Brushing your teeth and flossing are both important steps to keep your teeth and gums healthy, but experts say that flossing before brushing may be the best way to boost your oral health.
Flossing before brushing works better to remove build-ups of harmful plaque and makes the fluoride in your toothpaste more effective.
Here’s what you need to know about the benefits of flossing your teeth and why flossing before brushing is the best method.
Why you should floss before brushing
Flossing is an important step to clean your teeth because it can reach tight areas between your teeth that brushing can’t. But to keep your teeth and gums healthy, flossing alone isn’t enough – you need to brush your teeth afterward as well.
Here are the main reasons why it’s better to floss before your brush your teeth:
1. Removes plaque
Both flossing and brushing can help remove plaque, a coat of bacteria that sticks to your teeth and produces acids when you eat or drink. If it isn’t removed, plaque can cause cavities and destroy your enamel, the protective outer layer of your teeth.
“I prefer to suggest flossing first because doing so loosens up plaque and deposits in between the teeth that you can then brush away,” says Jyoti Sonkar, MSD, a professor of dentistry at Boston University.
What the research says: a small 2018 study found that when participants flossed before brushing their teeth, they were able to remove significantly more plaque than when they flossed after brushing.
2. Makes toothpaste more effective
Most brands of toothpaste contain fluoride, a chemical that can help make your tooth enamel stronger. It does this by combining with the calcium in your teeth to form fluorapatite, a substance even stronger than calcium that can prevent tooth decay. This is called remineralization.
But the fluoride in your toothpaste can only strengthen areas of your teeth that it can directly touch – areas with plaque buildup may be blocked from fluoride’s helpful effects, says Mark Burhenne, DDS, a dentist in private practice.
“By using toothpaste first, these areas do not get exposed to these nutrients or substances,” Burhenne says. But when you floss before brushing, you can clear away more plaque, allowing the fluoride in toothpaste to reach the more difficult areas in between your teeth.
3. Helps prevent gingivitis
When plaque builds up on your gums, it can cause an inflammatory reaction known as gingivitis. Gingivitis can pose serious risks – if left untreated, it can make you more likely to lose your teeth.
Flossing can help remove or loosen the harmful plaque that sits next to your gums, both along your gumline and in between teeth. When plaque is loosened, it may be easier to remove by brushing.
4. Eliminates bad breath
Often times when you eat, food gets stuck between your teeth and it can be hard to remove with just brushing, as bristles don’t always reach them, says Sonkar.
This leftover food can affect the way your breath smells. “If not removed, these stuck particles degrade, leading to foul odor,” Sonkar says.
When you floss before brushing your teeth, you can loosen up any stuck particles of food, making it easier to remove them by brushing.
Brushing and flossing are both important parts of good oral hygiene, but you’ll get better results by flossing before you brush. Flossing first can help fight off plaque, keep your gums healthy, and prevent bad breath.
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