Floss before you Brush? It is the ‘Chicken Before the Egg’ Question of Dentistry

One of the most common questions we get is, “Do I really need to floss?”

To which we reply, “Absolutely!”

The next question we get is, “Do I need to floss first or brush first?”

We’re going to answer that age-old question in this blog. 

It doesn’t matter if you’re a longtime floss user or just starting out; whether you use an electric toothbrush or manual one, you can always benefit from flossing first. Flossing helps remove debris and plaque from between your teeth, making it easier to clean them thoroughly with a manual or electric toothbrush. 

Your toothbrush can’t reach every surface of your teeth, so this is where floss comes in to save the day by getting where your brush can’t. 

Here’s why flossing first is the best approach:

Flossing removes food particles, dental plaque and bacteria from areas that are difficult for your toothbrush to access. These things can all contribute to the development of periodontal diseases. This includes spaces between your teeth and under your gum line. Flossing first allows you to get the maximum benefit when brushing.

How to Correctly Floss

  1. Break off about 18 to 24 inches of dental floss. To hold the floss correctly, wind most of the floss around both of your middle fingers. Leave only about 1 to 2 inches of floss for your teeth.
  2. Next, hold the floss taut with your thumbs and index fingers.
  3. Place the dental floss in between two teeth. Gently glide the floss up and down, rubbing it against both sides of each tooth. Don’t glide the floss into your gums. This can scratch or bruise your gums.
  4. As the floss reaches your gums, curve the floss at the base of the tooth to form a C shape. This allows the floss to enter the space between your gums and your tooth.
  5. Repeat the steps as you move from tooth to tooth. With each tooth, use a new, clean section of floss.

So, floss, then brush, right? 

Not so fast. 

Before you brush, you should add in one more step: rinsing with mouthwash. Here’s why: 

Brushing alone won’t effectively clean all surfaces of your teeth. It will help remove plaque, but it won’t do much to remove tartar buildup. Rinsing with mouthwash before brushing doesn’t just get rid of bad breath; it will help loosen plaque and tartar buildup and help get rid of the food debris and sticky plaque you just flossed away. Rinsing hard-to-reach spots like underneath your tongue and along the gum line will also help keep those spots free of plaque and gum-disease-causing bacteria. 

After rinsing, it’s time to brush. As a reminder, we suggest that you follow these steps: 

Use a soft-bristled toothbrush. The bristles should be held at a 45-degree angle toward the gum line.

Start at the back molars (the last four teeth) and work forward.

Gently scrub your teeth in a circular motion brushing on all sides for a total of at least two minutes. 

After Brushing 

OK, you’ve flossed, rinsed and brushed. Do you rinse again? 

Actually, no. If you floss again after brushing as part of your oral hygiene routine, you could rinse away the fluoride concentration of your toothpaste (we suggest you use a toothpaste that contains fluoride when you brush), which would lessen the benefits of tooth enamel protection provided by your fluoride toothpaste. 

Other Ways to Protect Your Oral Health

In addition to flossing, rinsing and brushing to keep your teeth clean, we recommend that you try using an interdental cleaner once or twice a week. These cleaners are designed to gently scrape away plaque and tartar buildup between your teeth. They’re easy to use, don’t require any special equipment and can help keep your gums healthy. 

If you have trouble reaching certain parts of your mouth, consider investing in a water flosser. Water flossers are small handheld devices that use pulsating jets of pressurized water to clean difficult-to-access areas of your mouth. These devices can help with interdental plaque reduction and are great for those undergoing orthodontic treatment. 

We also suggest that you see us at least twice a year. We’ll check your teeth and gums for signs of infection, tooth decay and gum disease and treat them if necessary.

We’ll also recommend that you make sure you’re getting enough calcium and vitamin D. Calcium helps strengthen bones and give you strong teeth.

Call us now to schedule an appointment to talk about your dental health.