Should You Floss Before or After Brushing?

Should You Floss Before or After Brushing?

Ali Fadakar -

You know the score. After years of being told by your dentist that you should be flossing, you know that floss is boss. Everyone should floss at least once a day to keep your smile looking its best. But many people aren’t taught when they should be flossing. 

Yeah, after every meal, sure, but are you supposed to brush your teeth and then floss to get the extra junk out, or should you floss first and then brush?

You might think when you floss depends on personal preference, but there is actually a right and wrong time and way to floss. That’s right. At Supersmile, we’re here to give you the dentist-recommended explanation of when to floss in conjunction with brushing your teeth, so your beautiful smile gets the TLC that it deserves.

When To Floss

The simple answer is: before you brush your teeth, you should floss. 

Most dentists recommend brushing twice a day, which would mean that you floss twice a day, but that is a minimum recommendation. However often you brush, you should always make sure to floss first.

As you probably know, the purpose of flossing is to reach into deep crevices between your teeth and gums to get those sticky food particles and the plaque that builds up when your mouth's natural bacteria combines with the sugars and starches in your food. 

Even the best toothbrush can’t replace flossing. It may seem like you should floss after you’ve brushed away the top layer of buildup, but it’s actually recommended to floss before you brush your teeth. 

The problem with not flossing is that most of the nasty stuff you are unearthing from in between your teeth doesn't just disappear. These particles float around in your mouth until they land on the surface of your teeth, and then they stay there until you use mouthwash or brush your teeth. 

Hence, you should floss and then brush to get all of the stuff that floss helped to dislodge from between teeth and below the gum line.

A small study in 2018 found that toothpaste actually works better at cleaning your teeth if you have already flossed and brought the excess plaque out into your mouth beforehand. The reason is that most toothpaste contains fluoride, which helps your teeth stay tough and strong, and by removing the plaque first, your teeth stand a better chance at absorbing the fluoride from the toothpaste because they aren't covered in your breakfast.

It can be concerning to start flossing and then notice that your gums are bleeding slightly and swelling. We know that swollen gums feel super weird under your tongue and no one enjoys having things taste like blood. This is all the more reason to floss regularly. Once irritants like food, plaque, and bacteria have been removed by your regular flossing and brushing regimen, you can say goodbye to any trace of blood while brushing your teeth. Healthy gums don’t bleed!

How To Floss Properly

This might seem like a no-brainer, but there is a right way and a wrong way to floss. 

The best way to floss is to measure out between 6 to 10 inches or so of floss and wrap the ends around your fingers so you can get a tight and precise grip. Then slowly (and gently) move your fingers back and forth until the floss slides between two of your teeth. Once it is in, don't just go straight back and forth. Instead, curve your hands first to one side, then the other in a C shape. 

That way, you can make sure that you reach all of the trapped plaque and food particles.

If you don't have the manual dexterity for proper flossing, that doesn't mean you should skip it entirely. There are plastic flossers that look like a modified small fork with the floss stretched between the prongs. It's easy to wiggle the floss down between your teeth with a flosser, and you can maneuver your floss all the way back to those tricky-to-reach molars. 

If you are one of those people who frequently use toothpicks and figures that there is no reason to floss when you have a handy toothpick, think again. Toothpicks generally won’t bet between teeth the way floss will and simply isn’t up to the task. Toothpicks are sharp, and jamming them into your grin willy-nilly can hurt your sensitive gums. Since bacteria always live in your mouth no matter how many times a day you floss and brush, any wounds in your gums from the toothpick are likely to get infected.

For people with dental appliances like a bridge or retainer that has been cemented in, you will need to get creative with your flossing. However, it is more important than ever to remember to floss with dental appliances because they generate more places for plaque and food particles to hide. It's easy to find a floss threader that you can use to thread the floss through or under the appliance. Alternatively, you could try a floss that has a stiffened end made specifically to thread around appliances and then catch on the other side.

Why You Need to Floss

For people who weren't convinced by the dentist beseeching you once again to please, please start flossing on a regular basis, we're going to give you a list of all of the benefits of flossing. 

It only takes a minute, and it is totally worth it. 

Flossing Keeps Your Gums Healthy

We’ll put it plain and simple. You can be an expert brusher and brush after every meal, but if you never floss, your mouth won't be getting the attention and protection that it so absolutely deserves. Come on, your smile deserves better (like, a lot better).

It is easy to forget about your gums. After all, when you smile, and people compliment you on it, they probably aren't looking at your gums. 

Most people think about oral health as keeping your teeth bright and clean, but your gums play an important role in the overall health of your mouth and your teeth. Your teeth are embedded in the gums after all, so if your gums become infected, your teeth might too.

Plus, the infection can reach down through your gums to get at the roots of your teeth! This buildup of plaque and bacteria, left untreated, can cause tooth decay. In extreme cases, it can even lead to tooth loss. This bacteria can also enter the bloodstream through your gums, which has been linked to a host of health issues including dementia, heart ailments, and erectile dysfunction. 

That being said, you should always remember that taking care of your smile doesn't stop with your teeth. Your gums and your tongue are essential parts of giving you that white smile you love. Flossing lets you get everything out from between your teeth, like popcorn kernels or plaque. When you leave it sitting around the gum line, the acidic plaque not only causes gingivitis but also starts eating away at the enamel of your teeth.

Whitens Your Smile

Part of why people notice that their teeth dull and turn unattractive shades of yellow as they get older is due to the build-up of plaque. 

Flossing does not only target in-between your teeth. If you do it properly, it scrapes off the gunk that builds up all around your gum line which becomes plaque and will eventually harden into yellowy tartar. 

Of course, you will still need to go to the dentist's office to have them give you a deep cleaning and scrape off that tartar every once in a while, but if you want a 100-watt smile, that means flossing every day!

Flossing Keeps You Young

Wait, what? How can flossing keep you young? 

Well, as mentioned above, the best way to avoid gum disease is to incorporate flossing into your daily brushing routine. 

Gum disease usually shows itself by causing your gums to swell and bleed or for your teeth to ache, but gum disease is actually much more far-reaching. It even targets your bones!

If left unchecked, gum disease can eventually go after your jawbone. You start with a certain thickness of your jawbone, which decreases as you age, but gum disease can speed that up. If you are a dedicated flosser and “just say no” to gingivitis, you can preserve your jawbone for longer, which means you can look younger. And let’s face it, we all want to stay youthful and beautiful!

In Summary

Knowing when to floss can make a huge difference in your oral hygiene routine. Flossing first before you brush means that your toothbrush can easily sweep away all of the nasty plaque and food particles that you just extracted with the floss. 

This will leave you with fresh-smelling breath and a strong, super smile!