Brush or Floss Question: Is it better to brush or floss first? Answer: There are many differing theories on this. Some argue that flossing should come first because, when flossing, plaque and bits of food are loosened and should be brushed away after you’ve finished flossing. fluoride from the toothpaste will make better contact if food wedged in between the teeth is removed before brushing. The argument for brushing first and then flossing is that brushing your teeth first removes the bulk of the plaque on the teeth.
Flossing afterward forces the remaining bit of fluoride left on the teeth from brushing into the in-between spaces. Here’s my opinion: As long as you’re asking this question, it means you’re doing both, and that’s what matters. The synergy between flossing and brushing (and not the order in which you do them) will lengthen your life, improve your cognitive abilities, and will keep your teeth healthy and beautiful.
Unfortunately, if people are going to do one or the other, they’re going to brush. Flossing tends to be thought of as secondary, maybe because we’ve been told since childhood the same phrase over and over, “Brush, then floss.” Imagine staining only the front and back of a fence, but neglecting to paint the insides – sure, you’ve stained the front and back of the fence, but the insides are going to rot.
The same goes with teeth – if you neglect to floss, you can still get cavities in between. It’s a widespread myth that you can get away with brushing only. Flossing cleans out the parts of the teeth that the toothbrush cannot reach. Brushing without flossing can result in cavities, gum disease, and even heart disease. So, whether you brush first or floss first is your preference! I recommend that you stick with whatever works for you so that you stay in the habit of always brushing and flossing.
Blog Notes: About Mark Burhenne DDS Welcome! My name is Dr. Mark Burhenne, or Dr. B for short. When did we start seeing the mouth as separate from the rest of the human body? The mouth doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It is intimately connected to the health of the rest of the body. In fact, the bacteria and entire environment inside the mouth are connected to the rest of your body so intimately that the state of your oral health can predict whether you’ll have heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes.
In my 30 years of practice as a dentist, I’ve seen a lot of misinformation and people who have fallen through the cracks due to our healthcare system’s failure to understand the oral-body connection. I created this blog to empower people to understand how your mouth is a window into the health of the rest of your body. It is my sincere hope that the knowledge and tools on this blog will lead to greater health and well-being for you and those you love.
Throughout this website you’ll find high-quality articles and free resources for getting and staying healthy. It’s the info I use to keep myself and my family healthy, and how I treat my patients. I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a B.S. in Biochemistry and B.A. in History of Art and had the privilege of attending the University of the Pacific Dugoni School of Dentistry in San Francisco, consistently ranked among the best in the US.
I am an active member of several continuing education groups and study clubs in prosthetics and periodontology that perform actual clinical work on patients. I have worked as an expert witness in legal dental cases. I’ve also volunteered as a dental surgeon in Jos, Nigeria. I raised three daughters without cavities (all without ingestion of fluoride). I enjoy downhill skiing, alpine touring, mountain biking, photography, and listening to jazz and classical records (you know, those flat analog 12-inch vinyl discs).
I am passionate about restoring teeth to their original function and beauty – and as someone who studied art history and is a hobbyist photographer, the intersection of art and the opportunity to help people makes dentistry my dream profession. I welcome your comments and questions and encourage you to like my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter to get the latest on oral and dental health.
Ask the Dentist is for you, so I want to know, what would you like answered on Ask the Dentist? Mark Burhenne DDS Share this post Author: Dr. Mark Burhenne https://askthedentist.com/ Hi, I'm Dr. Mark Burhenne, family and sleep medicine dentist. Good dental health is good overall health. It's that important, and it's exactly why I created Ask the Dentist. Related PostsSee Also: First American Home Shield
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We know we’re supposed to floss every day for healthier teeth and gums, even if few of us actually do. But is there a right time to floss? And is it better to floss before or after brushing? Closed Captioning apply | reset x font share link Should you floss before or after brushing? Play Video - 0:50 Should you floss before or after brushing? Play Video - 0:50 In the The New York Times Well Blog, even the experts disagree.
One spokesman for the American Dental Association told the Times, which was answering a reader question, that it's preferable to floss first because it’s not a fun task. The reasoning: people will be less likely to skip flossing than if they wait until after brushing. But in the same story, another oral health specialist argued that flossing after brushing is preferable because it helps the fluoride in the toothpaste work its way between the teeth.
RELATED: Is sparkling water bad for your teeth? Dentists weigh in Sebastian Ciancio, a distinguished service professor and chair, periodontics and endodontics in the School of Dental Medicine at University at Buffalo said that while there is no difference in effectiveness, he seems to favor brush first, floss finish. “Whether you floss before brushing or after makes no difference on the efficacy,” Ciancio told TODAY.
com. “Flossing before you brush might give a sense of false [protection] and you might not brush as well.” So, really, when's the best time to floss? Shutterstock To floss correctly, slide the floss up to the gum line and wrap it around the tooth in a c-shape. Before, after, morning or night actually doesn’t matter. As long as you do it at least once every day, you’re going to minimize the nasty bacteria clinging to your teeth, says Matthew J.
Messina an American Dental Association spokesperson and private practice dentist in Cleveland. "I am happy if people floss at any time in a 24-hour period," said Messina."The bacteria around the teeth organize themselves as colonies and [flossing] stirs them up. If we get in there and stir them up every 24 hours we render them less dangerous." The American Dental Association recommends that people floss daily and brush twice a day.
Closed Captioning apply | reset x font share link How long should you brush teeth for? Play Video - 1:26 How long should you brush teeth for? Play Video - 1:26 It takes about 24 hours for plaque to form in the mouth and twice daily brushing and daily flossing disrupts the plaque, also know as biofilm, build up. Flossing allows people to rid the spaces between the teeth of bacteria, which sometimes causes cavities, but most often causes gum disease.
Gum disease can cause bad breath, bleeding and swollen gums, loose and sensitive teeth and receding gums. “People who brush twice a day and floss once a day remove enough biofilm to keep gum disease and cavities under control,” says Ciancio. RELATED: Mother's gum disease linked to infant's death In reality, only about 15 percent of us actually floss every day — no matter what we tell our dentists.
And finally, what about waxed or unwaxed floss? Turns out, when it comes to the type of floss, the differences in product make little difference, though string floss is somewhat more effective than those handy dental picks. Dental picks don’t reach the contact point between two teeth where bacteria love to grow, says Ciancio. And, yes, there’s a right way to floss. It's important when people floss to slide the floss up to the gum line and wrap it around the tooth in a c-shape.
RELATED: 14 unhealthy things you're doing to 'save time' The need for good oral health can’t be stressed enough. A recent study from the Centers from Disease Control found that almost all American adults have cavities, a concern because of the close link between gum health to overall health. That’s why dentists fuss about flossing. “Gum disease starts usually in the area between the teeth and dental decay is more prevalent between the teeth as compared to flat surfaces,” says Ciancio.
Whether flossing actually helps you live longer is unclear — people with heart disease and diabetes often have unhealthy gums, although researchers are not sure how the relationship works. It could simply be that people who floss have healthier habits all around. This story was originally published in May 2015. For more health and wellness advice, sign up for our One Small Thing newsletter.