A common assumption that many of our patients have made is that if their floss has a bad odor on it after flossing then this automatically means they have an accompanying breath problem. Well the answer is…… maybe. Having a bad odor on your floss does not necessarily mean you have a bad breath condition, but is also not a good thing to have an odor on your floss after flossing. There are a few reasons why someone might have a bad odor on their floss.
The most common reason for malodor on the floss is gum disease or periodontal disease. The anaerobic bacteria that are responsible for gum disease reside under the gums and these produce what are known as volatile sulfur compounds, otherwise known as VSCs. The VSCs that are produced by these anaerobic bacteria are the same ones that are produced by the anaerobic bacteria that are responsible for causing halitosis, and the odors are quite similar. It’s easy to see how odors found on one’s floss can be misconstrued as being related to a halitosis condition. It is important to understand that if a gum disease condition is advanced enough, or enough teeth are involved, a breath condition may occur.
It is also not uncommon, especially in people who don’t floss enough, for the anaerobic bacteria to accumulate under the gums. The accumulation may not be sufficient enough to produce a condition of periodontal disease but there may be odors (VSCs) accumulating under the gums. When the floss is placed under the gums during normal flossing the odors can get on the floss and this may be noticeable when you smell the floss. Having odors on the floss is not a good thing because it means the bacterial activity under the gum tissues is increasing, and of course this can lead to gum disease. Regular twice a day flossing will help with this. Also a unique device called a Hydro Floss Oral Irrigator can eliminate the odors emanating from the gums and drastically decrease the bacterial load in a matter of days. We commonly recommend this device to our patients as part of their treatment to eliminate their halitosis. It is also commonly used to treat patients with periodontal disease.
About the author: Dr. Anthony Dailley is a practicing general dentist in Berkeley California. He has been practicing since 1981 and graduated from San Francisco State University with a degree in Cell & Molecular Biology, and obtained his dental degree from the Pacific School of Dentistry. Dr. Dailley also holds a fellowship position with the International Congress of Oral Implantologist (ICOI). Dr. Dailley has also been a founder in a biotech company called NovaBay Pharmaceuticals and was a member of their board of directors from 1997 -2014.