What’s More Important: Flossing or Brushing?

What’s more important… brushing or flossing? You may actually be surprised by the answer. I talk all about the benefits of my choice in this short video.

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Video Transcript:

So, a lot of people ask me this crazy question. I’m hesitant to pick one over the other, but I will for the sake of this question because that’s what I’m here for. And that question is: “Dr. Burhenne, if you were stranded on a desert island and you had to pick between floss and a toothbrush, which would you take?”

And of course, that’s a crazy question. But I think you’ll be surprised that the correct answer is floss.

You have to take the floss. Flossing is more important than brushing. The ramifications of not flossing, I think, are greater than not brushing. I think in the long run, gum disease and the build-up of biofilm in between the teeth is more deleterious than the buildup that brushing would access.

And besides, my fallback in this hypothetical island scenario is that I’ll be eating fresh island food (nothing processed), so I won’t have to worry about any kind of cariogenic (cavity-causing) foods.

So, that’s my answer: floss.

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.

Mark Burhenne DDS

Ask the Dentist is for you, so I want to know, what would you like answered on Ask the Dentist? Leave a comment below!

Read Next: Should I Brush or Floss First?

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Leave a Comment

  1. Both are very important, there is no “or” in dental hygiene

    • Indeed – I just more people understood the importance of flossing. Brushing alone misses a lot more than you might think…

  2. Hi?… after I floss… I smell it (cuz I smell EVERYTHING) and it smells like feces!?! What’s the problem here?

    • get a cleaning from a professional and find out there!

    • For sure get that checked out. It is probably tooth decay and some yummy rotten bits.

  3. Floss, floss, floss!!! But you would have to reuse, as if you were there too long you’d run out!! ???

  4. Aloha Dental Care says:

    Great commentary explaining the importance of flossing!

  5. Hi! I have kind of a random question. What’s your stance on oral probiotics? (Definitely not as a substitute for brushing and flossing, but as an addition?

  6. Virginia Sargent says:

    I couldn’t agree more. My mouth doesn’t feel clean without flossing. As I’ve gotten older and my gums have receded, more food than even gets stuck between my teeth. It’s amazing what still remains when I floss after a thorough brushing.

  7. Dominique Rüedi says:

    70% of tooth surface is reached by an ultra soft bristled tooth brush. 30% of surface is interdental – in between teeth and not reachable by a brush of any kind (if you do not have spaces bigger than a brush head).
    So if you have to choose, then brush. Reason enough is that we only ever teach children to use a brush – because better have 70% surface than none.

    Flossing anyways is not efficient, it’s traumatic and not really accepted – three of the key points of selection a proper tool to clean interdental spaces. A proper sizes and measured interdental brush will do wonders when it comes to cleaning. Flossing – in a correct techniques only makes sense on approximal where surface is even and straight.

  8. Jean Kittel says:

    Hi,After brushing my teeth, I use a water pick, reminds me of a tiny water karcher for the teeth,recommended by my dentist with amazing results.

  9. Is there such a thing as over flossing? Thinking I had something caught between my back teeth, I kept flossing and now my gum is irritated. Tried Anbasol but I think it’s burning the already irritated gum line.

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