The Philips Sonicare AirFloss is designed to make flossing easier, claiming to remove up to 99% more plaque between teeth than brushing with a manual toothbrush alone.

Flossing your teeth regularly is important for maintaining good oral health. Normal brushing isn't enough as it only removes surface plaque whereas flossing removes the plaque from between your teeth. Plaque build-up can cause tooth decay and gum disease, but according to research conducted by Philips, 25% of Australians never floss – 40% of those say it's too much hassle and 30% say they don't know how to.

How does the AirFloss work?

The Sonicare AirFloss releases quick bursts of pressurised air and water that dislodges and removes plaque between teeth. Its water reservoir holds enough water (about one teaspoon) for two flossing sessions, and has a two-week, rechargeable battery life.

It only comes with one nozzle, which needs to be replaced every six months, and a pack of two replacement nozzles will cost you $29.95. If a few of you in the family are using the Airfloss this can become costly as you'll need to stock up.

What the panel thought

We asked four triallists, including a 12-year-old with braces, to test the AirFloss. They assessed its:

  • comfort
  • manoeuvrability
  • flexibility
  • ease of use
  • effectiveness.

Generally they found it to be fairly comfortable to hold, and reasonably easy to manoeuvre around the teeth.

They rated it only OK for flexibility – Philips say you only need to use the AirFloss on the front of your teeth but our triallists would have liked to be able to floss the back of their teeth too by turning the Airfloss upside down, which wasn't possible.

It's otherwise easy to use – simply place the guidance tip on the nozzle between your teeth and press the button.

One triallist said, "I found it to be messy to use – it blasted water over the bathroom mirror and my face".

What does it feel like to gurney your teeth?

Overall, none of our triallists would buy the AirFloss, but it wasn't only its hefty price tag that deterred them. Although they found it fairly effective at flossing their teeth, they didn't particularly like the pressure it released.

One said she didn't like the sensation of the water and air on her teeth and another said the pressure was too harsh – not because it hurt, but because it always caused bleeding of the gums, even after a week of use.

Our triallists said they prefer manual flossing and would be happy to put in the extra time to manually floss their teeth.

Our youngest triallist preferred the AirFloss because with braces it's harder to use normal floss.

CHOICE verdict

The concept of the AirFloss is good – a device that makes flossing easy encourages people to improve their oral health. But at $170 (not including the ongoing price of replacement nozzles), our triallists wouldn't rush to get their hands on one.