Does Flossing Hurt? Exploring 6 Potential Reasons for Pain and Sensitivity

by | Jun 24, 2024 | General Orthodontics, tooth sensitivity | 0 comments

Ah, flossing! We all know it’s a cornerstone of good oral hygiene, but let’s be honest—sometimes it feels like a tug-of-war with our gums.

Have you ever wondered why something so beneficial can sometimes send you jumping from a jolt of pain or a wince of sensitivity?

Whether you’re a seasoned flossing veteran or reluctant because you’ve been hurt too many times, understanding why flossing can hurt might change your relationship with that little string.
Man flossing with thread

Is It Normal for My Teeth to Hurt after Flossing?

If you’ve just wrapped up a session with your dental floss and are feeling discomfort, you might wonder whether it’s a part of the process or a signal of something amiss.

While mild discomfort can be expected, especially if you’re new to flossing or haven’t flossed in a while, persistent pain or severe discomfort is not.

Initially, when you start to floss regularly, you may experience some tenderness or bleeding, which typically decreases as your gums become healthier and more accustomed to flossing. This is part of the journey towards better oral health. However, teeth and gums that continue to hurt after flossing could indicate underlying issues.

6 Common Causes of Pain When Flossing
6 Common Causes of Pain When Flossing

Gum Disease or Gum Recession

Flossing can be painful when your gums are inflamed or infected, known as gum disease. This condition often results from plaque buildup that irritates the gum tissue, leading to swelling, redness, and bleeding. Gum recession, where the gum tissue pulls away from the teeth, exposing the roots, can also make flossing painful. These exposed areas are sensitive and prone to pain when touched by floss.

Improper Flossing Technique

Using the wrong technique can lead to pain when flossing. If you snap the floss into the gums or use too much force, it can cause damage and discomfort. It’s important to be gentle and use a slow, rocking motion to guide the floss between your teeth, curving it around each tooth in a ‘C’ shape to clean effectively without harming your gums.

Tight Spaces between Teeth

Flossing can be challenging and painful if the spaces between your teeth are very tight. This difficulty can lead to aggressive flossing, which might hurt the gums or cause them to bleed. Waxed floss or a thinner dental tape can help ease this process, reducing discomfort while cleaning effectively.


Cavities, or tooth decay, can also make flossing painful. Decay creates holes and weak spots in the enamel, making the teeth more sensitive to touch and temperature. When flossing around a decayed area, you might experience sharp pain, which indicates that the decay might be extensive.

Dental Work and Appliances
Dental appliances

Recent dental work such as fillings, crowns, or braces can make your teeth and gums more sensitive to flossing. Dental appliances might alter the spaces between teeth or pressure certain areas, making flossing painful. It’s important to follow your dentist’s recommendations on how to floss around new dental work or appliances.

Underlying Dental Health Issues

Other underlying dental issues, such as cracked teeth, exposed tooth roots, or abscesses, can cause flossing pain. These conditions leave the nerves more exposed, leading to sensitivity and discomfort when they come into contact with dental floss.

If you experience persistent pain when flossing, you must schedule an appointment with your dentist to identify and treat any underlying issues.

Addressing these common causes of pain when flossing can improve your flossing experience and help you maintain oral health.

If discomfort persists despite proper technique and care, consulting your dentist can help determine a more specific cause and appropriate treatment.

Flossing Techniques and Their Impact

The technique you use when flossing significantly impacts both the effectiveness of your oral hygiene health and your comfort level while performing the task.

Proper flossing removes plaque and food particles from between the teeth and under the gumline, areas that a toothbrush can’t reach. It can cause pain, gum damage, and bleeding if done incorrectly.

4 Tips for Pain-Free Flossing
4 Tips for Pain-Free Flossing

Use the Right Floss

The type of floss you use can make a big difference in your flossing experience. If you have tightly spaced teeth, thin, waxed floss might be best as it slides more easily between tight spaces.

For those with more space between their teeth, thicker dental tape or even spongier super floss might be more effective and comfortable. For sensitive gums, using softer floss can reduce the risk of bleeding and discomfort.

Perfect Your Technique

The proper flossing technique is crucial for avoiding pain. Start with a piece of floss about 18 inches long, winding most of it around one of your middle fingers and the rest around the opposite middle finger.

Gently slide the floss between two teeth. Once it reaches the gum line, curve it into a “C” shape against one tooth. Slide it carefully beneath the gum line and along the side of the tooth. Use a clean section of floss as you move from tooth to tooth, and avoid snapping the floss into the gums.

Be Consistent But Gentle

Consistency is vital in building and maintaining healthy gums, which can reduce sensitivity over time. However, it’s essential to be gentle.

If you’re rough with your flossing, you’re more likely to hurt your gums, which can deter you from a routine. Gentle motions and regular flossing will help your gums get used to the sensation without causing harm or discomfort.

Consider Alternatives Like Water Flossers

If traditional flossing is too painful or difficult, consider using a water flosser. Water flossers use a stream of pulsating water to remove plaque and food particles from between the teeth and below the gumline.

They are handy for those with braces, dental implants, or those who find traditional flossing tools challenging to manipulate. Many find water flossers to be a more comfortable alternative that still provides thorough cleaning between the teeth.

By incorporating these tips into your daily routine, you can enjoy the benefits of flossing without discomfort, keeping your smile bright and your gums healthy.

When Should I See a Dentist about Flossing Pain?
Woman flossing with thread

When you experience pain while flossing, it’s often a temporary discomfort that can be resolved with proper technique and regular practice.

Persistent discomfort can be a symptom of sensitive teeth or early gum disease stages, manifesting as swollen, sore gums. Symptoms like swollen gums, sore gums, bleeding gums that don’t stop after a few days of flossing, or gums that hurt consistently are signs that something more serious may be affecting your oral health.

If you experience tooth or gum pain after flossing, it could be due to improper flossing technique or unsuitable dental floss.

If the pain persists for more than two weeks despite gentle and correct flossing techniques, seeing a dentist is advisable.

Your dentist can provide guidance on proper flossing techniques and recommend the best type of dental floss for your specific needs.

Enhance Your Orthodontic Care with Patuxent Orthodontics!

Contact Patuxent Orthodontics if orthodontic care is the solution to your dental woes. Whether you want to learn more about the benefits of orthodontic care or have questions about the process, use our live chat, call (240) 802-7217, or message us through our Contact Us page to connect with our friendly staff today and book a complimentary consultation!

Our office, located at 44220 Airport View Dr., Hollywood, MD 20636, proudly serves Maryland’s Patuxent area, as well as the Greater Washington DC area. So, if you’re residing in Hollywood, Wildewood, or Leonardtown and are looking for one of the best orthodontists in Maryland, don’t hesitate to visit our office!

We also invite you to keep up with our blog to get answers to many of the frequently asked questions about maintaining your perfect smile, and follow us on Facebook and Instagram to become a part of our smiling community!

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