Flossing is a must for proper oral hygiene. Brushing alone cleans only about three-quarters of your teeth's surfaces, according to Dr. Dan Peterson, a dentist in Gering, Nebraska. So when you start flossing, you may be dismayed to find it can cause pain: How could such a good habit yield unpleasant results? Soreness after flossing usually does not signal a severe problem, but it can indicate your technique is not quite right.
Sore gums from flossing generally mean you are going about the task too vigorously. Most likely, you are pushing the floss too far below the margin of the gums, according to Meridian Dental of Mitchell Park, Australia. This can irritate or traumatize the gum tissue.
A bit of initial discomfort should not discourage you from continuing to floss. Flossing helps to get rid of plaque in hard-to-reach areas such as between the teeth and just below the gum line, according to the American Dental Hygienists Association. Plaque is a film of bacteria that, left in place, will turn into a hard calculus called tartar that causes tooth decay and inflammation of the gums. The eventual result could be gum disease and tooth loss.
Your best defense against sore gums is proper flossing technique. The best way is to first wind 18 inches of floss around your middle fingers, then pinch the strand between your thumbs and index fingers, creating a taut length of 1 to 2 inches, according to the American Dental Hygienists Association. Gently guide the floss between your teeth and slide it up and down against the tooth and slightly below the gum line. "Contour floss" around the side of each tooth and use a new section of floss for each tooth.
Some people have trouble flossing. They may have big hands, their teeth may be packed tightly together or their may be other reasons, notes Meridian Dental. In these cases, your dental hygienist can recommend specialized interdental cleaning devices or dental floss holders.
If you have not flossed in a while, or ever, chances are good that your gums will bleed a bit when you floss. This does not mean you should stop. To the contrary, it means your gums are a bit inflamed because of bacterial buildup, according to MedlinePlus. The condition is called gingivitis, and it is a precursor to more serious gum disease. Keep flossing daily, and within a couple of days, the bleeding should stop, Peterson says.