I just spent a weekend with my brother. The first night I flossed my teeth after I brushed to get ready for bed. He gave me a hard time and told me I should always floss before I brush. I politely responded that I have flossed after brushing my whole life (and reminded him that he had most of his, as well) and I didn’t think it made a difference. Can you settle this for us? Should I brush or floss first?
Laila, New Jersey
Dear Laila (and brother),
That is a great question that unfortunately doesn’t have a definitive answer. According to the American Dental Association, “Brushing before flossing, flossing before brushing—it doesn’t matter to your teeth, as long as you do both.” That is the main sentiment of most dentists. The key is to floss, no matter whether you choose to do it before or after you brush. Just floss.
Those who have taken sides and are in the camp for flossing first feel that by doing so, you dislodge food particles to better brush them away. Some just encourage patients to do it first because you get the tedious task done first and out of the way. Some who are sticking with the old school method believe that by flossing after you brush, you are manuevering fluoride introduced while brushing into those small spaces.
Either way, flossing is essential in maintaining a healthy mouth. It’s more than just getting rid of leftover food. It’s also to get rid of plaque, a sticky film that contains bacteria that feeds on sugars and food in your mouth. Teeth with plaque become prone to tooth decay and cavities. If plaque is left unchecked, it can harden into tartar on the teeth near the gums. This can lead to gum disease and other health problems.
So whether it is better to floss before you brush or after is just a matter of which one makes it easier for you to get it done.
This post is sponsored by Angel Dental Care in Garfield Heights, Ohio.