Studies have shown that flossing before brushing, and not after, has the potential to reduce plaque and retain higher levels of fluoride in the teeth.

Through history, we’ve been taught to brush then floss. But could we have been doing it wrong all along? Research shows we just might be. Let’s discuss why and how.

Floss or Brush First

Why Do We Brush?

The American Dental Association has made a recommendation of brushing the teeth at least twice daily with a toothpaste that contains fluoride for at least two minutes – but, why?

Brushing helps to remove food substances and a sticky white-colored film that contains bacteria, medically termed “plaque”.

If you fail to remove these substances from the teeth, the bacteria in them will create acids that will start to attack the enamel on the tooth, a protective substance that keeps the teeth strong.

If it is not removed, decay will start to occur and – over time – it will destroy the teeth.

Teach your kids how to brush their teeth in a fun way

Why Do We Floss?

While brushing is a highly productive means of boosting oral health, it is not possible to reach all areas of the mouth with a toothbrush alone. This is where dental floss comes in.

When you use floss, you are eliminating substances in between the teeth and in the recesses around the teeth.

Flossing removes food particles, plaque, and other potentially harmful substances, which prevents the development of tartar, tooth decay, and infections from occurring.

While brushing is a productive measure, combining it with flossing helps keep all of the teeth and the gums healthy.

Get your kids excited about flossing!

The Controlled Clinical Study

A recent study was performed to determine the sequence of brushing and flossing and its impact on reducing interdental plaque and increasing the amount of fluoride retained within the mouth.

It was performed on a total of 25 dental students.

They started by not performing any type of oral hygiene for two days. Then, over a period of two weeks with two groups, one was instructed to brush and then floss. Then, they were evaluated.

The next group was instructed to floss and then brush. They were then evaluated once more to determine how much plaque was reduced.

At the end of the study, it was determined that the group that flossed first had less plaque and higher retained levels of fluoride than the group that brushed first.

This means that – in order to reap more benefits – individuals should elect to floss and THEN brush their teeth. This seems to be the most productive oral health technique.

The winner is! Dental Floss

dental floss

The Explanation

Based on the study and the results, the researchers found that flossing before brushing helps to loosen and dislodge bacteria and other types of debris from in-between the teeth.

When followed immediately by brushing, the debris and bacteria are washed away from the mouth and the particles are completely eliminated.

If a person brushed their teeth first and then flossed, those particles would likely remain in the mouth, posing potential dangers to the teeth, gums, and other interior surfaces.

In addition to this, when people floss first, the mouth retains a higher amount of fluoride in the mouth.

Fluoride is a special type of mineral that helps to prevent the onset of tooth decay and the development of cavities. By keeping this substance in the mouth longer, it is constantly working to protect the teeth and reduce the risk of periodontal disease from occurring.

In short, if you are flossing and brushing, it seems that you are engaging in oral health care tasks in the order that is most beneficial.

Brushing and Flossing

Most individuals have been taught to brush and then floss. For those that perform in this manner, you likely argue that brushing helps to eliminate most of the plaque and other substances on the teeth. Then, when you floss, you are reaching the hard to access areas and eliminating substances from this area.

The problem is, when you floss last, debris may accumulate and remain in the mouth.

If you insist on using this technique, it is acceptable. Just be sure to use a fluoride-based mouth rinse afterward and double-check that the mouth is completely free of debris.

Bringing it All Together

By now, you may be questioning your entire technique. If this is the case, there is a solution.

  • You may floss first, then brush with a fluoride toothpaste.
  • Once you finish brushing for a two-minute interval, you should then rinse your mouth with water and floss once more.
  • After flossing thoroughly a second time, use a mouth wash that contains fluoride and swish for at least 60 seconds.
  • When you spit, make certain that you carefully examine the mouth to ensure that all debris is completely eliminated.


Kids have far less patience than adults. You should have them floss, brush, and rinse, too; however, you may need to get a little creative with the process.

Allow them to use flavored toothpaste and dental floss.

Let them choose their favorite flavor and brand toothpaste.

Purchase chews or rinses that will change the color of the mouth to indicate areas that need to be cleaned thoroughly.

If they can see it and taste it for themselves, they are much more likely to remain patient enough to complete the tasks that are necessary.

Little Girl Brushing her teeth

In addition to these steps, children should be taken to a pediatric dentist at least once every six months. Not only will this professional help ensure that their teeth are completely clean, but they will also carefully examine the mouth to make certain that there are no other types of oral health issues occurring.

We can help with this. To learn more or to set up an appointment, contact us today by calling: 765-966-7602