Should I Brush Or Floss First?

What’s better, Coke or Pepsi? How do they get the caramel in a Caramilk bar? These, and other profound questions, have plagued humankind since…well, since these tasty treats were invented. Far be it from us to recommend drinking or eating any of these things (they’re really bad for your teeth), but it gives us the chance to introduce a much more relevant question.

You’re drinking pop, and eating chocolate and caramel. You need to have a great oral health care routine. You brush twice a day, and floss daily – but when you’re flossing, should you floss after or before you brush?

For years, the answer to this question eluded dental professionals. For the most part, the answer was something along the lines of “it doesn’t really matter, just make sure you do both and there’s no wrong way of doing it”. Recently, however, a relatively simple study has challenged this “no wrong way” paradigm.

In this study, 25 dental students were asked to, at one point, brush then floss, then at another point, floss then brush. The main goal of the study was to evaluate which method was superior for plaque removal. The floss-brush group saw significantly more plaque removal. What’s more, they found there was higher fluoride concentration in the mouths of the floss-brush group. Don’t necessarily believe conspiracy theories – in this case, the fluoride concentration was beneficial, not dangerous.

A simple answer to the question: floss, then brush! It should be noted, however, that the answer isn’t quite as simple as it seems. Though the difference in plaque reduction between the two groups was significant, this was a study on only 25 dental students. That doesn’t invalidate the study, but as a rule of thumb, when a study has a relatively small number of participants, it’s a good idea to get more data. 

That being said, there’s no real risk in flossing then brushing – after all, dentists have been saying it makes no real difference for ages. If the question of what to do first is what’s stopping you from engaging in a better oral health routine, you have your answer: floss, then brush.

For those of you who brush then floss, we’re not advocating you change up your whole oral health routine. You can, and it may be healthier, but the evidence certainly isn’t overwhelming. In other words, though the study may well be accurate, flossing then brushing is not a must, it’s a may

The most important thing is to make sure you’re flossing daily and brushing twice a day. Whatever is going to get you there is what we advocate for. That means whatever order you’re most comfortable with is probably the best. What matters is the healthy habit.

Of course, no matter how great your oral health routine is, you’re still going to need to get regular dental cleanings. Fortunately, there’s a professional dental clinic near you that can handle your cleaning and most other oral health needs.