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If you want to avoid tooth decay, flossing should be part of your daily dental care routine. If you brush without flossing, you’re only cleaning the superficial surface of your teeth, leaving plaque and food debris between your teeth. Eventually, that will lead to cavities or gum disease.

Who wants cavities and tooth decay? Tooth decay starts with bacteria that live in your mouth. Normally, antibacterial substances in saliva keep bacteria that cause tooth decay in check. However, if you produce too little saliva or don’t remove plaque, you are more likely to have tooth decay. So the best way to avoid tooth decay is to brush with fluoride toothpaste and floss your teeth once per day.

Too many people don’t take the extra step of flossing. Some people don’t feel comfortable with the technique, and others find it uncomfortable. What if your teeth hurt when you floss or after flossing? Here are four possible reasons.

You’re New at It and Your Technique Needs Tweaking

Ask your dentist and they’ll tell you that you should floss every day. It’s one of the most important things to do to prevent gum disease and tooth decay. But there is a learning curve. If you’ve only been flossing for a few days, your gums may still feel tender when you floss and even bleed a little.

The most common reason people experience pain or tenderness with flossing is they haven’t refined their technique. For example, you might be flossing too aggressively. Slow the pace and don’t pull the floss through your teeth too aggressively. It’s not a speed contest! Give your gums a chance to adjust to flossing if you’ve never been a flosser. It’s not unusual to feel a little discomfort and bleeding when you first start, but it should improve over time.

Tooth Decay

If you have diffuse discomfort when you floss, not localized to one area, it’s probably your technique or the fact that your gums aren’t used to flossing. But if you feel a twinge in one spot, it could be a cavity causing the discomfort. Tooth decay can also occur between your teeth. If that’s the case, you might feel discomfort when you floss in that region. If you’re experiencing discomfort in one spot only, see your dentist.

Gum Disease

Gum disease or gingivitis can also cause gum sensitivity when you floss. When you have gingivitis your gums are inflamed, and the pressure of moving the dental floss across your gums causes discomfort. Other signs that you might have gum disease include:

  • Swelling of the gums
  • Red, tender gum tissue
  • Bleeding when you brush or floss
  • Bad breath
  • Receding gums (where the gum draws away from the root of the tooth and the tooth looks longer)

If your gums hurt after flossing from gum disease, you might experience discomfort everywhere you floss and notice bleeding too. These are all signs that you should see your dentist. Gum disease can progress to periodontitis, a serious condition that can lead to tooth loss. If you treat gingivitis early, you can arrest its progression.

You’re Brushing Your Teeth Too Aggressively

If you’re aggressively brushing your teeth, especially if you’re using a firm toothbrush, you can wear away the enamel on your teeth and expose the underlying tissue called dentin. When this happens, your gums become sensitive to brushing, flossing and sometimes hurt when you eat something cold.

How can you avoid injuring your gums when you brush? Switch the hard toothbrush for one with soft bristles and apply less pressure when you brush. There’s no need to push down on the brush with force to remove plaque and food debris. Once you erode the enamel away from your teeth, you can’t replace it. So, brush and floss consistently, but do it gently.

The Bottom Line

If you continue to experience gum tenderness when you brush after the first week, see your dentist in Lutz, FL. They can identify problems like cavities or gum disease that could cause your sensitivity. They can also show you how to brush and floss properly. Make sure you’re visiting your dentist every 6 months or as often as they recommend. It could make the difference between having your teeth for a lifetime or ending up with dentures.