Are You Supposed to Brush or Floss First?

Jan 23, 2023 | Oral Hygiene

Are You Supposed to Brush or Floss First?

By now, you know a good oral hygiene routine that includes brushing and flossing is essential to good oral health. But have you ever wondered whether you should be brushing or flossing first? Does it really make a difference? While people have argued the pros and cons of both options for generations, new research suggests that flossing first is the official winner.

Let’s take a look at why the order can really make a difference.

Key Takeaways

  • The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends brushing teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste as well as flossing at least once a day in order to remove food particles and plaque that can contribute to tooth decay.
  • Flossing is not limited to simple floss. Other options can include interdental brushes, floss picks, and water flossers.
  • A study from 2018 shows that flossing first can help reduce the total plaque on the teeth and increase fluoride concentration between the teeth during brushing.

Should you brush or floss first?

If you ask the average person whether they brush or floss first, you will likely get various answers and many different reasons why they believe their option is the best. Flossing after brushing is often the most common order people follow. In general, they start their day by brushing their teeth and end their evening brushing before moving to flossing. Unfortunately, many people simply pass over flossing after brushing, often reporting that it is too time-consuming and they don’t want to put in the effort. In fact, statistics show only 30 percent of Americans floss their teeth every day, with 37 percent reporting occasional flossing and 32 percent saying they never floss.

Brushing first

Those that think brushing first is the answer believe that by brushing first, they will push more fluoride from the toothpaste into the spaces between the teeth when they follow up with flossing. However, new studies show that this just isn’t really the case. In fact, brushing your teeth first can increase your risk of gum disease. Brushing your teeth first increases the risk of pushing dental plaque and food debris into your gums, increasing the risk of periodontal disease or gum disease.

However, if someone is already following a brushing first and flossing after routine, that is better than no flossing at all and does provide some benefit.

Flossing first

Over the years, people who choose to floss first have pointed out they do so because it is the more time-consuming component of their oral hygiene routine and leaving it until after brushing often means they end up skipping it altogether. In addition, those choosing to floss first believe that flossing helps break up the plaque between the teeth first, allowing brushing to remove it easier. And in this case, they are correct!

Flossing first allows you to remove bacteria, food debris, and plaque that is stuck between teeth that your toothbrush is simply unable to reach. The 2018 study published in the Journal of Periodontology showed that flossing first reduced the amount of interdental plaque compared to brushing first. In addition, it also showed that concentrations of fluoride were significantly higher in those flossing first. Flossing first helps promote better tooth enamel health, minimizes irritation of the gums and mouth, reduces the risk of swallowing more plaque (which can contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease, and other health concerns), keeps your breath smelling fresher for longer, and helps minimize your risk of gum disease.

Importance of brushing and flossing

Now that we have established which order is more beneficial, the fact is both brushing and flossing play a vital role in good oral health. Learning how to brush and floss best help ensure that you are taking care of your teeth and gums in the best possible way.

Here we offer some tips to help you get the most out of brushing and flossing.

Woman wearing white bathrobe brushing her teeth in front of the mirror

Tips for brushing your teeth

The American Dental Association recommends brushing your teeth at least two times a day, for at least two minutes. When it comes to tooth brushing tips, the first place to start is with your toothbrush. The toothbrush you use should have soft bristles and be the correct size for your mouth. You should be able to reach the front, back, and tops of each tooth, so you want a toothbrush small enough to allow for this. Additional toothbrushing tips include:


    • Hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to your tooth and gums
    • Brush each tooth individually, making sure to address all surfaces with small, circular, up-and-down motions.
    • Apply gentle pressure. Putting too much force behind your brushing can damage your gums.
    • Start with a different tooth every time. While you may have a particular order you follow, chances are you are not giving as much care to those final teeth as you do at the start. Changing up your brushing order helps to ensure every tooth receives quality care.
    • Focus not only on the surface of your teeth but also on your gums and tongue as these are common areas for bacteria to build up.
    • Keep your toothbrush clean and replace it every three months. A dirty toothbrush can introduce new bacteria into your mouth, making toothbrushing less effective. Always rinse your toothbrush and store it upright and in an enclosed location.
Woman flossing her teeth

Tips for flossing your teeth

While regular flossing may seem like a chore to many, it plays a vital role in good oral health and a quality dental hygiene routine. And it doesn’t have to be as difficult as you may think it is. Some flossing tips include:


    • There is a wide variety of different floss types, such as waxed or unwaxed. In order to make flossing easier for you, it is best to determine which floss works best for you. To learn more, visit Best Dental Floss: Know the Top Types and Brands.
    • Flossing is not limited to a string of floss. Other options include disposable dental picks and electric flossers and oral irrigators that use pressurized air or water to clean between the teeth.
    • Using the proper flossing techniques helps to ensure that you are thoroughly cleaning between teeth and removing plaque and tartar. The idea is to gently glide the floss in an up-and-down motion, ensuring you are rubbing against the tooth surfaces and avoiding the gumline. To learn more about flossing techniques, check How to Properly Use Dental Floss.

Creating and maintaining a quality oral hygiene routine

While research shows that flossing first provides the best oral health benefits, the fact is that brushing and flossing both play an essential role in good oral health. Even if you decided to stick to your routine of brushing and then flossing, the important thing is that you do floss and address the plaque buildup between your teeth. However, to get the best benefits, you may want to consider flossing first.

Addressing all your oral hygiene concerns

Brushing and flossing, as well as regular dental checkups, are all essential parts of a quality oral hygiene routine. At Soundview Family Dental, we know the importance of good quality dental care at home, and our team is here to help ensure that you are getting the most out of your oral hygiene routine. If you are struggling with flossing or don’t feel you are brushing effectively, our team can help.

To learn more, contact us and let us help you achieve and maintain a beautiful, healthy smile.

Eric Kitts, DDS

Eric Kitts, DDS

Owner @ Soundview Family Dental

Born in Seattle and raised in Puyallup, Dr. Eric Kitts received his undergraduate degree from Washington State University and his DDS from the University of Washington School of Dentistry. Dr. Kitts began practicing dentistry in 2000, at his office in Richmond Beach. In 2011, Dr. Kitts built a brand-new, state-of-the-art dental facility located in the heart of downtown Edmonds.

Book with us today!

Are you unhappy with the appearance of your teeth and refuse to show the world your beautiful smile? Has discomfort at the dentist kept you from receiving dental work that will give you a reason to smile again?

At Soundview Family Dental in Edmonds, WA, we understand that not everyone likes the dentist. Our team of caring professionals works with you to ensure that you feel comfortable from the moment you walk through the door. Specializing in cosmetic and restorative dentistry, Dr. Kitts and his team work hard to preserve your natural teeth and give you back a smile you can be proud of.

Contact today to schedule an appointment and let our team deliver a beautiful, natural-looking smile you can be proud to show off.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This