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Should You Floss Before or After Brushing? Do the Best for Your Teeth

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Should we floss before or after brushing? We all know that brushing with your toothbrush alone isn't enough to keep your mouth healthy, but what is the proper order for our oral hygiene routine?

Man flossing teeth
Flossing is an important part of any oral hygiene routine.

Flossing is usually the least favorite part of anyone's dental routine; and if we are all being honest with ourselves, we probably don't floss regularly because we “don't have the time” or “it hurts our gums” or we “forgot to buy dental floss”. But ultimately we know that aren't flossing as we should because we just don't want to. But, flossing is one of the most important parts of any dental hygiene regimen.

Without flossing, our mouths are susceptible to gum disease and tooth decay. In this article we will cover what flossing is and why you should do it, how to properly floss with different products, and answer the question: should you floss before or after brushing?

What is flossing?

Flossing is the process of removing and dislodging food particles from the spaces in between your teeth. The American Dental Association recommends flossing your teeth every time you brush your teeth, twice a day.

It's necessary to incorporate flossing into your oral hygiene routine because by removing the food debris and plaque buildup from the spaces between your teeth, you can prolong your oral health and reduce the chances of developing gingivitis.

Best flossing tools

The best way to floss might not actually be with literal floss. There are all sorts of new tools you can use that will give you the benefits of flossing and more! So without further ado, here are the top choices of oral health specialists for flossing tools:

How to floss

To maintain healthy teeth, flossing properly is necessary, and traditional dental floss isn't the only option. First, you must choose the correct product to use for your needs and keep it in stock so you don't miss your opportunities to floss. Not properly cleaning the interdental space can lead to tooth decay and disease. Before children reach the age of 10-12 they will need help to floss their teeth properly as they don't have the manual dexterity to clean the area properly. Flossing with braces is a totally different process and instructions can be found here. The steps involved for flossing teeth without braces looks something like this:

dental floss
Traditional dental floss

Traditional dental floss

  • Choose your product: dental flossing string (waxed, unwaxed, single or multistrand, flavored or unflavored).
  • When using floss, use 12-18 inches of material.
  • When using string try not to force it in between the teeth or snap it forcefully into your gums. This can cause damage that may lead to infection.
  • Pull the string up and down along the sides of each tooth 8-10 times to remove any debris.
  • Use a new segment of string between each tooth to avoid introducing debris from the previous segment into the interdental area.
Water flosser
A water flosser can be used after brushing to dislodge particles

Water flosser

If you're stuck on which water flosser to buy, the Waterpik Cordless Advanced Water Flosser WP-560 is one of our favorite models.

  • Choose your product: read here about some of the best options.
  • Fill the reservoir with warm water.
  • Choose a tip and insert it into the handle.
  • Start with the lowest pressure setting and close your mouth around the tip to avoid spraying your face.
  • Aim at the tip of your gumline and spray along your gumline.

Interdental brush

Picking out an interdental brush can be difficult with so many options. One of our favorites is made by GUM.

  • Choose the correct size.
  • Insert gently between teeth, do not force into place.
  • Move the brush back and forth a few times to scrape the debris and plaque away.
  • Change the size when needed and replace the brush when the filaments degrade.

Air flosser

The usage method for this product is the same as a water flosser, but it uses much less water. Finish by rinsing with mouthwash (optional).

One of our favorite air flosser models is made by Phillips Sonicare and has the added benefit of being cordless!

When should you floss?

Dentists are still split on when to clean in between your teeth. It's not a question of whether or not to brush or floss but more about the sequence of events. All agree that it should be done at least once daily, even better if it is done twice a day along with brushing to maintain optimal oral health and prevent gum disease. However, whether it should be done before or after teeth brushing is still a matter of debate. Have a look at the table below to see the pros and cons of brushing or flossing first.

Sequence Pros Cons
Flossing before brushing Prepares debris to be brushed away Pulling out more plaque from between teeth may be gross to some
Allows flouride in toothpaste to reach interdental spaces
Flossing after brushing Removes debris leftover from initial brushing Requires a rinse of the mouth afterwards to wash away dislodged material, which lessens the benefits of the fluoride in your toothpaste.
Doesn't pull as much plaque from interdental space and therefore less gross

Before

The “floss first, brush second” argument is that a toothbrush alone cannot dislodge food debris and plaque to deliver the fluoride in toothpaste to the interdental area and properly clean the gums. In addition to this, the food stuck between teeth will be dislodged and can then be brushed away with the help of a toothbrush. For this reason, some dentists agree that to floss first is the best way to prevent plaque from sticking to the interdental area since brushing isn't adequate in removing it. This is also supported by a study undergone by the Journal of Periodontology, which found that if you brush after you floss, you can get rid of excess food particles released by flossing, and you receive more of the beneficial effects of the fluoride from your toothpaste.

After

On the other hand, other dentists say that to help keep your mouth as healthy as possible brushing your teeth first is the best way to go. Brushing your teeth first will remove extra plaque that some people find unpleasant to pull out while flossing. People who clean interdentally after brushing may want to rinse their mouth afterward to remove any particles or plaque that was dislodged from between teeth.

The one thing all dentists can agree on? Floss!

Do you brush before you floss, or floss before you brush? Many people don't really pay attention to the order. We took a video survey around the office and got some interesting responses. The actual answer is explained by our doctors at the end of the video. Have a Healthy Mouth and a Healthy Body. If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment, please visit our website, https://www.drnemeth.com or simply call 248-206-3882 We are happy to help you. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/drjosephnemeth/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/drjosephnemeth Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/drnemethdds/ The information contained in the multimedia content (“Video Content”) has been made available for informational and educational purposes only. Joseph R. Nemeth, DDS & Associates does not make any representation or warranties with respect to the accuracy, applicability, fitness, or completeness of the Video Content. Joseph R. Nemeth, DDS & Associates does not warrant the performance, effectiveness or applicability of any sites listed or linked to in any Video Content. The Video Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen on the Site. Joseph R. Nemeth, DDS & Associates hereby disclaims any and all liability to any party for any direct, indirect, implied, punitive, special, incidental or other consequential damages arising directly or indirectly from any use of the Video Content, which is provided as is, and without warranties.
Asking dentists whether to floss before or after brushing ends in a split jury!

Conclusion

Whether you brush first or floss first the general consensus among dentists is that it should be done at least once a day. To maintain an optimally healthy mouth and prevent gum problems plaque build-up needs to be removed at least once a day from on and in between teeth. Brushing alone just isn't enough to keep your mouth healthy and decay-free.

FAQ

How often should you floss?

Dentists agree that everyone should floss at least once a day. The more often you clean interdentally the better.

When should you floss?

Dentists are split equally on whether to floss first or brush first. Both have benefits, but the general consensus is that it should be done at least once a day either before or after toothbrushing.

How do you properly floss?

Choose your product to work with. When using traditional string, use 12-18 inches of material. Do not force it in between the teeth or snap it forcefully into your gums. Pull the string up and down along the sides of each tooth 8-10 times to remove any debris. Finish by rinsing with mouthwash.

When should you use mouthwash?

The answer to this question depends on who you ask. If you ask the ADA, they'll tell you to follow the instructions on your mouthwash or to follow your personal preference. On the other hand, international organizations like the NHS say that you shouldn't use mouthwash after brushing your teeth because it will rinse away the concentrated fluoride from your toothpaste.

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Contributors:
Alexa Rose
Alexa Rose
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Alexa Rose is a writer and editor with experience researching and creating content for the field of dentistry. Her writing is always well researched and engaging, with actionable information about oral health
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