Dental Care Basics

Should I Brush or Floss First?

Should I brush first, then floss? Or floss first, then brush?

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Should I brush of floss first?

Is it better to brush or floss first?

A: 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.

Mark Burhenne DDS

Read Next: How to Floss the Right Way

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  1. “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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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

  4. You ought to be a part of a contest for one of the greatest
    blogs online. I most certainly will highly recommend this web

    • 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.

  5. 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.

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