Regular brushing and flossing are fundamental to have a good oral health. These two procedures form an essential part of our daily routine. However, people often question if they should floss before or after brushing.
Frankly speaking, the correct order of flossing and brushing hardly matters. What is important is the regular practice. Also, it is important that you know the proper technique of brushing and flossing.
Let’s know the correct method and frequency for carrying them out and understand what majority of people are following when it comes to floss or brush first.
Brushing- Breaking it down
As easy as it sounds, brushing is not a complicated procedure at all. But there are a few guidelines that you must follow to have long sustainable results.
Simply put, the American Dental Association, (ADA) states that you must brush twice daily, with a soft-bristled toothbrush, for two minutes.
A soft bristled toothbrush is ideal. This means that the bristles aren’t too abrasive for your teeth and don’t cause damage to the enamel. Most dentists recommend rounded bristles, with small heads so that you can reach all the areas in your mouth with the brush.
Use a toothbrush that you are most comfortable with regarding flexibility and type of neck. If the bristles begin to wear out, replace your toothbrush. Three months is an appropriate duration to replace your old brush with a new one.
For those with limited dexterity, a powered toothbrush is a good option too. (1)
Any fluoridated toothpaste with a flavor of your choice and a brand of your choice is appropriate for brushing.
Unlike popular belief, it is not needed to cover the entire length of the bristles with toothpaste. A pea-sized quantity is sufficient to brush the whole mouth.
The technique of brushing is critical to obtain the best results. Place your brush with the bristles at an angle of 45° to your gums. Take short back and forth strokes to brush the surface of the tooth. Remember it is not advisable to exert excessive pressure such that you squish the bristles.
Make sure to cover all the surfaces of all the teeth. It is difficult to clean the inner surfaces of the teeth, but you must remember not to skip it. Also brush well over the occlusal surface (chewing surface) of all your back teeth.
If you have any crowns, implants or bridges, clean them thoroughly and don’t allow any food to remain stuck in there.
You must also brush over the surface of your tongue to keep it clean and avoid the foul smell. (2)
Correct and regular brushing ensures that most parts of your mouth are clean and free of bacteria. But it is nearly impossible to clean the areas between the teeth using a toothbrush.
This is why flossing is as important as brushing. It is recommended to floss once daily. Flossing is a technique where a very fine thread is used to remove plaque and debris from the interdental parts of the mouth.
Types of Floss
Dental floss may be monofilament or multifilament. Multifilament floss comprises many fine threads entwined together. Hence there is a chance that these filaments may separate during flossing.
Monofilament floss does not pose this risk and may be more preferred. However, if the right technique is used both the types are efficient.
Floss is available in different flavors and maybe waxed or unwaxed.
Take about 18 to 20 inches of the floss and wind it in between the middle fingers of both your hands. Keep the significant part of it wound around your fingers, with about two to three inches of the floss taut in between them.
Hold the floss at the sides of each tooth and move it back and forth, and up and down in a push-pull manner. Repeat this with the interdental areas of all teeth. You might face some resistance if the contacts in between your teeth are tight.
Plaque disclosing agents are available to check for the remaining plaque on the teeth. When you use the agents, the areas on the teeth that contain plaque will show colored staining. Your dentist will prescribe this for you if needed.
Brushing & Flossing for Children
Children need more care and supervision while brushing and flossing, to ensure that their teeth remain bacteria free. A toothbrush with a smaller head and toothpaste equivalent to a rice grain- this is suitable for children.
Parents should start using a pediatric fluoridated toothpaste for the child as soon as the first tooth erupts. (3) When two teeth erupt next to each other, use a string of floss for your little one.
Make sure you replace the brush once the bristles show any signs of wear, as these can hurt your child’s gums.
Should you floss before or after brushing?
This question remains mostly ambiguous as different dentists recommend a different order. However, it remains universal that it does not profoundly matter which one you do first- as long as you are practicing both regularly.
Those in favor of brushing first believe that this leaves behind some toothpaste while you are flossing, and therefore it can reach the interdental parts too.
Dental professionals who recommend flossing first are of the idea that the debris removed during flossing can be cleaned off the tooth while brushing.
They also advocate the approach that flossing first will expose and open the contact areas to receive the toothpaste. (4)
We can safely say that the order does not matter as much as carrying out both do. Always make it a habit of brushing twice daily- in the morning, and before bedtime. Floss once daily.
To Wrap Up
Remember that brushing and flossing should be permanent activities as part of your daily routine. They are essential for cleaning debris, removing food particles and having a fresh smelling mouth.
It really does not matter whether you floss or brush first. Being regular with these activities is one of the best ways to maintain good oral health. Also, regardless of how much dental treatment you get, cleaning your teeth can never be substituted.