Controversy of the Month: When to Floss, When to Brush
The question isn’t whether or not we should floss—flossing has proven effective in combating plaque and gum disease for many decades now. The debate these days is when to floss, and the jury is split. In fact, 47 percent of people say that they floss before brushing, while 53 percent choose to floss after1.
Few studies provide evidence for benefits that come from flossing before or after brushing, and the American Dental Association claims that either way is perfectly fine. The most important thing is to floss once a day. Other dentists have personal opinions as to why the case should be made for flossing before or after; you can weigh the pros and cons and decide for yourself.
Flossing before brushing:
- Flossing can dislodge food and plaque, which is later swept away by brushing with a toothbrush
- Fluoride from the toothpaste can sink in deeper, reaching spots that the floss cleared out
- If you floss first, you’ll floss! It’s easy to forget flossing after the main task of brushing is over
Flossing after brushing:
- Toothpaste contains fluoride. If you floss after brushing, the mouth has already been fluorinated and the floss can push the fluoride into tight space
- You can go through and catch any spots that may have been missed while brushing
Regardless of whether you floss before or after brushing, flossing is essential to good oral hygiene. It can reduce inflammation in the gums and risk of gingivitis. It can also break down particles of food that cause halitosis, or bad breath.
Other flossing tips from the American Dental Association:
- There is no benefit from using waxed or unwaxed floss—it’s just your preference
- Do not rinse and reuse floss! The fibers can break and leave extra debris in between your teeth
- The time of day makes no difference
- When the floss reaches the gum, make sure to curve the floss into a “C” towards the teeth on each side. This ensures that all of the plaque is caught
- Don’t forget to run the floss along the backside of the teeth
- Find a flossing routine that is easy to remember and works for you. Your teeth—and finances—may thank you in the long run.