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The 7 Scary Things That Happen When You Don’t Floss

X-ray of an abscessed tooth. What happens when you don’t floss? The effects of not flossing pretty scary, but if you don’t floss regularly then you probably need to keep reading to scare yourself into flossing.

According to an ADA survey, less than half of Americans floss every day, and 10 percent of Americans report that they never floss. Here’s what will happen to those people who don’t floss, ranging from minor cosmetic effects to potentially life-threatening health problems.


Food particles that inevitably become trapped in between your teeth from not flossing every day will start to decay and cause halitosis, or bad breath. Gross!

Yellow teeth

When you don’t floss, much of the bacteria left behind even after you brush remains, forming a film that turns into an unsightly, yellow plaque. Like body odor and bad breath, yellow teeth can make a bad impression on other people, especially in dating situations.


Each of your teeth has five exposed surfaces: a front, a back, a top or bottom, and two sides. When you don’t floss, you’re neglecting to clean two surfaces of your teeth. These dirty surfaces will eventually start to decay and you’ll get cavities in between your teeth. Cavities can lead to tooth abscesses, pulpitis, and other unpleasant conditions.

Gum disease

When you don’t floss, bacteria that form plaque becomes lodged in your gums, causing inflammation that eventually leads to gum disease (aka periodontal disease). As this painful disease progresses, it also affects your teeth and other aspects of your health as well as your appearance — your inflamed gums recede from your teeth, making your teeth appear abnormally long.

Tooth loss

Tooth loss is a complication of periodontal disease caused by lack of flossing. If you start flossing now, you can help reverse any gum disease you already have so that it doesn’t get to the point where you will lose a tooth.

Heart attack

Troublingly, gum disease caused by not flossing has been linked to heart disease. It is thought that the same plaque that gets trapped under your gums can travel via your blood stream to your heart’s arteries.

Cognitive illness

In the same way that dental plaque travels your heart and causes problems, it might also make its way to your brain and wreak havoc there. One study examining the link between periodontal disease and Alzheimer’s found the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s had more bacteria associated with gum disease compared to the brains of cognitively healthy people.

… and more

The list of scary conditions you can get if you don’t floss goes on … and on. In addition to the conditions we’ve listed here, this Business Insider article points out links between poor oral health and pregnancy complications, pneumonia, brain abscess, diabetes, kidney disease, erectile dysfunction, ulcers, and oral cancer.

Flossing tips

After reading this article, you’re probably willing to start flossing on a regular basis. Here are some tips to get the best results:

  • Floss at least once a day (twice is better)
  • Don’t be afraid of a little blood (this is normal if you don’t floss often and means you need to floss more)
  • Find a floss that you like and that feels comfortable between your teeth
  • Use wooden toothpicks or plastic floss holders if you lack the dexterity to use normal floss

If bleeding doesn’t go away after at the first few days of your new flossing routine, you might have periodontal disease. Schedule an appointment with us if you have this or other signs of gum disease from not flossing.

Eli Thornock
I was born and raised in eastern Washington and I received my dental training at the University of Washington School of Dentistry, Class of 2011. Since then, I have been practicing in a private practice setting and have also completed more than one hundred hours of continuing education.
Eli Thornock
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