Dental Care Basics

Does Flossing Spread Infection?

If you have gum disease at one tooth, why wouldn’t the floss pick up that bacteria and spread it like butter around your mouth?

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Does Flossing Spread Infection?

Why wouldn't flossing spread infection? If you have gum disease at one or two teeth, wouldn't the floss pick up some of the bacteria and spread it to other areas?

A: You can rest easy; if you have gum disease in one part of the mouth, flossing won’t spread it to other healthy areas of the mouth.

But why is that? You do raise a great question — why wouldn’t the floss spread around that “bad” bacteria like butter?

If you have gum disease, the bacteria that cause gum disease are already in your mouth. It doesn’t really matter where they are.

Whatever bacteria you have in your mouth are already well spread out. They’re not specific to any one area of the mouth.

Gum disease is caused by bacteria and an infection, yes, but that’s not all that it takes.

There has to be a “perfect storm” of several factors in order for gum disease to occur.

When you’re flossing throughout the mouth, all the bacteria are the same — but the perfect storm isn’t happening in those areas.

You can have the gum disease-causing bacteria in your mouth but still, prevent gum disease by disorganizing that bacteria.

Flossing and brushing disorganize those bacteria so they’re unable to colonize, and that’s the important thing to ward off disease and reduce inflammation.

Using the same floss throughout the mouth is different from sharing floss or a toothbrush with another person, which is called cross infection.

Hope that answers your question!

Mark Burhenne DDS

read next: Hospitals Are Fighting Pneumonia With Brushing and Flossing (And Winning)

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