Do Floss Picks Spread Bacteria?

Answered By Two Dentists

Disposable flossers and reusable floss picks…

Like the Element floss holder

Work the same way:

They use the same piece of floss to scrape the plaque off of your teeth.

But do these floss picks spread bad germs around as a result?

And what can you do to protect yourself?

We asked two practicing dentists in the U.S. to independently give us their opinions.

Find out what they had to say below.

Written by Artem Cheprasov and answered by Greg Grillo, DDS and Erica Anand, DDS. Last updated: Jul. 1, 2022.

An image of several different types of bacteria
Summary
Dr. Grillo’s Answer
Dr. Anand’s Answer

Summary

We’ve already shown that, generally speaking…

Floss picks are a hygienic way to floss.

Although you should still be careful…

As some dental picks can physically damage your teeth, like metal floss picks.

And there are a couple of scenarios where floss picks may not be the right choice for you.

But what about spreading the germs around your mouth? Should you be worried about that?

An image of a dental floss pick and bacteria around a tooth

At Free RadiKal, we typically comb through a lot of objective evidence from clinical trials in order to write our articles.

However:

We didn’t find any good medical research on this article’s question.

So…

We asked two dentists to give us their professional opinions on the matter. And we encourage you to read Dr. Grillo’s and Dr. Anand’s full answers below as a result.

That being said, we wanted to neatly reconcile their thoughts for you as well…

As they both agreed on this topic…

Yet shared some unique insights as well.

First:

Remember that your mouth is already full of bacteria…

Which your saliva can easily spread around without any additional help.

So it’s also theoretically possible for flossers to spread bacteria. Just like it can happen with regular floss. And just like it can happen with your toothbrush as well.

But:

This is very unlikely to occur to any detrimental degree, especially if you have healthy gums and teeth…

And if you don’t reuse disposable flossers.

An image showing dental devices that can spread bacteria around the mouth

However:

If you have unhealthy gums or teeth, then there’s a slight chance that floss picks will spread bad germs around your mouth and lead to problems.

Nonetheless:

Even in this case, you can minimize the risk of any issues by brushing and rinsing your teeth immediately after flossing with a floss pick.

Importantly:

Unless your dentist tells you otherwise…

You shouldn’t neglect to floss your teeth out of a fear that floss picks will spread bacteria. That’s because the benefits of flossing usually outweigh these risks.

In fact…

If you don’t floss your teeth then you can develop cavities and gum disease.

Disclaimer:

As always…

Make sure to read the full answers below and to consult your own dentist about this topic for insights specific to your case.

Please also note: Dr. Grillo’s and Dr. Anand’s independent responses were edited solely for minor aspects of grammar, spelling, and clarity.

Dr. Greg Grillo’s Answer

Do disposable floss picks or reusable flossers spread bacteria?

A Headshot of Dr. Greg Grillo, DDS

“Theoretically, a disposable flosser, floss holder, or conventional floss could move bacteria from one site to another.

However, the primary purpose of daily cleaning is to mechanically disrupt the sticky layer of plaque and dislodge food debris. Bacteria will always remain with any technique. And most people who floss conventionally don’t use a clean segment for every site in the mouth, either.

A patient shouldn’t neglect any form of flossing due to a concern about spreading bacteria in an environment already teeming with billions of microorganisms. Otherwise, nearly 40% of the tooth surfaces accumulate acidic plaque that doesn’t get removed, and that can lead to gum disease and cavities.”

Dr. Erica Anand’s Answer

Do single-use flossers or reusable floss picks spread bad germs?

A Headshot of Dr Erica Anand DDS

“Whether disposable flossers or floss holders spread bacteria or not, is a controversial topic.

Like a toothbrush or water pick tip, disposable flossers and reusable floss picks spread the same type of bacteria when cleaning your teeth.

Your gums like to be massaged and stimulated in order to help remove food and plaque. If you happen to have some “bugs” that are spread from one area to another, you can always brush and rinse after flossing in order to dislodge any trapped particles. 

If you don’t have any gum disease (gingivitis or periodontal disease), then using floss sticks should not be a problem. If you do suffer from gum disease, then you may want to consider using traditional floss and to speak to your dentist about whether or not flossers pose any risk to your oral health.”

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