Can You Floss Too Much & How Often Should You Floss? 

Can You Floss Too Much & How Often Should You Floss? 

 Whitney DiFoggio MA, RDH
Written by Whitney DiFoggio MA, RDH
Medical Reviewed on Oct 18, 2023
byDr. Matthew Hannan DDS
🔬 Evidence Based
Can You Floss Too Much & How Often Should You Floss? 

Can you floss too much? I’ve never, personally, seen that happen. But hypothetically, you could floss too much if you’re doing it incorrectly. A “bad” way of flossing might damage your gums if you’re being too aggressive or using the wrong floss to begin with. 

How often should you floss? Once a day, minimum. If you’re one of those people who just has to floss every time you eat, that’s fine too…as long as you’re using your floss correctly! When you think about it, floss is the only thing that will reach about 40% of your tooth surfaces, so only flossing once a day is like only brushing once a day. Honestly, if your dental team could get you to floss once a day, it would make a world of difference in your smile’s health. 

Why Do We Floss?

Floss cleans parts of your teeth that you can’t reach with a toothbrush. If you aren’t flossing, those areas of your mouth aren’t getting cleaned, period. Mouth rinse won’t do it for you. 

We use floss to clean two specific parts of our teeth: between teeth where they’re touching one another and below the gumlines, where plaque likes to hide out. 

Flossing between our teeth helps lower our risk of getting cavities in those spaces. And flossing below the edges of our gums helps prevent tartar buildup, which is responsible for bone deterioration, gum disease, and contributes to bad breath and tooth loss.

If we aren’t flossing, those bacteria between our teeth are just hanging out and eroding our tooth enamel or causing plaque buildup. It’s only a matter of time before oral health issues start to flare up. 

When Should You Floss?

The best time to floss every day is the time you’ll remember to floss. For some of us, that might be part of our normal bedtime routine. For others, it’s after breakfast when we’re getting ready to head out the door for the day.

As long as you’re flossing, that’s the most important thing you can do. But if you want to pick the best time to floss, it’s probably right before you to go to bed. Especially since our saliva glands slow down and whatever is in our mouth simply sits there on our teeth the whole night. 

Can you floss too much if you’re flossing morning and night? Nope! In fact, that’s a great idea. 

Should I Brush Or Floss First?

Ah, the long-debated question of which should come first. Just like the chicken or the egg, brushing and flossing go hand in hand and you can’t necessarily put one ahead of the other. 

Most dental professionals say to brush first, then floss. That way you’re getting rid of the majority of buildup in your mouth and not wedging it between your teeth with a strand of floss. But if you’re using a water flosser, that really doesn’t matter because it’s flushing everything out of the way during the process. 

If it feels like you have more buildup on your teeth after flossing, you might prefer flossing first and then brushing. Or brushing, flossing, then re-brushing (but that’s a hassle in and of itself.) 

It really doesn’t matter. The important thing is that you’re flossing every day because most people aren’t even doing that. 

Can I Floss Too Much?

Could you possibly floss too much? Yes, if you’re being too aggressive about it. Hard, aggressive flossing can damage your gums. But if you’re flossing gently and correctly, you’re not going to hurt yourself. 

People who use water flossers can floss as often as they like, because it’s practically impossible to hurt themselves as long as the water pressure is light enough. 

Signs of Over-Flossing or Aggressive Flossing 

The most common thing we see in people who floss too aggressively is damaged gum tissues between their teeth. Healthy teeth have a nice, pointed piece of gum tissue called a “papilla” between them. But if they’re not flossing properly, the papilla may:

  • Be blunted
  • Have a cleft in it, where the floss cut into it
  • Show signs of gum recession

There might even be rough, keratinized tissue around that area where the gums have been repeatedly irritated over and over. But rarely do the gums ever bleed from flossing; bleeding gum tissues typically only happen if someone has a gum infection because of infrequent flossing or poor oral hygiene.  

How To Properly Floss

Flossing regularly will help prevent periodontal disease, tooth decay and stuck food particles only if you the proper technique. Flossing incorrectly can serious damage to your gums! To prevent physical damage to the “papilla” between your teeth, and to make sure you’re cleaning around your teeth properly, it’s important to know the best way to floss.

Use about an 18-inch strand of floss. Wrap either end of it around your middle finger, so that you can use your thumb and index finger to maneuver it around your mouth. 

Slide the floss between two of your teeth, then wrap it around one tooth in a “C” shape, keeping it taught against the side of the tooth. Proper flossing technique is most important! Gently rub it up and down the tooth as well as slightly below the gum line. Then lift the floss up and over the papilla as you move to the next tooth. Be sure to floss around every tooth, even if there is not another tooth touching it or there are wide spaces between them. 

As the floss gets residue on it, wrap up on one end and down on the other, moving to a clean portion of floss.

Alternatives to Flossing

If you find it difficult to use traditional floss, maybe because of dexterity issues or because you have braces, there are other types of flossing techniques you can try. Depending on your situation, some may work better than others. It can take a bit of trial and error to find the best one for your oral health needs. Here are just a few to consider: 

1. Interdental Brush

An interdental brush is sometimes called a “proxy-brush” or a “proxa-brush.” It looks like a tiny little pipe cleaner on a handle. They’re handy for cleaning between teeth with wider spaces or underneath fixed bridges next to the gums. Orthodontic patients can also use them to clean between their brackets and underneath their archwires. 

2. Water Flossing 

Water flossers are super-efficient when it comes to cleaning hard-to-reach spaces like deep periodontal pockets, underneath bridges, between tight teeth, and around braces. They use a steady stream of water to flush out plaque bacteria and leftover food debris. They are a great way to prevent gum disease and you can’t over flossing with them! Just make sure the water is on causing too much pressure.

3. Floss Picks 

Disposable floss picks are great for kids who are just learning to floss and might not be able to tie their shoes just yet or someone who has arthritis in their hands. Of course, they only work if you don’t have bridges or braces to clean around. And flossers may not be as easy to shape around your tooth, so it’s important that you not be too rough with them!

Talk With Your Dentist 

Your dental team will be able to spot whether you’re flossing or not from a mile away. As long as you’re flossing every day, you’re doing your part to keep your smile healthy. If you’re worried you’re flossing too much or too aggressively, your dentist will be able to let you know during your routine exam. Your dental team can help you find the best flossing aid for your smile and situation.

So, Can You Over Floss?

Can you floss too much? Not likely. But you can be too aggressive with your floss and hurt your gums if you aren’t careful. How often should you floss? At least once a day, but it won’t hurt to floss more than that if you’re able to!

 Whitney DiFoggio MA, RDH
Written by Whitney DiFoggio MA, RDH"Teeth Talk Girl," is a registered dental hygienist. She started her dental health journey on YouTube, educating the public through videos.
Dr. Matthew  Hannan DDS
Medical Reviewed byDr. Matthew Hannan DDSDr. Matthew Hannan is a board-certified dentist and graduate of UT Health San Antonio School of Dentistry.
Last updated onOctober 18, 2023Here is our process

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