed without notice. The AP received a letter from the government acknowledging that the effectiveness of floss had never been researched, as required. Thus, the AP looked at the most rigorous research conducted over the past decade that focused on 25 studies that compared the use of a toothbrush with the combination of a toothbrush and floss. The results? Evidence for flossing was deemed “weak, very unreliable, or of very low quality and carries a moderate to large potential for bias.”1

As dental professionals, we constantly battle with patients over the “f” word—patients don’t do it or lie to us that they do use it, or they use floss haphazardly. When flossgate broke, patients, family, and the media asked dental professionals what to do—floss or not? However, many of those asking did not know that there is an effective alternative to string flossing - flossing with water! A water flosser, specifically the Waterpik Water Flosser, has been researched and shown to be effective in removing biofilm and debris interproximally. It’s better than traditional string floss and safe for use in the natural dentition and with orthodontic, implant, and periodontal patients.

Originally known as the producer of oral irrigators, in 1962 Water Pik Inc. was founded as AquaTec Corporation of Fort Collins, Colorado, by hydraulic engineer John Mattingly and dentist Gerald Moyer. They wanted to create an oral irrigator for use in dentistry. The oral irrigator received its first patent in 1967. One of the first studies was published in 1969 showing plaque and calculus reductions by those who used the oral irrigator. The 50th clinical study proving the efficacy of the oral irrigator was presented in 2005. The oral irrigator officially became known as the Waterpik Water Flosser in 2009, and this year Waterpik Water Flosser celebrates the original oral irrigator’s 55th anniversary.2

The Waterpik Water Flosser was the first powered interdental cleaner to receive the American Dental Association’s Seal of Acceptance in February 2017. To earn the Seal, Water Pik Inc. had to demonstrate via scientific data, clinical studies, and results of laboratory testing the requirements for product safety and efficacy in the ADA Seal Powered Interdental Cleaner category.

Lunch-and-learns provide answers

Through the years, Water Pik Inc. has been focused on research and innovation. As continuing education has evolved, the lunch-and-learn format has become a mainstay in the dental industry. Lunch-and-learns provide an easy and effective way to educate the entire dental team about new products and research. The presenter comes to the office, which allows the team to hear the information at one time and without taking time away from patient care, all while enjoying a free lunch. As the research on the Waterpik Water Flosser grew, dental professionals requested lunch-and-learn programs from the company, so the company began providing lunch-and-learns in 2013.

These help dental professionals become more confident in recommending the Water Flosser. Years ago, very little was taught in dental and dental hygiene schools about oral irrigation. Even worse, the information that was presented was inaccurate or not supported by scientific evidence. With a lunch-and-learn, dental professionals can understand the science behind the safety and efficacy of the Water Flosser. The presentation offers information about the different flossers, available tips that can be used for various patient populations, and the best way to use the Water Flosser to eliminate the messy effects.

All team members are encouraged to participate, and since the lunch-and-learn is held in the office, it’s more casual and intimate than a CE course. Many team members feel more comfortable asking questions in this type of setting. The presentation is evidence-based and practical and provides needed information.

Educators at Lunch

The lunch-and-learn educators, led by Brianna Taylor and Carol Jahn, RDH, MS, Waterpik Director of Professional Relations and Education, are independent contractors and not Water Pik Inc. employees. Most are either practicing or retired dental hygienists. Many are active in their state and local dental hygiene associations. These qualities give the educators a high degree of credibility. The common denominator for the educators is their passion for dental hygiene and the Water Flosser. They enjoy sharing the information with their colleagues, and many report that the lunch-and-learns are so enjoyable the sessions almost don’t feel like work.

The educators often share that recommending the Water Flosser rather than string floss has changed their outlook on dental hygiene and makes seeing patients more satisfying. They also state that it is invigorating to use their dental hygiene skills and education in a new way. In addition to the lunch-and-learn programs, Water Pik Inc. offers several self-study courses about cutting-edge information at no charge. These can be found on the Water Pik Inc. website. Carol Jahn also presents a number of live continuing education programs.

If your practice is looking for a way to help patients who cannot or will not floss, or who want to remain current on the latest products and research from Water Pik Inc., request a lunch-and-learn at the “professionals” section at or contact the customer service center at (800) 525-2020. You’ll be armed with the latest information, and you’ll have a helpful response to those who ask about flossgate.

Thought for the month: “You can raise your potential when you help someone to reach their potential.” - Amit Ray RDH

ANN-MARIE C. DEPALMA, RDH, MEd, FADIA, FAADH, is the 2017 recipient of the Esther M. Wilkins Distinguished Alumni Award of the Forsyth School for Dental Hygiene/Massachusetts College of Pharmacy. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Dental Hygiene and the Association of Dental Implant Auxiliaries, as well as a continuous member of ADHA. She presents continuing education programs for dental team members on a variety of topics. Ann-Marie has authored chapters in several texts for dental hygiene. She can be reached at [email protected].