Can You Reuse Dental Floss? Should You?

The American Dental Association recommends flossing every day as an important part of daily oral care. Flossing daily removes food particles trapped between the teeth and under the gumline where your toothbrush can’t reach. It also helps to prevent bacteria and plaque from building up and causing problems like tartar, bad breath, gingivitis, gum disease, and tooth decay.

However, a lot of people want to know whether it’s okay to reuse dental floss. In fact, patients frequently ask their dentists, “Can you reuse dental floss?” In short, reusing dental floss is not a good oral hygiene practice since it can spread bacteria in the mouth.

Reasons To Not Reuse Your Floss

Some people are guilty of washing and recycling dental floss. But why would someone want to reuse floss anyway? No judgment here. Perhaps, it’s a way to save money. However, this is an unhealthy oral hygiene practice and there are several reasons why:

  • Floss is designed for single use: This explains why some floss fibers get frayed after one use and become less effective. Once frayed, they can easily break off and enter your body. You may feel tempted to wash the thread. However, washing the interdental cleaner does not get rid of the bacteria that cling to the fibers during flossing.
  • Reintroduces bacteria: Flossing with the same pieces of used threads reintroduces old oral bacteria back into your mouth and distributes them. Even if the floss appears clean, there are microscopic germs there that you cannot see with your naked eye.
  • Increases the risk of infections: Not only does this practice reintroduce old bacteria into your mouth, but it also introduces new types of micro-organisms. The piece of string floss can pick up bacteria while it sits in wait for another round of use. This puts you at a greater risk of gingivitis and gum disease.
  • Worsen gum disease: Periodontitis also known as gum disease is a serious bacterial infection of the gum that can destroy the teeth and jawbone. Using the same piece of thread floss repeatedly can deposit the bacteria elsewhere in the mouth and result in new gum disease.

Can You Reuse Dental Picks?

You already know it’s a terrible idea to wash, rinse, and reuse floss. But what about dental picks? Does the same rule apply? Let’s see. A dental floss pick is a small plastic interdental device that features a floss thread on one end. The other end has a flat pick or hook pick. Some floss picks are disposable and designed for single-use while others come with replacement floss heads or floss threaders.

These picks perform the same function as string floss except they seem easier to use, especially for hard-to-reach back teeth. The pick works better for removing food particles or debris stuck beneath the gum line or between the teeth. However, washing, storing, and reusing floss picks presents similar problems as traditional floss. Both ends of the pick can transfer bacteria to other parts of the mouth.

Some individuals, dentists, and oral hygienists are against floss picks because it entails reusing the same piece of floss between all the teeth during a single flossing session. Bacteria that clings to the thread easily and immediately get transferred from one area of the mouth to the next. Even running hot tap water over the floss is not enough to sterilize it before moving to the next section of your mouth.

Alternatives to Dental Floss

If all this talk about circulating bacteria around the mouth makes you feel icky, you can certainly opt for dental floss and dental pick alternatives. Here are some examples:

  • Non-disposable dental flosser: These allow you to remove food particles and interdental plaque with more control than traditional dental floss. There are also several different brands available to suit your needs. Some are packaged with replacement floss heads or threaders. If not, you can purchase the heads or threaders separately. Either way, you will need to throw them away after a single use.
  • Interdental brush: The oral device features a handle and a fine-bristled flossing head. They are typically sold as a set of brushes and are good for individuals who have trouble flossing with regular dental floss. The brushes come in different sizes and are beneficial to people with braces or large gaps or spaces between the teeth. Interdental brushes are also reusable and you don’t need to throw them away until they are worn or out of shape. Just rinse them after each use in the same manner as your regular toothbrush.
  • Water flossers: Water flossers, also called water picks, are effective without the risk of bacterial infection posed by dental floss. These are electric or battery-operated devices that squirt pressurized water between the teeth to remove trapped food particles and plaque. Water flossers are a good alternative for those who have tight spaces between their teeth or prefer to not stick a dental pick between the teeth or under the gum.

The Takeaway

Recycling dental flossing threads and picks are harmful to your oral health. So kindly discard them after use. Besides, string floss is really not that expensive at all. You can literally buy a roll for one dollar. There are also various brands of dental floss picks available in packs of 60 or 90 for just a buck or two.

The pack lasts for 30 for 45 days depending on if you floss once or twice per day. So you’re not really saving much money by reusing them. Instead, you’re only increasing your risk of an oral infection. Remember, you can also talk to your dentist about floss alternatives that best suit your needs.