What’s More Important: Toothbrushing or Flossing

Checking Teeth

You’ve probably heard that toothbrushing and flossing are important to ensure your teeth and gums are healthy. But does the order of the technique matter? Should you always use dental floss first and then brush your teeth? What happens if you don’t have time to brush and floss? Is it OK to floss, but not brush, or vice versa?

Brushing and flossing
For years, people have asked dentists these questions. But dental researchers say both are necessary practices for healthy teeth and gums.

It’s important to brush your teeth to remove plaque and food particles on tooth surfaces. Dental floss helps remove harmful bacteria caught between teeth and along the gum line, areas where tooth bristles may not reach. If food particles and bacteria are not removed, they will form plaque, which can calcify, turn into tartar and lead to gum disease, if it’s not removed in time.

Some dental experts recommend to first brush with fluoride toothpaste and then floss to get the fluoride between the teeth and under the gums. Others advise patients to floss first to remove food particles and then brush to remove plaque.

The American Dental Association provides these additional tips:

  • Floss at least once every day, at any time of day.
  • Bacteria collect on the teeth within 24 hours. Flossing helps to remove harmful bacteria.
  • Brush teeth at least two times each day, after breakfast and at bedtime, and floss at least once daily to avoid developing cavities, tartar and gum disease.
  • Most people tell their dentist that they floss daily, but only about 15 percent actually do.
  • Floss string may be more effective in covering all tooth surfaces than other flossing tools.

Learn more reasons for flossing and tips on how to do it properly.

Do you or your child have questions about what generally happens during a dental exam? Watch this video for answers.

Should you floss before or after brushing your teeth?
Ask Well: Floss or Brush First?