Should You Floss First or Brush First?

A common question that patients ask their dentists is, "Which should I do first, brush or floss?"

The sequence makes no difference as long as you do a thorough job. Brushing and flossing is the best way to remove decay-causing plaque from your teeth and help maintain optimal oral health.

Choose a toothbrush that feels comfortable in your hand and in your mouth, and use it twice a day. Place your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle against the gums. Move the brush back and forth gently in short (tooth-wide) strokes brushing the outer tooth surfaces, the inner tooth surfaces, and the chewing surfaces of the teeth as well as the inside surfaces of the front teeth.

While tooth brushing removes plaque from tooth surfaces, it can't do the entire job of removing plaque. Cleaning between the teeth daily with floss removes debris from between the teeth where your toothbrush cannot reach. People who have difficulty handling dental floss may prefer to use another kind of interdental cleaner. These aids include special brushes, picks or sticks. If you use interdental cleaners, ask your dentist about how to use them properly to avoid injuring your gums.

How do you know if you're doing a thorough job? Your dentist may recommend using plaque disclosing tablets available over-the-counter at pharmacies and other stores that sell oral hygiene products. Plaque disclosing tablets are chewed after you clean your mouth. Red dye will stain plaque that has not been removed, showing you spots that need additional cleaning.

For more information about the proper way to clean your teeth and gums, visit the American Dental Association Web site at www.ada.org.

© 2017 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

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How to FLOSS

  1. Pull 18 to 24 inches of dental floss from the floss dispenser.

  2. Wrap the ends of the floss around your index and middle fingers.

  3. Hold the floss tightly around each tooth in a C shape; move the floss back and forth in a push-pull motion and up and down against the side of each tooth.

How to BRUSH

  1. Place the toothbrush at a 45°angle along the gum line. Move the toothbrush in a back and forth motion, and repeat for each tooth.

  2. Brush the inside surface of each tooth, using the same back and forth technique.

  3. Brush the chewing surface (top) of each tooth.

  4. Use tip of brush to brush behind each tooth — front and back, top and bottom and up and down strokes.

  5. Be sure to brush your tongue to remove odor-causing bacteria.

Don’t brush off your oral health

Brushing and flossing are the keys to a healthy smile. Check out of products to find what’s right for you.