70% of Americans brush their teeth two times a day, but only 40% floss once a day. It’s easy to forget about flossing until our 6-month dental check-up, but poor flossing habits can bring on some serious dental issues. How much should we be flossing each day in order to keep our teeth and gums healthy?

How Often Should You Floss?

Flossing helps remove food debris and plaque and allows us to clean the hard-to-reach tooth surfaces. Flossing also significantly decreases tooth decay and the likelihood of gum disease, which 3 million Americans face each year. 

Most health care professionals and the American Dental Association recommend flossing once per day to keep your teeth and gums healthy. It takes oral bacteria colonies about 24 hours to fully form, so flossing at the same time every day is ideal if you want to keep harmful bacteria at bay. It doesn’t matter when you floss, but most opt to floss before bed. Flossing before bed prevents bacteria from feeding on the leftover food particles between your teeth overnight. 

Can You Floss Too Much? 

Flossing 2+ times a day can actually damage your gums. Flossing too much may lead to bleeding, gum inflammation, and irritation of the soft tissue. Additionally, flossing too vigorously wears down your gum line and erodes tooth enamel over time. 

You should floss more than once per day after eating sticky, hard or stringy food that gets stuck between your teeth. An example of this is popcorn, candy, or leafy greens.

Should You Floss Or Brush First?

Flossing first opens up the areas between the teeth for toothpaste to enter and loosens any plaque particles and food debris that can easily be brushed away. Conversely, flossing after you brush pulls toothpaste between your teeth as you floss. 

Whether you floss before you brush or brush before you floss, health care professionals say it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you’re flossing in general. With that said, the ADA found that 53% of Americans brush before they floss.

Will My Dentist Know If I Don’t?

Absolutely. Lack of flossing leads to gingivitis, which is very easy for a dentist to see. Symptoms of gingivitis include red or bleeding gums, gums receding from the teeth, swollen or tender gums, and bad breath. While your gums may not be bleeding when the dentist looks in your mouth, your gums will surely bleed once they finish your cleaning, which is a clear sign you have not been flossing as much as you should be.