Brush or Floss First? This New Study Answers Your Question

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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.

However, a July 2018 study suggests that there actually is a right answer: start with flossing.

In the study, researchers found that beginning with flossing helped subjects remove more plaque between teeth and help fluoride get to the right place. If you’re using a non-toxic toothpaste with nano-hydroxyapatite (like Boka), the same rule should theoretically apply.

Here’s my opinion: As long as you’re asking this question, it means you’re doing both, and that’s what matters most. 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. Just keep in mind that beginning with flossing might be marginally better for long-term dental health.

Read Next: How to Floss the Right Way

1 Reference

  1. Mazhari, F., Boskabady, M., Moeintaghavi, A., & Habibi, A. (2018). The effect of toothbrushing and flossing sequence on interdental plaque reduction and fluoride retention: A randomized controlled clinical trial. Journal of periodontology89(7), 824-832. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29741239

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13 Comments

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  1. If I understand this correctly, both of the arguments above seem to suggest that it’s better to floss than brush?

    • Anonymous says:

      Did you mean… Floss “then” brush?

  2. “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.”

    interesting theory but i’d bet its because flossing is a hassle and more time consuming than brushing.

    • Flossing is only more time consuming than brushing if you aren’t brushing correctly. If you brush long enough to remove all plaque, that takes quite a bit longer than the 1 minute or less to brush.

  3. What is your opinion of water flossing? I used to have metal braces, and water flossing is very convenient, but it is also effective to remove food particles between the wires.

  4. Jonathan Wentworth says:

    flossing is not really that bad or time consuming… Take it from someone who had to floss while wearing braces… Now THAT can be challenging at times

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  6. Anonymous says:

    love you answer” since you are asking this question, it seems that you are doing both flossing and brushing”

  7. Good Lord. Can’t you even make a decision on this? Can you give us a link for studies done with this question? Otherwise, you are useless.

    • Anonymous says:

      Lol,he did answer, his answer is the difference between the sequence is so miniscule when compared to doing them vs not doing them. I like to brush first just because when I floss first it _feels_ like I’m pushing more crap into my gums, I like the feeling of brushing all the crap away first then going back and getting it even cleaner with floss. Kind of like washing a car, you brush the majority away then go back and detail the cracks and stuff, otherwise if you clean the cracks first, you could push crap back in when you go to “brush” the car.

  8. Nothing is wrong with brush, floss, quick brush.

  9. I typically floss first. Unless I forget to floss, then remember and so obviously I do it after. Even then I will probably do a quick brushing after to wipe off any plaque I pulled from between the teeth.

    Usually what I do after first flossing is a rinse with a 50/50 mixture of listerine/water. Thats to get any havy, or loose, plaque & food particles off the teeth. Then I brush. My reason for doing this is so I don’t brush any already loosened gunk back into the crevices between the teeth.

  10. Robert J Jones DMD says:

    Here is the reason to FLOSS FIRST. When you floss you remove and dislodge plaque and food between your teeth. The plaque and food particles that were between your teeth are pulled out and now rest on the front or back surfaces of your teeth. You now go in and use toothbrush to brush those particles off. However if you brush first and then floss, the flossing will pull all the particles that were in between your teeth out and on to the toothbrush cleaned surfaces. Now the surfaces between your teeth may be clean but the outside surfaces certainly are not!

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