Why Is Flossing Important? (8 Reasons + Ways to Make It a Habit)

Are you tired of hearing your dentist remind you to floss at every visit? Do you feel guilty as you walk out of the clinic, vowing to start flossing daily? You’re not alone.

Most people know they should floss but struggle to understand why it’s so important, often relegating it to the bottom of their oral hygiene to-do list.

In this article, we will explore the benefits of flossing that make it a non-negotiable part of a healthy dental routine. We’ll also provide tips and tricks on how to turn this chore into a habit you can stick to for a lifetime.

What Is Flossing?

Flossing is a dental hygiene practice that involves cleaning in between teeth with a thin thread of material. This thread, commonly known as dental floss, removes plaque, food particles and bacteria from the spaces between teeth that brushing alone cannot reach.

According to recent studies, only 30% of Americans floss daily, which is a surprising statistic given how important flossing is to maintaining good oral health.

Kinds of Dental Floss

Dental floss comes in different shapes and forms, from traditional strips of waxed thread to flavored pre-strung flossers.

Below are the commonly used ones:

  • Waxed floss: It is best for people with tight spaces between their teeth, as it glides smoothly without getting caught.
  • Unwaxed floss: It is ideal for those with more widely spaced teeth, as it is thinner and easier to maneuver.
  • Flavored floss: It is a great option for people who don’t like the taste of regular floss, and it can make flossing a more enjoyable experience.
  • Unflavored floss

Different kinds of floss have their own advantages — for instance, mint-flavored floss can help freshen your breath, while waxed floss slides easily between tight spaces without fraying or breaking.

To further explore the importance of flossing, here are eight reasons why it’s crucial for maintaining good oral health:

Floss Reaches Inaccessible Areas

One of the biggest benefits of flossing is that it reaches areas where brushing can’t. While brushing is crucial for cleaning the surfaces of teeth, flossing gets into the tight spaces between teeth and under the gumline to remove plaque and bacteria. This helps prevent gum disease, tooth decay, and bad breath.

Incorporating flossing into your daily dental routine is crucial for keeping good oral hygiene and preventing future dental problems.

Flossing Prevents Tooth Decay

Dental caries is one of the most widespread dental problems, but it is highly preventable. Tooth decay occurs when harmful bacteria in your mouth produce acids that attack tooth enamel.

Let’s look at how flossing can help keep your teeth healthy and strong for years to come.

It Removes Harmful Bacteria

While brushing can clean the surfaces of your teeth, harmful bacteria can still lurk between your teeth and under your gumline. These harmful bacteria feed on leftover food particles in the mouth, leading to plaque build-up, cavities, and even periodontal diseases. This is where flossing comes in.

When you floss regularly, these bacteria don’t have time to accumulate and damage your teeth.

It Reduces Plaque and Tartar Buildup

Plaque is a sticky, colorless film of bacteria that forms on teeth and gums. If left untreated, plaque can harden and become tartar, a hard, calcified deposit. It can only be removed by professional dental cleaning and can cause unsightly yellow or brown stains on teeth.

Tartar buildup can lead to more serious dental issues such as gum disease and tooth decay. Flossing regularly can help remove these harmful substances from between teeth and under the gumline, reducing the risk of dental issues.

It Creates a Healthy Environment

Apart from removing the bacteria between teeth, flossing also helps create a healthier environment in the oral cavity.

The act of flossing helps stimulate saliva production, which has antibacterial properties that neutralize disease-causing microorganisms in the mouth. This can further help ward off tooth decay, as well as bad breath (halitosis).


You love eating popcorn, but every time you indulge, you end up with pieces stuck in your teeth. Over time, this can lead to the buildup of harmful bacteria and plaque, increasing the risk of tooth decay and cavities. By flossing regularly, you can remove this food debris and keep your teeth clean and healthy, even after enjoying your favorite snack.

Flossing Prevents Gum Disease and Gingivitis

Gum disease and gingivitis are two dental issues that can cause discomfort and lead to serious complications if left untreated.

  • Gum disease: Also known as periodontitis, occurs when the gums become infected and start to pull away from the teeth, creating pockets where bacteria can thrive. This can lead to bone and tooth loss if left untreated.
  • Gingivitis: It is a milder form of gum disease that causes inflammation and bleeding of the gums.

Both conditions are caused by the buildup of harmful bacteria in the mouth, which can be prevented through brushing and flossing.

Brushing alone isn’t enough to reduce your risk of gum disease and gingivitis — regular flossing is essential for removing debris in those hard-to-reach areas where bacteria can accumulate.

It Can Reduce Inflammation in Your Gums

Inflammation in your gums can be a common symptom of gum disease and gingivitis, and it can be painful and uncomfortable. It is caused by the buildup of harmful bacteria which can lead to inflammation, bleeding, and other issues if left untreated.

Inflammation can also be caused by other factors, such as:

  • poor nutrition
  • smoking
  • certain medications

Symptoms of gum inflammation can include:

  • redness
  • swelling
  • tenderness
  • bleeding

Fortunately, regular flossing can help reduce inflammation and prevent these issues from becoming more serious.

Flossing can also help promote healthy blood flow in the gums, reducing inflammation and further healing. This is especially important for those with gum disease or other dental issues that can impact blood flow in the gums.

Flossing Helps Freshen Your Breath

Bad breath, also known as halitosis, is a common dental issue that can impact your social interactions and confidence.

It is caused by the buildup of bacteria in the mouth, which can be exacerbated by factors such as poor dental hygiene, certain foods, and medical conditions:

  • Food particles can get stuck between your teeth and under your gums, leading to the growth of odor-causing bacteria.
  • Plaque and tartar buildup on teeth can also lead to bad breath.

Imagine you’re preparing for a first date and feel anxious about the possibility of having bad breath. By taking a few minutes to floss beforehand, you can effectively remove trapped food particles and bacteria, leaving your mouth feeling fresh and clean.

This simple yet effective action will help you approach the date with confidence and ease, knowing that your breath is pleasant and won’t cause any embarrassment.

Flossing is an excellent way to combat bad breath, which can otherwise lead to anxiety in social situations. Making it a part of your daily routine can work wonders for your dental health and give you the self-assurance needed to navigate various social settings with ease.

Flossing Gives a Better-Looking Smile

A dazzling smile can make you feel more confident and attractive while conveying friendliness and approachability. Flossing can play a crucial role in achieving that perfect smile.

It Helps Prevent Staining and Discoloration of Teeth

Flossing helps remove stains and debris from between your teeth, giving you a brighter, more attractive smile. These stains and debris can come from the food and drinks we consume, such as coffee, tea, wine, soda, and tobacco products.

Over time, they can cause our teeth to become discolored and dull. But by flossing regularly, you can remove these stains and debris before they have a chance to build up and become harder to remove.

Flossing also helps prevent the buildup of tartar, which can cause yellowing and discoloration. By flossing daily, you can help prevent tartar buildup and keep your teeth looking cleaner and brighter.

Flossing Helps Improve Mental Health

We’ve all heard the phrase “Smile, and the world smiles with you,” but did you know that maintaining good oral health is linked to improved mental health outcomes?

It Boosts Self-Esteem

Flossing regularly can also help boost your self-esteem and confidence by giving you a brighter, healthier smile. Good oral hygiene makes you more likely to feel confident in your appearance, which can improve your mood and overall well-being.

Having a healthy smile can also make you more comfortable in social situations which could improve your relationships with others.

The Link Between Oral Health and Mental Health

While it’s common knowledge that taking care of your teeth and gums through regular brushing and flossing can help reduce the risk of tooth decay, there are many other benefits to cleaning teeth — including reducing symptoms of depression.

Studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other medical organizations have found a correlation between poor oral health and an increased risk of developing symptoms of depression.

Here are other mental health-related implications of poor oral health:

  • Loss of appetite — It can lead to poor nutrition (this can be a symptom of depression or anxiety).
  • Dental anxiety — Fear of visiting the dentist (anxiety-related).
  • Low energy — Can be a symptom of depression.
  • Difficulty performing daily tasks — like brushing teeth (can be a symptom of depression or anxiety).
  • Pain — Chronic pain can impact mental health.
  • Alcohol use problems or drug use — Substance abuse can be linked to mental health issues.

Additionally, further research has shown that people with poor dental health are at a greater risk of developing depression even after controlling other variables such as age, gender, and socioeconomic status.

This may be because people with depression often lack the motivation or energy to carry out certain activities, such as flossing their teeth — leading to poorer dental health.

Taking care of your teeth and gums, especially through regular flossing, can improve your self-esteem and enjoy the many benefits of a healthy, happy smile.

Flossing Improves Overall Health

Good dental hygiene plays an important role in improving overall health, not just in achieving a beautiful smile. Although flossing may seem tedious and time-consuming, the benefits it provides are worth it.

In addition to improving oral health, flossing can also prevent other health problems.

Research has shown that flossing can reduce inflammation throughout the body, which is a major factor in many chronic diseases. It prevents harmful bacteria from entering the bloodstream and spreading throughout the body. This is especially beneficial for those with weakened immune systems, such as people with HIV/AIDS or cancer.

Flossing Reduces the Risk of Dental Emergencies

Regularly flossing will help you stay on top of any potential problems before they become serious enough to require emergency treatment.

Early Detection and Prevention

Early detection in oral health refers to the process of identifying potential dental issues at their earliest stages before they become more serious and require more invasive measures.

When you floss, you can remove food particles and plaque buildup between your teeth, reducing the risk of decay and infection. This can prevent toothaches and abscesses from developing, which can be painful and require invasive treatment.

It’s important to spot potential issues early because many dental problems don’t show symptoms until they’ve progressed significantly. For example, a cavity may not cause pain or discomfort until it has reached the inner layers of the tooth.

Flossing Is Cost-Effective

Flossing is one of the cheapest and most effective ways to maintain good oral health.

It Helps Save Money

Regular flossing can help you save money in the long term by preventing issues from becoming bigger problems that require more costly treatments.


If you notice any bleeding or pain while flossing, it could be a sign of an underlying issue that needs to be addressed by your dentist before it progresses into something worse. You can avoid expensive treatments like fillings or root canals by catching these issues early on.

Invest in Your Oral Health

In contrast, investing a few minutes each day to floss is recommended. It would be best to floss regularly — at least once daily — to keep your teeth and gums in top condition and avoid major dental bills.

Dental floss costs are minimal compared to the expenses associated with major dental procedures like crowns or implants, so it’s worth investing in good quality dental floss to protect your oral health without breaking the bank!

Proper Flossing Techniques

Proper flossing techniques can be tricky to master. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your dental floss routine.

Preparing to floss:

  1. Before beginning, choose a type of floss suitable for you (i.e., waxed or unwaxed).
  2. Use a piece of floss about 18 inches long to ensure you have enough to use a new section for each tooth.
  3. Once you have obtained the necessary supplies, make flossing a habit by setting aside 10 minutes every day.
Pro Tip: To get into the routine quicker, keeping your dental supplies handy in one place is helpful. This way, it will be easy for you to remember, and you'll always remember to floss again!

Extra Care on Different Types of Teeth and Dental Work

When flossing different types of teeth or dental work such as braces, crowns, or bridges, always use gentle movements and clean around each tooth on both sides thoroughly. Be sure to reach underneath and behind each tooth before moving on to the next one.

  • For teeth without dental work, gently slide the floss between them and curve it around each tooth in a C-shape.
  • For teeth with braces, use a floss threader to get under the wire and floss between the teeth.
  • For teeth with crowns or bridges, use a floss threader or a special floss designed for these dental devices.
Pro Tip: It's also important to leave all areas intact when flossing; forgetting just one spot could lead to plaque buildup in that area, resulting in tooth decay and other gum diseases.

How Often Should You Floss

Ideally, it’s best to floss at least once every day, preferably before bedtime, as this prevents bacteria from accumulating between teeth and under the gumline overnight, creating potential problems later on down the road.

To ensure that you’re removing enough plaque and food debris, it’s essential to use a fresh piece of floss each time you brush your teeth so that all surfaces are properly cleaned.

Gentle Flossing is Key

Flossing is an important part of maintaining good oral health, but it’s important to floss correctly to avoid damaging your gums.

Use the right technique:

  • Gently slide the floss between your teeth, and curve it around each tooth in a C-shape.
  • Avoid snapping the floss, as this can be jarring and cause pain.
  • Make sure to use a clean section of floss for each tooth to avoid transferring bacteria.

Choose the right floss:

  • Select a floss that’s appropriate for your teeth and dental work.
  • Some flosses are designed to be gentle on your gums, while others are more abrasive.
  • If you have sensitive gums, look for a floss that’s gentle and easy to use.

Be patient to avoid over-flossing:

Over-flossing can cause irritation and damage to your gums. Floss at least once daily; take your time when flossing to avoid rushing and causing damage. Flossing can be tedious, but it’s worth the effort to maintain good oral health.

Common Flossing Mistakes

Flossing is essential to maintaining good oral health, but even regular flossers can make mistakes that can harm their teeth and gums. Here are a few of the most important ones to avoid so you can keep your mouth healthy:

Skipping Flossing Altogether

It’s easy to forget or get lazy when it comes to flossing, but skipping the daily routine can negatively affect oral health. Even if you brush frequently, plaque and food particles can still get trapped between teeth and cause problems with decay or gum disease.

Flossing Too Aggressively

Using too much force while flossing can be painful and cause bleeding damage to your gums and teeth. To prevent this from happening, always use gentle movements and be sure not to move too quickly from tooth to tooth.

Additionally, if flossing is done improperly, there may be signs which include:

  • sore (redness) or swollen gums
  • bleeding
  • difficulty fitting the floss between teeth

Not Flossing Enough

Not flossing enough can lead to the buildup of harmful bacteria between teeth, which may eventually result in bad breath, cavities, and other dental issues.

It’s best to set aside 10 minutes each day for proper flossing, as this will help ensure all surfaces are properly cleaned without putting undue stress on your teeth or gums.

Using the Wrong Type of Floss

Using the wrong type for your teeth can cause pain and damage. Some types of floss are designed for sensitive gums or dental work like braces, bridges, and implants. Choose a dental floss that’s appropriate for your teeth and dental needs.

Ignoring Teeth at the Back of the Mouth

It’s easy to overlook teeth at the back of the mouth when flossing because they are hard-to-reach areas, but they are just as important as front teeth. Make sure to floss all teeth, including the molars, to prevent the buildup of harmful bacteria.

How to Make Flossing a Habit

Making flossing a regular part of your daily routine can bring significant health benefits to your mouth.

Here are some tips to help you make flossing a habit:

  • Set reminders: It’s easy to forget about flossing. Set reminders on your phone or write notes on the calendar to remind you to floss daily. This can help you establish a routine and make flossing a habit.
  • Find the right time of day: To keep up with your flossing routine, choose a time of day that works best for you, such as after brushing your teeth in the morning or before bed at night. Consistency is vital to making flossing a habit — make sure it fits into your schedule!
  • Use flossing as a mindfulness practice: Flossing can be an opportunity for mindfulness. Dedicate yourself to the task at hand and take your time when flossing — focusing on each tooth and consciously ruminating on how important oral hygiene is. This will help make it easier to keep up with flossing consistently.

The rewards of consistent flossing include better oral health and fresher breath. If you take just ten minutes a day, you’ll soon see what a difference it makes!

Frequently Asked Questions

When is the best time to floss?

The American Dental Association recommends flossing at least once daily, preferably before brushing your teeth. This allows the fluoride in toothpaste to reach areas where flossing has already cleared of debris, providing maximum protection against tooth decay and gum disease.

However, the most important thing is to find a time that works for you and to floss consistently.

Can flossing be harmful?

Flossing, when done correctly, should not be harmful to your teeth or gums. However, improper flossing techniques or using floss that is too rough or abrasive can cause damage to your gums or tooth enamel.

1. Gentle, back-and-forth motions are key to avoiding damage to your gums or tooth enamel.
2. Avoid snapping the floss against your gums and opt for a softer option, such as waxed floss.
3. Be sure to clean in between each tooth and use caution around any existing dental work.

With regular practice and consistency, you can ensure that your mouth remains healthy and free from pain or discomfort.

Are there any alternatives to traditional flossing?

Yes! There are many alternatives to flossing that are just as effective as traditional floss. These include water flossers, interdental brushes, and pre-threaded floss picks. These alternatives make it much easier and more comfortable to use.

However, it’s important to remember that these tools should be used in conjunction with traditional flossing, not as a replacement. Each tool has its own benefits and drawbacks, so be sure to discuss with your dentist which options are best for your oral health.

What should I do if my gums bleed while flossing?

Bleeding gums can be a sign of gum disease, but it can also be caused by improper flossing technique. If your gums bleed when you floss, you should take the following steps to correct the problem:

Be gentle and use a lighter touch while flossing: Going too hard may cause damage or discomfort. So pay attention to how much pressure you apply.

Floss more frequently to remove built-up plaque and debris: Doing so on a daily basis can help reduce the amount of bacteria in your mouth and improve your oral health over time.

Schedule an appointment with your dentist if the bleeding persists: It is best to see your dentist so they can examine and assess any underlying causes. Bleeding gums may be a sign of gum disease. Your dentist can help diagnose the problem and recommend a course of treatment.

Can children floss too?

Yes! Children should begin flossing as soon as they have two teeth that touch. Flossing is critical to maintaining good oral health. Although it may seem very early, children can develop gum disease much younger than adults, so it’s best to establish this habit early.

As with any new skill, it’s important to supervise your child to make sure they’re doing it correctly and safely. You can also talk to your child’s dentist for more tips on how to help your child floss effectively and make the habit stick.

Can using mouthwash replace flossing?

Mouthwash is a great way to freshen breath and kill some bacteria in the mouth, but it cannot replace flossing.

While mouthwash can help to some extent, its reach is limited. It simply cannot remove plaque and food particles trapped between your teeth and the gum line. Flossing is the only way to reach these tight spots and effectively remove debris.

So, while mouthwash can be a helpful addition to your routine, it cannot replace the benefits of regular flossing.


Flossing is a crucial step in maintaining good oral health that is an even bigger deal than brushing alone. While flossing may seem overwhelming or inconvenient to some, it doesn’t have to be.

By committing to regular flossing and understanding how valuable it is to your dental hygiene, you can establish a consistent routine that will greatly impact your teeth and gums. It can also help ward off gum disease and prevent costly dental emergencies due to neglect or improper care, ensuring optimal overall health.

Moreover, an appealingly white smile can boost your self-esteem — after all, “A healthy smile is a beautiful smile.” Why not take the opportunity to look and feel your absolute best?

Make it your mission to bring out that dental floss once daily, and confidently say “yes” to your dentist the next time they ask you!

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Jessa Claire

Jessa Claire is a registered healthcare provider. Music lover. Daydreamer. Thalassophile. Foodie. A hardworking Capricorn. Most days, an incurable empath. An old soul. Down-to-earth. Vibrant.

When she's not writing, she can be seen relaxing with headphones on or engrossed in her favorite fan fiction book.