Flossing will not whiten your teeth because it doesn't contain bleaching gel but it can make them appear whiter if you had food stuck between your teeth.
Flossing is great for your teeth and gums but it wouldn't be our number one choice if we were hoping for whiter teeth. We will explain why flossing isn't the best for whitening your teeth.
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Most floss do not contain any whitening gel
In order for you to whiten your teeth and bleach them whiter, the product must contain the whitening gel, hydrogen peroxide. Peroxide is essentially in all whitening products such as the strips, the trays, and even the in-office sessions at the dentist. The only difference between these products is in their concentration of hydrogen peroxide.
Therefore if you do not have any peroxide in it, it will not be able to bleach your teeth white. It can whiten them because this chemical agent possesses the ability to diffuse through the tooth and oxidize all of the stains. That is simply how teeth whitening works and consequently how hydrogen peroxide works.
Since it is able to penetrate through the tooth, it can not only remove extrinsic stains but also intrinsic ones as well. It is that particular difference that separates it from most whitening toothpastes, which do not contain peroxide in them. Most of these toothpastes can only remove extrinsic stains via mechanical abrasion with the abrasives in it.
The point that we wish to make is that most floss do not contain any hydrogen peroxide nor do they have any abrasives in it. In other words, they don't have any whitening ingredients in them!
Floss don't have hydrogen peroxide
For the most part, floss does not have any peroxide in it. It is a fairly simple product which is a piece of string with some wax, flavoring, and fluoride in it.
Since there is no chemical agent in it, you most likely won't see your teeth change colors from using it. If you think about it logically, more people would floss if it did whiten their teeth. Unfortunately because it doesn't, we don't see as many people flossing as they should be doing.
Floss does not contain any abrasives
Whitening toothpastes without peroxide can still "whiten" your teeth but not bleach them. They make them whiter by mechanically abrading away extrinsic stains on the surface of the enamel. They are able to accomplish this via the abrasives that are in the toothpastes.
Here is a chart with whitening toothpastes and their respective abrasives:
Hydrated silicon dioxide
Oral B, Colgate whitening, Sensodyne
Calcium carbonate, Sodium bicarbonate, hydrated silica
Arm & Hammer
Hello activated charcoal
Calcium cabonate, Silicon dioxide, Aluminium silicate
You can look through all of the ingredients in floss but you won't find a single abrasive. The reason is because floss is designed to be smooth so that it can easily floss through in between your teeth. If it is too thick or too abrasive, it may not fit in between of your teeth.
In conclusion, floss does not contain any abrasives so it cannot remove extrinsic stains.
Exception - Whitening floss
Not many people may have been aware of this but there is a "whitening floss" that is available for purchase. This product does indeed contain hydrogen peroxide in it, which is the primary whitening agent in all bleaching products.
Examples of whitening floss:
OralB 3D White whitening + scope floss
Despite it does having peroxide or some derivative of it in these flosses, we're hesitant to say that they're an effective tooth whitener. That has more to do with how hydrogen peroxide whitens your teeth.
Why whitening floss may not be very effective
Studies have shown that all hydrogen peroxide will whiten your teeth to the same level of whiteness regardless of the concentration. That is great because it shows that even low concentration OTC products can achieve the same results as professional strength products. Since floss is an OTC product, that does imply that it may work for floss.
However, studies have also shown that lower concentration peroxide products do require a longer whitening time than more concentrated ones. This means that if you're whitening with a weaker at home product, you will need to use it for a longer period of time. This is also why the in-office sessions at the dentist can be completed in one fell swoop while the whitening strips require at least a week or two.
It is due to this second point that we want to emphasize because most people aren't necessarily flossing their teeth for that long. Since it is low concentration product you would need to floss for a longer period of time in order to achieve the same effect as say the whitening strips.
Even the whitening strips tell you to use them for about 30 minutes for at least a couple of days straight. However you're only flossing your teeth for about a minute or two at most. In other words, that peroxide isn't getting a lot of contact time to bleach your tooth. That means it isn't going to work very well despite even having bleaching agent in it.
Would we still use whitening floss?
It may not be the most effective whitening product but you can certainly still use it. In fact, if you wanted your entire oral hygiene armamentarium to be centered around whitening, you should go ahead and use it. There is also whitening mouthwash and toothpaste to go with it as well.
Just be aware that it may only make a very mild difference that may not be very noticeable at all. These products also tend to cost more since they have whitening in them. Nonetheless, something is still better than nothing right?
Flossing will not whiten your teeth in the sense that it won't make them change to a whiter color. The reason is because most floss do not contain hydrogen peroxide in it so it cannot chemically oxidize the extrinsic and intrinsic tooth stains.
It also will not whiten your teeth like how whitening toothpastes do since it does not contain any abrasives. Floss was designed to be smooth so that it can easily slide through the interproximal areas in between your teeth. If it was very gritty and abrasive in texture, it wouldn't be able to get through your teeth.
Nonetheless, there are exceptions and that is the few whitening flosses which do have peroxide in them. However that doesn't make them an effective whitening choice since bleaching requires contact time. Flossing is a quick activity that only requires a minute or two at most so there isn't much time for the whitening to work at all.
Last but not least, if flossing did whiten your teeth we believe that more people would be a lot more eager to floss. It is because it doesn't have a big impact on tooth color that more people don't do it!
That is not to say that you shouldn't floss because it does help keep your gums healthy. It also does kind of "whitens" your teeth in the sense that if you had a colored piece of food stuck in between your teeth, flossing it out will technically make it whiter. Although we don't believe most people would consider that whitening at all.