When it comes to brushing and flossing your teeth, chances are you don’t think twice about the order in which you do it. If you make time for both, that’s all that should matter right? Not quite.
As it turns out, the order does make a difference. Here’s what dentists recommend.
Benefits of Brushing and Flossing
Both brushing and flossing are essential to maintaining dental hygiene, but for separate reasons. Dr. Khaled Kasem, Chief Orthodontist at Impress, explains the benefits of each.
Benefits of brushing your teeth:
- Brushing helps to remove plaque from the surface of the teeth and gums, which if left for too long will cause periodontitis (a progressive condition that causes tooth loss and gum recession).
- Brushing tackles surface stains and using whitening toothpaste will help to limit how much your teeth stain from drinks like tea, coffee and alcohol.
Benefits of flossing your teeth:
- Flossing is effective in cleaning areas where your toothbrush cannot reach—for example, small gaps and tight spaces between the teeth, where food debris remains. Removing excess food helps to prevent halitosis (bad breath).
- Flossing helps to limit the depth of gum pockets. If you fail to floss, bacteria builds on the gumline which causes gum disease.
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Should You Brush or Floss First?
It’s best to floss before brushing your teeth rather than after.
“Not only does it help dislodge food wedged between your teeth, but it also helps to reduce bad breath and gum disease by removing any plaque that forms along the gum line. You should be flossing with eight to 10 strokes between each tooth,” says Dr. Kasem.
Dr. Lauren Becker, a general and cosmetic dentist, also recommends flossing first. “Flossing reaches places in between the teeth and helps loosen the plaque, then brushing swishes it away from the gums and teeth and out of the mouth.”
Dr. Lilya Horowitz, general dentist, on the other hand, explains “as long as you’re making sure you brush and floss your teeth, there is no evidence as to which is better first. Either way, you’re practicing good dental hygiene to get rid of plaque and prevent gum disease.” In other words, in her opinion, the most important thing is that you do both.
Tips to Keep Your Teeth Clean and Healthy
The best tip for proper flossing and brushing is consistency, Dr. Becker explains. Floss at least once daily and brush twice. An added fluoride rinse keeps enamel strong and healthy and helps prevent cavities.
Brush and floss twice a day
“I always recommend using a soft toothbrush when brushing. For flossing, I recommend clients use Cocofloss,” Dr. Horowitz states. “Cocofloss expands to remove plaque more efficiently and is gentle on your gums as well.”
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Use the correct toothbrush
One of the most common brushing mistakes is not using the right toothbrush, so it’s best to choose softer.
This is because too much pressure or overzealous brushing can easily damage your gums, Dr. Kasem explains. Electric toothbrushes with angled bristles are best, they tend to come with softer heads as the vibrations and rotations add extra pressure to your teeth, which removes the need for firm bristles.
Don’t brush too hard
You might think applying extra pressure will clean your teeth better, but brushing too hard can wear out your enamel and gums, leading to tooth sensitivity and even tooth loss. Plaque is soft and loose, so try to ‘massage’ it rather than ‘scrub,’ says Dr. Kasem.
Brush all areas of the tooth, not just areas you can see
More often than not, we focus our efforts on the parts of the mouth we can see in the hope of achieving a fresh, white smile. But the most important areas to brush are the back of the teeth, along your gum line and between the teeth, Dr. Kasem states. Try to brush your teeth at a 45-degree angle and focus on the molars for at least 30 seconds.
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