Ask a Dentist

Does the Dentist Know Whether I Floss or Not?

A dental hygienist explains how patients try to fool her into thinking they floss on the regular (and why it never works).

By Jasmine Capra, RDH

I’m a registered dental hygienist, and I know what my patients aren’t telling me. Many times, more than not, patients try to fool me into thinking they floss on the regular. But trust me: Any hygienist can immediately detect whether you are telling the truth or not. Most of my patients have tried this at least once: They realize their teeth cleaning appointment is coming up. As usual, they have not been flossing. For the week leading up to our appointment, they will floss every day because they think it will fool me into thinking they’ve kept up with their oral care routine.

It doesn’t work. Your gums give away everything to me the second you open your mouth. Let’s be real: You’re probably not surprised that it doesn’t work either. Brushing your teeth and never flossing is like showering and never washing your underarms. Let’s move on after agreeing that you need to floss and wash your underarms.

Your dental professional is not psychic. We're just experienced. We can tell immediately when you haven’t been flossing because you probably have gingivitis. Gingivitis has obvious symptoms, which include: Swollen or tender gums, bad breath, red gums, bleeding gums, and receding gums. What a list!

Luckily, gingivitis is reversible! All you need to do is floss regularly, brush regularly, and get professional teeth cleanings regularly. Kick off your new healthy habits with a professional teeth cleaning and keep up a stellar at-home oral care routine for at least two weeks, and you will see the symptoms of gingivitis disappear. The next time you think you can fool your favorite dentist or dental hygienist, think again. And then go floss before you do anything else!

About the Pro

Jasmine Capra, RDH, is a registered dental hygienist based in California. As a prolific creator on Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok, she inspires and educates people on how to get their best smile. She is also the host of the podcast Justflossit.

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