Healthy Body

This Is *Exactly* What Happens to Your Teeth and Gums If You Never Floss

Mary Grace Garis

Photo: Getty Images / Westend61

Flossing regularly is a really important step if you’re interested in keeping your teeth, you know, in your mouth. If you quit your flossing routine, never started one, or simply don’t know how to floss properly, you’re putting your dental hygiene in peril, according to dentists.

“When food and bacteria gather between the teeth, it causes both decay and the formation of cavities, as well as the development of gingival bleeding, bad breath, gingival inflammation,” says Vanessa Creaven, DMD and co-founder of Spotlight Oral Care. “If not treated, this can ultimately lead to periodontal disease with tooth mobility and tooth loss.”

Flossing helps prevent—or at least slow—the onset of gum disease by removing and inhibiting the growth of bacteria. And you want to slow the growth of mouth bacteria because it essentially distracts your immune system.

“Removing the bacteria lifts the burden off of your immune system, giving your body the chance to send resources elsewhere,” says Chris Strandburg, DDS, dentist and spokesperson for WaterPik. “When your body is constantly fighting these bacteria, your immune system is taxed, inflammation occurs, and this can have a domino effect on your overall health.”

In short: flossing good, bacteria bad. But don’t wince if you truly despise wrangling your plaque out. Below, we have a quick refresher on what can help you floss and get out grime.

How to floss your teeth properly

If you have an untouched spool floss in your cabinet, it’s pretty easy to start a flossing routine. This is the quick method that Dr. Creaven suggests:

  1. Isolate the amount of string needed: If you’re using a traditional spool, she recommends you break off about 18 inches of dental floss.
  2. Tighten your string and position it: “Wrap the floss taut with your thumbs and index fingers, place the dental floss in between two teeth,” says Dr. Creaven.
  3. Use motion to get any gunk out of your teeth: “As the floss reaches your gums, curve the floss at the base of the tooth to form a C shape,” says Dr. Creaven.
  4. Repeat the steps as you move from tooth to tooth: Feel free to rinse your mouth of any residual particles and bleeding that might have occurred in the process.

And if you don’t have the necessary equipment, we have a few suggestions that are eco-friendly and easy to use.

Here’s the equipment you need to floss properly

Quip Refillable Floss Pick, $25

Quip Refillable Floss Pick

Okay, if you’ve always preferred tooth picks as a dental hack, we have a bit of bad news: so much plastic is often wasted to make those little picks. That’s why we love this eco-friendly option. Quip’s refillable floss pick features a chic little case for floss made of recycled paper and a re-useable pick. Simply click and snip the floss what you need, and you’re good to clear out your molars. And if keep up your routine for the recommended twice a day, it should last you for three months!

Shop now: Quip Refillable Floss Pick, $25

Quip Copper Metal Refillable Floss String, $20

quip refillable floss string

This dispenser (also by Quip) has pre-marked string so you can keep track of how much you use at once. It’s so simple that it single-handedly (like, literally single-handedly) changed one editor’s entire dental routine.

Shop Now: Quip Copper Metal Refillable Floss String, $20

By Humankind Floss, $15

by humankind floss

Never have I heard of a floss that sounded so fancy. This spool is made in Italy from high-quality silk and uses vegan wax and jojoba oil for a premium glide. They come pretty glass containers that can be refilled with spool whenever you might run out. I’m very partial to the mint case, because when you’re talking dental care, what else is more fitting than mint? Oh, but if that isn’t your flavor, the floss itself comes in avant-garde tastes including cardamom and lemongrass.

Shop Now: By Humankind Floss, $15

Public Goods Dental Floss, $3

public goods dental floss

An affordable upgrade from a classic, plastic-contained spool, Public Goods’ floss is made from 100% biodegradable natural silk, and it arrives in a sleek glass bottle. When you run out, you can just order a three pack dental floss refills for only $6. It’s Good for your oral health and kind to your wallet.

Shop Now: Public Goods Dental Floss, $3

Spotlight Oral Care Dental Flossing for Whitening Teeth, $7

Made from recycled plastic (and ocean safe!), this dentist-created dental floss from features hydrogen peroxide for absolutely sparkling pearly whites.

Shop Now: Spotlight Oral Care Dental Flossing for Whitening Teeth, $7

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