Do you brush before you floss or floss before you brush? Is there a “right” way or a “wrong” way to do it? It turns out, there actually is!
A study published in March 2017 in the journal Periodontology found that while flossing anytime is good, flossing before brushing is ideal.
The study’s participants, 25 dental students, underwent prophylactic cleanings. Then, they were told not to brush or floss for 48 hours.
After this, the study authors analyzed the participants in two-week intervals. During the first week, participants brushed and then flossed their teeth.
During the second week, the participants were told to floss and then brush.
The researchers checked each patient’s plaque and fluoride levels prior to flossing and brushing. They found that the greatest amount of plaque and bacteria were removed from the teeth when participants flossed before brushing. Flossing before brushing also meant that more fluoride remained on the teeth than it did when the participants brushed before flossing.
Keeping more fluoride on the teeth is significantly beneficial because fluoride helps to remineralize the teeth and provides a defense against the bacteria that cause tooth decay.
Additionally, it means more significant protection against developing gum disease.
“Flossing does 40 percent of the work of your toothbrush,” said Dr. Darin Ward, a Dallas, Texas, orthodontist.
Flossing is important because a toothbrush cannot reach in between the teeth, he said.
“The floss loosens up the plaque, and the toothbrush removes it,” Ward said.
Removing plaque by flossing can also help reduce the risk of developing gum disease.
“When you have sticky plaque that develops along the gum line, you’re at risk of developing periodontal problems,” Ward said.
The American Dental Association recommends that individuals brush at least twice per day and floss at least once per day to maintain a healthy smile.
But what about mouthwash?
“Use mouthwash at the end of your oral hygiene routine. Rinsing with mouthwash or plain water can help wash away food bits or plaque removed by flossing or brushing,” Ward said.
Source: Journal of Periodontology. The effect of tooth brushing and flossing sequence on interdental plaque reduction and fluoride retention: A randomized controlled clinical trial. March 2017.