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Updated on January 25, 2023
4 min read

Should I Brush or Floss First? According to Science

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Should You Floss Before or After Brushing?

It’s best to floss your teeth before you brush them. Research shows flossing before brushing has more benefits, including:

  • Better plaque control1
  • Increased fluoride retention2
  • Reduced gum disease

Flossing releases interdental plaque, food particles, and bacteria that have built up between your teeth. When you floss after you brush, those particles linger in your mouth. They can lead to increased plaque, cavities, and gum disease.

When you floss before you brush, it’s easier to remove the particles you release during flossing. It also allows the fluoride from your toothpaste to work more effectively. 

Ultimately, flossing before you brush keeps your teeth and gums healthy, helping to prevent cavities and gum disease.

What is the Proper Oral Hygiene Routine?

Dr. Khushbu Aggarwal, one of NewMouth’s in-house dentists, recommends the following routine to maintain excellent oral hygiene:

1. Remove Any Removable Appliances

Before cleaning your teeth, always take out any removable appliances you wear. Examples of removable appliances include:

  • Removable retainers
  • Clear aligners, like Invisalign
  • Mouthguards
  • Dentures

You can’t clean your teeth as thoroughly while wearing these appliances. You can also damage them if you brush or floss your teeth with them inserted. 

Keep your appliances clean but wash them separately. Depending on the type of appliances you have, your dentist will give you more detailed instructions on how to keep them clean. 

2. Floss Your Teeth

Once you’ve removed any appliances, it’s time to floss your teeth.

Flossing is an integral part of your oral care routine. Studies show it enhances all the benefits of toothbrushing, including interdental plaque reduction and improving the health of your teeth and gums.3

However, it’s unnecessary to floss your teeth every time you brush them. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), you should floss your teeth once a day.4

3. Brush With Fluoridated Toothpaste 

Always brush your teeth after you’ve flossed. Brushing your teeth will remove any particles or bacteria you’ve freed up by flossing.

The ADA recommends brushing twice a day with a fluoridated toothpaste. Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that keeps your dental enamel strong and prevents cavities.

Research shows that fluoride toothpaste prevents decay much more effectively than non-fluoridated toothpaste.5 You only need to use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste when brushing. For children, a rice-sized amount may be sufficient. 

4. Rinse With Fluoridated Mouthwash

Complete your routine by rinsing with fluoridated mouthwash. While you should never substitute mouthwash for flossing or brushing, it can boost the effectiveness of your overall routine.

Mouthwash can kill bacteria in areas difficult to reach with dental floss or a toothbrush.  It can also help improve bad breath.

5. Wait 30 Minutes

Wait at least 30 minutes after you complete your routine before you eat, drink, or rinse your mouth with any other substance, including water. 

The fluoride from your dental products should remain undisturbed in your mouth for as long as possible. Eating or drinking can wash away the fluoride and reduce its effectiveness.

Other Oral Health Tips

To maximize your oral hygiene routine, follow these tips:

  • Use hygiene aids — Try super floss for braces, floss picks or threaders under bridges, and modified toothbrush handles for arthritis.
  • Don’t overdo it — Be gentle while brushing or flossing.
  • Brush your tongueCleaning your tongue eliminates bacteria and prevents bad breath.
  • Drink fluoridated water — Fluoridated water strengthens enamel and lowers your risk of tooth decay.
  • Limit sugary food and drinks — Sugar can contribute to tooth decay and plaque development.
  • Quit or avoid smoking — Smoking increases your chances of developing gum disease, cavities, and oral cancer.7
  • Use ADA-approved products — Always look for the ADA seal of acceptance when purchasing toothpaste.
  • See your dentist regularly — Visit a dentist every 6 months for routine exams and professional cleanings.

Why are Professional Teeth Cleanings Important?

Seeing your dentist for routine professional teeth cleanings is essential to maintaining oral health. While your at-home dental hygiene routine is crucial, it can’t replace professional care.

According to Dr. Aggarwal, a dental professional can examine your mouth for issues you might not recognize, such as tooth decay and gum disease. They can advise you on the next steps if you're developing a dental problem.

Your dentist and dental hygienist will use advanced equipment and techniques to remove plaque and tartar. They’ll also evaluate how well you’re cleaning your teeth at home and give you recommendations on how to improve.

Visit your dentist every 6 months or as recommended for regular exams and cleanings.

Summary

Flossing your teeth before brushing has many benefits, including plaque control, increased fluoride effectiveness, and gum disease prevention. Brushing after flossing can help remove the food particles and bacteria that flossing inevitably releases.   

A good oral hygiene routine includes removing dental appliances, flossing your teeth, brushing your teeth, and rinsing with a fluoridated mouthwash. Avoid eating, drinking, or rinsing your mouth with other fluids for 30 minutes to maximize your routine’s effectiveness.

Dentists recommend flossing once a day for excellent oral hygiene. Visit your dentist for a professional cleaning and exam every 6 months.

Last updated on January 25, 2023
7 Sources Cited
Last updated on January 25, 2023
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Torkzaban, P., et al. “The Efficacy of Brushing and Flossing Sequence on Control of Plaque and Gingival Inflammation.” Oral Health and Preventative Dentistry, National Library of Medicine, 2015
  2. Mazhari, F., et al. “The effect of toothbrushing and flossing sequence on interdental plaque reduction and fluoride retention: A randomized controlled clinical trial.” Journal of Periodontology, Wiley Online Library, 2018
  3. Shamsoddin, E. “Dental floss as an adjuvant of the toothbrush helps gingival health.” Evidence Based Dentistry, National Library of Medicine, 2022
  4. Floss/Interdental Cleaners.” Evidence Synthesis & Translation Research, ADA Science & Research Institute, LLC, 2021
  5. Davies, R., et al. “The rational use of fluoride toothpaste.” International Journal of Dental Hygiene, National Library of Medicine, 2003 
  6. Ciancio, S. “Mouthwashes: Rationale for use.” American Journal of Dentistry, National Library of Medicine, 2015.
  7. Tobacco use.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2020.
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