What is a Flossing Cavity and How Can I Prevent It?

We see the following scenario unfold pretty commonly in our office between patients and our dentists:

Dentist: Ms. Jones, when I examine your teeth, I can see that you are doing a great job brushing. I don’t see any cavities on the chewing surfaces of your teeth.

Ms. Jones: Thank you! I use my electric toothbrush two times a day and brush for two minutes. I can feel the difference of not having plaque build-up on my teeth after using it.

Dentist: I do want to point out a few areas of concern that I saw on your dental x-rays that we took today. Before I show you the x-rays, let me ask are you flossing daily?

Ms. Jones: Not really. I just find it time consuming and in the morning I am usually rushing trying to get ready for work. At night, I usually end up forgetting to floss.

Dentist: Well Ms. Jones, there are areas in between your teeth that your toothbrush cannot reach where cavities have started. We like to call them “flossing cavities.”

In the above picture, you can see where these cavities have started in between Ms. Jones teeth. We call these interproximal cavities “flossing cavities” because they are normally present in people who do not floss and also have a lot of sugar in their diet.

A lot of times, these cavities are not visible to the naked eye but do show up on dental x-rays. This is why it is important to have routine dental x-rays taken so your dental provider can diagnose and treat any cavities when they are still in the early stages.

The blue arrow in the above picture shows a cavity that is still in the enamel (white) layer of the tooth. There are usually no symptoms associated with these cavities. When left untreated, a cavity can increase in size and work it’s way into the dentin (inner) layer of the tooth. When a cavity is in this layer there can be the following symptoms:

  • Sensitivity to cold and hot
  • Sensitivity to eating sweets
  • Pain or discomfort when chewing food

If a cavity is left untreated after it has reached the dentin, it will rapidly expand and work its way to the pulp of a tooth. When a cavity reaches the pulp of the tooth, it can result in a toothache that lingers for a long time. At this point, root canal therapy, a filling build-up (core), and a crown would be recommended if one wanted to save the tooth.

The good news is that flossing cavities are 100% preventable by limiting sugar intake, flossing regularly, and/or using a Waterpik Waterflosser. Here is a demonstration from Dr. Warren on how the Waterpik Waterflosser works.


The Waterpik Water Flosser was awarded the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance. We recommend using 10% mouth rinse and 90% water with this product. Use twice a day in the morning and at night.

Click Here To Purchase The Waterpik Water Flosser

If you are looking for a dentist, we would be happy to see you. We are conveniently located in the Beaumont Medical Center of West Bloomfield on Orchard Lake Road, between Maple and 14 Mile.

Call us at 248-973-8788 to schedule an appointment.

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