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What Happens If You Don't Floss for a Month, According to Dentists

Plus, how to get your oral health back on track.

You'd never dream of going a full month without brushing your teeth—but what about flossing? According to a 2016 CDC survey, over one-third of Americans say they never floss, while another 37 percent report flossing, but not every day. And yet, experts say flossing is just as important as brushing.

"Flossing your teeth is an essential part of a good oral hygiene routine," Jarri Amini, BDS, a UK-based dentist with over 15 years of experience, tells Best Life. He says flossing helps to remove food debris and plaque—both of which prevent dental problems—and recommends flossing daily in addition to brushing your teeth twice a day with an electric toothbrush. Failing to do so can lead to tooth decay and a range of other serious oral health symptoms, he warns.

The good news? Assuming your teeth were healthy beforehand and you go back to flossing after your hygiene hiatus, one month without flossing is unlikely to cause any irreversible damage, says Jason Hui, DDS, MAGD, a dentist with Paragon Dentistry in Texas. The key, he says, is to get things back on track before permanent changes occur as a result of constant plaque retention.

Read on to learn which four things can happen if you don't floss for a month, and why these are major red flags that it's time to get back into a better oral health routine—before it's too late.

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You may develop bad breath.

woman holding her hands up to her mouth / Shutterstock

According to Amini, one of the first problems you may encounter if you skip flossing for a month is bad breath. "When we eat, small particles of food can get stuck in hard to reach areas between teeth," he says. "After a while this can start to stagnate. Decaying food releases sulfur compounds which have an unpleasant odor. Flossing helps to dislodge food debris and stops this from happening."

If you brush, floss, and rinse regularly and still have bad breath, discuss your concerns with your dentist to determine if there is an underlying medical cause.

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You may experience gum inflammation.

Photo of Depressed ill man having toothache and touching cheek. Mature man suffering from tooth pain, caries. Handsome gray hair male suffering from toothache, closeup. Portrait of casual 46s mature man toothache with painful expression, sitting on sofa at home,

Not flossing can cause gum inflammation, also known as gingivitis. "Plaque build up around your gums will cause them to become inflamed," Amini tells Best Life. "This means your gums become red, swollen, and painful. You may also find that your gums start to bleed when brushing," he explains. "Thankfully gingivitis is reversible and when you restart flossing, your gums can become healthy again within a couple of weeks."

This can lead to gum disease.

A horizontal photo of a young worried woman looking at her mouth
Estradaanton / iStock

Gingivitis is considered the early stage of a more serious oral health condition: periodontal disease, also known as gum disease. It's known to destroy the soft tissue and bones around the teeth, which can eventually lead to loose teeth or tooth loss.

Amini says that redness, tenderness, and bleeding in the gums are all common signs of gum disease. The longer you ignore these symptoms and go without effective cleaning, the more you risk this inflammation damaging the underlying bone that supports your teeth.

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You may become more vulnerable to cavities.

Distressed woman sitting in a dentist's chair, holding her cheek and enduring a terrible toothache

By failing to floss for a month, you may also become more prone to tooth decay, says Amini. "If you have sweet or sticky foods, they can adhere to your teeth. Bacteria in dental plaque will break these substances down and release acid. This acid can dissolve your tooth tissue and cause decay. Over time your tooth can become cavitated, and you'll need a trip to the dentist to fix this. Flossing well helps to keep all surfaces of your teeth clean and will prevent tooth decay," he explains.

Amini says that with his own patients, he emphasizes the power of prevention. "The more time and effort you spend brushing and flossing your teeth, the less dental problems you're likely to have," he urges.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
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