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What to do when floss gets stuck in your teeth

floss in between teeth

Floss can get stuck between your teeth or can shred when you are using it.

This is true whether you are a seasoned pro or just starting out on your flossing journey.

Floss is an interdental cleaning aid, and is designed to be pulled down between two teeth. It should slide over the contact point where the two teeth meet, and down to the gum level. This action helps to clear plaque and food debris. 

The benefits of flossing include healthy gums and preventing decay.

But what does it mean when floss is getting stuck in your teeth or shredded during use? Read on to find out why it happens and what you can do about it.

Reasons Why Floss Gets Stuck Between Your Teeth

As the floss is pulled down between your two teeth it can catch on any rough surfaces. This causes the floss to shred whilst you are using it.

Floss can also become trapped on a ledge on the way up or down, making it difficult to remove fully.


Tartar buildup on inside of teeth

Tartar, or calculus, is a hardening of the plaque deposits on your teeth. These can be rough or sharp. Tartar also narrows the gap between the two teeth.

Floss can catch underneath the tartar and become stuck. 

Flossing is important to prevent the build up of tartar from worsening. So even if you occasionally get floss stuck, keep to your routine. 

Seeing a dental professional will be a benefit for you. They can do a scale and polish to remove tartar build up and make it easier for you to clean at home.

Broken Fillings and Chipped teeth

tooth with broken filling

A loose or broken filling can create a ledge between two teeth. This is also true for a chipped or broken tooth. 

You might also notice that you have bleeding gums when flossing in this area too (although there can be other causes for that as well). 

If you have a broken filling or a hole in your tooth, floss can become stuck and you will find it difficult to remove. The sharp edges can also shred the floss.

See a dental professional to get this problem fixed and flossing will become easier for you.

New Fillings

If you have recently been to the dentist, a new filling can also cause problems when flossing. 

A filling that has a poor contact point can cause floss to become stuck. 

Residue of the filling, or flash, can also get stuck between the teeth and cause issues when flossing. 

If this is the case for you, go back to your dentist who can adjust the filling for you.

Lack of space

Crowded teeth are common, and are normally healthy.

But the lack of space can make flossing difficult. 

The narrow gaps between the teeth, or even overlapping teeth, can cause floss to shred when you use it. 

This can be off putting, but try my tips below to make it easier for you!

Type of floss

floss threads

If the floss is shredding all the time and there isn’t an obvious cause like one of those above, it could be them and not you!

Some brands and types of floss are just more prone to shredding. Trust me, I have used lots of different brands in lots of different mouths.

This is because floss can be made of different materials. These threads are twisted together in different ways.

Don’t become disheartened, using a different brand will change your experience.

You can see some recommendations in my post on the best dental floss.

What To Do When Floss Gets Stuck

If you have floss stuck between your teeth, don’t panic. 

Although it feels uncomfortable, having a small amount of floss stuck for a few hours is unlikely to do any harm.

How To Remove Floss Stuck Between Your Teeth

  • Don’t force it. Stabbing at your gum trying to get it out will damage the gums. Like I said before, come back to it later if you need to.
  • Pull the broken floss through from one end. Let go of one end and simply pull in one direction. If one end doesn’t work, try the other. 
  • You might find a pair of tweezers helpful. These can help you grip short bits of floss. 
  • If you can’t pull the floss through, try using an interdental brush to push it through. Only do this if you are confident using the brush and have enough space.

If these steps don’t work, you need help from a dental professional. 

When To See A Dentist

  • If you regularly get floss stuck in the same place – you may benefit from a cleaning if tartar buildup, or need a filling.
  • If you can’t get the floss out. Book in to see a dental professional to help get it removed.

How To Prevent Floss Getting Stuck Between Your Teeth

In the future, you should check that you have the right technique for flossing, as demonstrated in our video below.

For people who often get floss stuck, I recommend a tape instead. Made from PTFE or similar, these rarely shred and glide well between teeth.

Interdental brushes are an alternative to flossing, and are less likely to get stuck. 

Interdental cleaning is important, and you need to use the right product for you to build a habit

Read more about the different options for cleaning in our article about water flossers, floss and interdental brushes.

About Gemma Wheeler

Gemma qualified from Cardiff University School of Dentistry in 2015. She went on to complete her Foundation Training and a further two years in the Armed Forces, primarily based around Wiltshire. She now works in a private practice in Plymouth.

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6 thoughts on “What to do when floss gets stuck in your teeth”

  1. I have very crowded front teeth that get plaque no matter if I use dental floss. I read the article that interdental brushes are better, but what about teeth that overlap and are crooked/crowded?

    • Hi Linda. In this instance floss is likely a better option than interdental brushes due to the position of the teeth and the angles and flex required to get in between the teeth.
      You could also consider a water flosser. Dental professionals generally recommend string floss and interdental brushes over these, but they can reach areas that are very tricky to with floss etc.

  2. I have had dental floss stuck inbetween my teeth now since December 2020 and its a nightmare. Its now affecting my gums one area is quite red & inflammed. Have seen a hygienist and two dentists and because it is so fine and you cannot see it no-one has been able to help me.
    I am due t6o see the dentist in July but am frightened he will also say he cannot do anything. Is there a dental hospital I could go to for help because am sure if they had very high magnifying glasses they would see it as it has now turned black and I can see it when I use a dental brush moving. Any suggestions. thank you in advance, Desperate!

    • Hi Lynne. This sounds quite concerning. How do you know it is dental floss stuck in between the teeth? Whilst things can be very small, dentists have something called ‘loupes’ which they wear that magnify things. They should be able to spot it. Or I would have imagined if something was genuinely stuck between the teeth and gums they would have been able to clean it out with scalers and tools they use.
      What is more odd, is you say you can see it but they can’t?
      Are you going to NHS dentists/practices or private?

      • Many thanks for your reply. NHS but pay for treatment. Sorry I cannot actually see it but can feel it all with my tongue. It has been difficult but not yet seen anyone with any type of magnifying equipment in fact asked last dentist if had any! Am seeing dentist again tomorrow so see how we go. Maybe it isn’t floss but something else but it’s very fine & feels like plastic & remember only seem to notice it after flossing. Will only use interdentals now as some of my teeth very close. Regards Lynne

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