Updated: Oct 15
Healthy teeth and gums normally do not hurt after flossing but if they do, it may mean that you have an active tooth or gum related problem. Depending on what the specific cause is, you may be able to treat it at home or you may need to see a dentist first to have it addressed.
There are a lot of potential causes which may contribute to flossing pain and this article will guide you through them and what you should do.
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Causes for gums hurt to after flossing
Your gums normally should not hurt from flossing but they can if you have active gum inflammation. This is in contrast to healthy gums, which are pink, taut, resilient to bleeding, and painless to flossing.
The only time you will feel soreness and tenderness in your gums after flossing is if they are inflamed. There can be a variety of causes and conditions, which may contribute to gum inflammation.
New at flossing
If it is the first time you've ever flossed, not only will your gums hurt but your teeth will also hurt. The reason is because your gums are not use to the gum stimulation from flossing. It will make them feel sore and tender afterwards if it is your first time. There will also be a lot of gum bleeding as well.
The good news is that as you floss more frequently, the gums will get use to the stimulation and will stop hurting. The act of flossing is akin to massaging the gums. It removes plaque and food debris, while bringing blood flow with nutrients to the area to keep it healthy.
Even if it isn't the first time you've flossed, if you do it infrequently your gums will quickly forget what it is like to be flossed. It will feel like the very first time that you've flossed with the gums being sore and tender afterwards. You'll also notice the gums bleed more since they haven't been stimulated in a long time.
What you need to do is floss more frequently and make it a part of your oral hygiene routine. You can either floss before you brush or floss after you brush. Either way will work and both are better than not flossing at all!
Improper flossing technique
Your gums can be healthy and not inflamed but if you floss with an improper technique such as flossing very aggressively, you can injure the gums. If you pull the floss too fast and too far down, you can hurt the gums and cause them to be in pain.
This is the one situation where the gums will hurt from not being in flamed but rather from self-inflicted harm. You need to slow down when you are flossing and pull it through your teeth gentle. That should prevent the floss from damaging your gums. The mouth is a delicate place, you shouldn't be so rough!
Your gums will definitely hurt after flossing if you have active gingivitis or periodontitis, which are forms of gum disease. Since the gums are unhealthy, bleeding, and inflamed from periodontal disease it would be unusual for them to not hurt from routine oral hygiene care.
The reason is because when you have gum disease, the gums tend to be inflamed, swollen, red, and bleed very easily. As soon as the floss just lightly touches it, it will bleed profusely.
Fortunately, flossing more frequently will prevent gum disease from getting worse but it will not cure it completely. Unfortunately, you will need to see your dentist for a teeth cleaning so that they can mechanically remove the tartar from your teeth to cure the gum disease. Afterwards, you will need to maintain good oral hygiene along with flossing to prevent it from reactivating.
Issues with braces and retainers
If you're currently in the middle of orthodontic treatment or you have permanent retainers in your mouth, they may cause flossing issues for your teeth. The reason is because the wires prevent you from being able to floss through your teeth easily. In fact, you'll need to use floss threaders and super floss in order to floss underneath of the wires.
Due to this work around technique to floss your teeth, you may be less likely to floss as frequently. This may cause your gums to not be use to the act of flossing and feel more tender when you do do it.
Causes for teeth to hurt after flossing
Sometimes it could be your teeth that hurt after flossing and not necessarily the gums. The reasons for the teeth to hurt are somewhat different than what causes the gums to hurt but there can be some overlap and similarities. Overall,aversive for the teeth to be in pain, it usually has something to do with the tooth itself or a defective dental restoration.
Loose dental filling
A loose dental filling can cause your teeth to hurt while you're flossing. If the filling is about to come off because the bonding has melted away, it will lift up and down as you're flossing. The simple act of the restoration bobbing up and down will cause discomfort.
What you'll often feel is pain in between the teeth as you're flossing. That is a potential sign of a loose dental restoration. Sometimes if you floss hard enough you can even pop the entire filling out. If that happens, you can try using some temporary filling material to at least block off some of the tooth sensitivity until you get an dental appointment.
Unfortunately you cannot rebond a dental filling at home so you will need to make an appointment with your dentist. They will need to replace the filling with a new one along with applying fresh bonding.
Loose dental crown
Dental crowns are glued in with a permanent cement but that glue does not last forever. Over time, the glue can slowly melt away and once it dissolves enough, the crown can start to get loose. There will be many instances where it'll be loose enough that the crown actually comes off while you're eating or while you're flossing.
If it does come out after flossing, the tooth can feel extremely sensitive especially if the tooth is alive and has never had a root canal. Although if the tooth is dead and had a root canal, it will not feel sensitive at all.
You can try a temporary tooth filling to reglue the crown back in until you can make it to the dentist. The temporary glue will not last because as the name implies, it is only meant to be temporary. You should have it reglued back in by your dentist with permanent cement.
Improper brushing such as aggressive brushing with a hard toothbrush can lead to gum damage. The gums will recede and expose the tooth root which is significantly more sensitive than the enamel. If the tooth becomes sensitized, flossing will only exacerbate it and make it feel like your teeth hurts whenever you floss.
The solution to this would be to switch to a soft toothbrush and brush more gentle. The mouth is a delicate place so you shouldn't be so heavy handed. Besides, once the gums recede, it doesn't grow back.
Small cavities normally don't cause you any pain while you're flossing but large cavities certainly can. Especially if the decay has reached all the way to the nerve, the tooth will be sensitive to literally everything. You'll have a toothache while you're eating, drinking, and even flossing.
So if you're having lingering pain after flossing, you could very well have a large cavity. If that is the case you should try to make an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible so that you can get it checked out. If you're lucky you may only need a tooth filling but if you're unlucky you may need a root canal!
If you naturally have sensitive teeth, cold drinks will easily aggravate it and flossing will be no exception. For extremely sensitive teeth, basically anything that comes into contact with the tooth will give you a toothache. The tooth pain may make you averse to flossing the tooth but that does not mean you should avoid it nor ignore it.
You should see your dentist as soon as possible to caversiveome up with a solution to address the teeth sensitivity. That way you can get back to enjoying the foods you like and keeping up with your oral hygiene routine.
How do you stop your gums from hurting after flossing?
The only way to stop your gums from hurting after flossing is to have your dentist address whatever is causing you the gum pain or tooth pain. That can range from getting a dental procedure such as a new tooth filling or a teeth cleaning.
Once that is completed, you need to start flossing consistently on a daily basis so that the gums get use to the stimulation by the floss. Flossing more will make it less sensitive, bleed less, and become more resilient to gum disease. It'll also keep the gums and teeth cleaner by removing all of the plaque and food debris.
That is basically the main reason why they hurt, it is because you don't do it frequently enough. It is similar to if you went to the gym once in a blue moon vs going multiple times a week. When you go to the gym on a daily basis, your muscles get use to the exercise and won't get sore as easily afterwards. However if you go infrequently, you will feel extreme soreness after a workout. The same goes for your gums, they will not be as sore if you just simply floss more frequently.
How long does it take for flossing to stop hurting
After about a week of daily consistent flossing, your teeth and gums should stop hurting. That is approximately how much time it takes for the gums to start getting use to the act of flossing. You'll notice them hurt less and also bleed less. The gums will start having a nice healthy light pink color instead of the dark puffy red swollen look.
Of course the time varies from person to person because some people can recover quicker and get use to the flossing in a shorter amount of time. However if the individual had severe periodontal disease, it may hurt for longer than week. They will need to floss for a couple of weeks and maintain impeccable oral hygiene if they have periodontitis, advanced gum disease.
When to see your dentist
If your gums hurt from flossing infrequently, they should stop hurting after about a week of doing so. However if they do not stop hurting by that time, it indicates that there is a problem that you cannot solve on your own at home.
The problems could range from tartar underneath your gums or a defective dental restoration. Both of which you cannot treat without a dentist. You may be able to remove plaque at home but you cannot removed the calcified version, tartar at home. The defective dental restorations, you can treat temporarily with temporary kits at the pharmacy but you will want a permanent fix and only your dentist can do that for you.
Therefore, if the pain from flossing persists for longer than a week you should probably make an appointment for a dental check up.
Author: Written by Dr David Chen DDS, a preventative dentist in long island city.