The Great Debate: To Floss or Brush First? What is the right way to do your daily dental drill?
May 22, 2020
We all get stuck in certain healthcare regimens that may not be wholly effective, especially if we’ve learned them since childhood.
Now, while most of us have a little extra time on our hands, is the perfect time to reexamine our preconceived notions of a proper oral care routine. In particular, if you have young kids, it’s a great time to reinforce good habits so you set them up for a lifetime of healthy smiles.
In light of that, we wanted to explore if there was a right way to order your daily dental care regimen. Floss first? Brush first? Rinse first?
Is there really a right way at all?
In short: yes.
Although there seems to be some vehement debate about it on the internet, most dentists and doctors agree on the most effective regimen. It goes a little something like this:
Flossing should be done once a day before you brush your teeth. Most dentists recommend doing it at night to remove the particles of food that have accumulated between your teeth throughout the course of the day. If you floss in the morning, the food particles and bacteria remain between teeth for a longer period of time, leading to bacterial growth and greater plaque build-up.
Now, let’s talk about procedure. To floss properly, make sure that you aren’t simply sticking the floss in and out of the tooth. Make a U-shape between each interdental gap so you fully cover both teeth in the gap. Try to limit direct contact of the floss with your gums as you may risk damage. Also, make sure to use a clean section of floss for each gap so you don’t redistribute bacteria and plaque to other teeth.
A small word of caution before we move on: although sometimes we’re tempted to use toothpicks in lieu of floss, the general advice is that you are in more danger of damaging your gums with a toothpick as opposed to floss. Also, you can only cover two teeth gaps per toothpick without risking transferring bacteria to other teeth. Stick to floss. Better yet, if you’ve got sensitive gums, we recommend the RADIUS silk floss for a damage-free, smooth feel.
Your dentist has told you the drill (pun only slightly intended). 2 times a day for 2 minutes each time. 30 seconds per quadrant. Once in the morning and once at night before you go to bed.
However, here’s what you might not know. Although the American Dental Association maintains that you can floss either before or after brushing, a 2018 Journal of Periodontology study contests that they are not equally effective routines. In the oral care sequence, you should brush at night after flossing. Why? Flossing dislodges particulates in between teeth that toothbrush bristles cannot reach. If you floss prior to brushing, the toothbrush will be able to clean away the dislodged particles. The same is not true if you floss after brushing. In the aforementioned 2018 study, interdental plaque was significantly reduced in the participants that flossed prior to brushing rather than the reverse. Additionally, bacteria-fighting fluoride concentrations in interdental gaps were significantly higher in the group that flossed first.
Now you know when and how long you should brush, let’s move onto the proper way to do it. Start with the bristles angled toward your gum and move your bristles in a circular motion. Make sure you’re covering your whole tooth, front side, back side, chewing surface, and even right where the gum and tooth meet. Ensure that you use light pressure and a soft-bristled toothbrush.
Also, don’t forget to brush your tongue! Why do we need to clean our tongue? Plaque-causing bacteria builds up on the tongue leading to a greater potential for cavities and gingivitis. Also: bad breath. Enough said.
One more thing: It may seem counterintuitive, but when you spit out the toothpaste after brushing your teeth and tongue do not rinse with water immediately afterwards! Although most of us have been taught this practice, the water can actually rinse away the cavity-killing agents in your toothpaste, ultimately lessening their efficacy.
Onto the third and final step: the mouthwash. Mouthwash is helpful in getting those hard-to-reach places that your toothbrush and floss just can’t seem to reach. Be sure to rinse once a day for 30-40 seconds each time.
But what time of day is best? In the morning? At night? While it is common for folks to rinse immediately after flossing and brushing, it’s actually recommended that you do not rinse right after your other daily dental care practices. Why? For the same reason that you don’t rinse with water immediately after brushing your teeth. You risk potentially ‘washing away’ those plaque-fighting agents in the toothpaste. Alternatively, dentists recommend rinsing at a different time of day, such as after a meal. In fact, if you crave fresh breath right after lunch, using mouthwash may be a better option than even brushing your teeth. If you brush your teeth right after eating, you run the risk of damaging your enamel. When we eat, acid levels rise in our saliva as a result of the acids released to process our food. This higher level of acid in our mouths makes our enamel temporarily weaker and more susceptible to damage. Any abrasiveness, even from a soft-bristle toothbrush, is not recommended during or immediately after this time until our bodies return to their normal pH level. Best to stick with a simple rinse to freshen your breath.
So, that’s it! The basic 1-2-3s of your oral care routine. Floss, brush, rinse, repeat every single day and you and your loved ones will be on your way to a lifetime of healthy, happy smiles!
And remember! RADIUS is here to help you enjoy the routine with our oral care products for you and your family. Make sure your daily dental drill is done right with products with the safest ingredients that are consciously designed with you in mind.