Can you reuse floss picks?

In this brief report we will be discussing the topic “can you reuse floss picks?” by introducing the type of materials used to make floss, how effectively each material cleans the teeth, and know more about the reusability aspects of dental floss. On a final note, we will be discussing the alternatives to the dental floss picks. 

What material is used to make floss pics? 

Flossing has become a routine for many and without it people feel incompleteness in their dental hygiene. Flossing helps remove plaques and food particles stuck in between the teeth where the bristles of normal brush cannot reach. These provide complete cleanliness to the teeth by preventing the formation of bacterial plaque and with regular flossing the health of the teeth is maintained. 

A floss pick is normally consisting of floss filament on top of a laminated plastic handle or sometimes the filament is placed in between the handle. The floss material is made from either of the two polymers – Nylon or Teflon. These are treated with other ingredients or are waxed which depend on the manufacturers. 

Each of these materials has their own advantages or disadvantages. The floss that you find in the dental clinics are usually made of nylon which is rather thick. They tend to break if pulled hard. Hence people with tight spacing between teeth have difficulty in using nylon-based floss. 

Since the teeth are tightly packed, the floss is pulled harder and eventually breaks and shed. Moreover, for people with sensitive teeth nylon floss is not preferred. Teflon on the other hand is thinner and stronger than nylon floss. 

These can go in between small gaps of the teeth as well as work well with large spacing in between the teeth. These are also called silk floss or polytetrafluoroethylene (PTEE) floss and work well with sensitive teeth. 

Photo Courtesy: iStock. Dental Floss

How do floss picks clean your teeth? 

Flossing your teeth either with a floss pick or a regular floss will always prevent the formation of plaque on your teeth. With regular floss, at least once a day, will prevent the bacteria from clumping at one place. Usually, plaques tend to harden within 36 hours and if it’s removed before that, the oral hygiene is maintained. 

The effective way of flossing is to gently slide the floss filament up and down in between the teeth followed by cleaning above and below the gumline. This way it will cover all parts of the teeth where brushes cannot reach. Moreover, sliding the floss gently will remove any food particles stuck in between the teeth which is very helpful to keep the teeth clean and healthy. 

For better outcome from the floss cleaning, always floss before brushing your teeth. This way floss will remove any food particle stuck and the plaque which can later be removed by brushing. A gentle washing with water will not remove much from what brushing can do. 

The floss picks are also coated with wax to ease the sliding process without breaking the floss. 

Can you reuse floss picks? 

A floss once used contains many germs and bacteria that was taken out of the teeth. Reusing the same floss again and again will reintroduce the bacteria to your mouth. You may be tempted to wash and reuse it, but it will not clear the bacteria that are trapped in the floss while cleaning. 

Thus, floss once used should never be reused and as per American Dental Association floss picks are for single purpose use only. In some cases, after first use floss fibers get frayed and break off, thus, becoming less effective in cleaning the tooth. With its tendency to redistribute bacteria in the teeth, floss picks reuse can cause infection in the gum and puts you at a greater risk of gingivitis and gum disease. 

Even though it looks clean from outside, floss picks contain many bacteria that are invisible to naked eye. To overcome this problem, regular floss can be used in which the filament once used can be discarded. This way you don’t have to discard every floss pick after its single use. 

New product has come into the market where you can remove the filament from floss picks and replace it with a new filament. 

Is there any alternative to floss picks? 

There are several alternatives in the market for those who are uncomfortable with floss picks or those who have dentals braces. ADA has approved some of the alternative for dental floss which includes: 

  • Interdental brushes 
  • Water flossing 
  • Dental pick 
  • Pre-threaded floss 
  • Soft-Picks by GUM 

These products are specially designed to do the work of the dental floss. The interdental brushes work like the floss and cleans the gum and in between the teeth. These can also be used when braces are present. 

Water flossing uses a small handheld appliance that jets out water and clears any plaques present on the teeth. Dental picks are similar to wooden toothpicks, but they are not as effective as dental floss. Making them soft by wetting it prevents any injury to the gum while using. 

Soft picks by GUM are the talk of the town and the favorite of the dentists. These are soft materials that can be used to clean in between the teeth, even the tightly packed ones, and are disposable plastic picks with soft tips. Being soft these are very gentle to the gum and the teeth.

Photo Courtesy: iStock. Water Flossing


In this short report we have discussed the question “Can you reuse floss picks?” by highlighting the key types of materials used to make floss, how effectively it cleans the teeth and know more about several reasons on why not to reuse floss picks. We have concluded the topic with some of the best alternatives available in the market. 

Frequently asked question (FAQs): Can you reuse floss picks? 

How often should you change your floss picks? 

When you are using floss picks again and again, it is redistributing bacteria that came off the floss with your first use. Hence, if you clean it properly and bring it back to the original factory-made condition then you are good with it. However, this is a tedious process, and you end up discarding the floss pick with each use. 

With respect to our environmental pollution, floss picks are adding more plastic waste to the landfill. Compared to dental floss which last for 30-60 days, floss picks can be used only for a few times because of the hygiene concern. 

Can you use floss more than once? 

Flossing is done to remove food particles or prevent the formation of bacterial plaques as these do not go away with regular brushing. Hence flossing after every meal is an ideal thing to do. Whether the flossing is good or bad depends mostly on how you floss. 

If your teeth are tightly packed and applying too much pressure on your teeth, then there is a chance that you may hurt your gum and teeth. Depending on the actual purpose of flossing, some people do floss in the morning to start their day fresh, while others prefer to do it at night. Either way, floss keeps your teeth healthy and clean. 

Are floss picks bad for your teeth? 

To some extent floss picks are bad for your dental health as people use the same floss picks again and again which redistribute bacteria on your teeth. You don’t want this and the best thing to do is get a new floss pick for every cleaning which is not only expensive but also a harmful waste. Another reason is that floss picks can be sensitive to the gums of some people if not used properly. Kids can do it the wrong way and end up snapping the pick and hurting their gums. 

Should I floss before or after brushing? 

Brushing and flossing are the best way to maintain your dental hygiene. Brushing alone will not remove the plaques or food particles in between the teeth and if you have a small mouth with tightly packed teeth then flossing is a must. Many would like to floss at night before going to bed and they choose to floss after brushing. 

But a research study has found that flossing before brushing has benefits. The floss removes food particles stuck in between teeth and brushing later will remove the loosened plaque effectively than simply washing with water. These in turn give the benefit of preventing gum disease and getting rid of plaques completely. Plaques harden on the teeth within 24 to 36 hours so with proper floss and brushing you are not allowing plaque to form. 

Why does it smell when I floss? 

It is because of the poor oral hygiene that the mouth smells when you floss. Food particles that were stuck for so long will rot and cause a bad smell when removed. Also, sometimes tooth decay or gum problems that harbor bacteria is the cause of foul smell in the mouth. With proper flossing and removing food particles from your teeth can help prevent the bad smell. 

Carefully cleaning your tongue with a brush or a tongue cleaner also removes bad breath from the mouth. Poor oral hygiene is linked to many other diseases and are also known to be one of the causes of heart disease, diabetes, and cancers. Maintaining oral hygiene is a lifetime commitment and it should be done with utmost care. 

How do you floss with floss picks? 

Floss picks are perfectly angled to clean in between your teeth. Move the floss filament up and down the teeth gap and around the gumline. This process is repeated for all the teeth. This way floss picks will take out all food particles or plaques from the back teeth and in between the tight teeth. 

However, regular floss works better than the floss picks because of the difficulty of floss picks to reach at certain angles. Regular floss is a convenient way to clean your teeth and also does not generate much plastic waste as created by the floss picks. 

Do floss picks expire? 

Since floss pick filament is made of nylon or Teflon, these can last forever. However, there is an exception when flavored floss picks are used they will expire in one year and it becomes tasteless.


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