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Brushing Or Flossing: What Comes First?

Usually, dentists emphasize the importance of practicing good dental hygiene to avoid oral issues like bad breath, gum disease, cavities, and tooth decay.  

However, sequencing seldom gets mentioned. Which comes first – brushing or flossing? People don’t usually ask this question because they are confident about their oral care routine. While sacrificing your time to keep your mouth healthy is commendable, it doesn’t hurt to get into the nitty-gritty of oral care. 



You need food to survive. Since you’re eating daily, it makes sense to brush your teeth every day to remove plaque and food particles that can cling to your teeth. According to the American Dental Association, you should brush your teeth two times a day for two minutes using a fluoride-based toothpaste with the ADA seal of acceptance and a toothbrush with soft bristles.   

After your meal, wait at least 30 minutes before you start brushing. Brushing is essential to prevent plaque from building up and coating your teeth. As you know, plaque is the main culprit for tooth decay and gum disease.  

When plaque isn’t removed within 48 hours, it will turn and harden into tartar. Not only does this cause yellow spots on your teeth, but tartar is powerful enough to put your teeth and gums in serious trouble. Unfortunately, brushing and flossing cannot remove tartar. The only person who can scrape tartar off is you, the dentist.  

Flossing is just as important as brushing. Although the technique used in flossing is more complex compared to brushing, you must not give up. With practice, you will soon get used to it. The ADA strongly encourages you to floss every day to boost your oral. Flossing is different from brushing because it reaches the narrow crevices between your teeth that the bristles of your toothbrush can’t reach. When these areas are missed, plaque can build up and cause tooth decay.   


Does it matter which comes first? It actually does. It may sound surprising, but several studies have proved that flossing should be done before brushing. Furthermore, when you floss first, fluoride is retained between your teeth.  

Flossing is the act of removing plaque, food residues, and bacteria between the teeth. If you do it after brushing, you’ll remove the fluoride in these narrow spaces, leaving them vulnerable to cavities.  


It might feel challenging, but with dedication and practice, you will eventually get used to flossing. For most people, brushing is a piece of cake. They can easily do it in the morning and before going to bed. Unfortunately, people struggle when adding flossing to the routine because the technique is more complicated and tedious than brushing since you will be working on each tooth.  

Sadly, many Americans do not realize the value of flossing. A survey from the American Dental Association found that only 16% of respondents floss once a day, and they are only compelled to do it because something got stuck in their teeth.   

Meanwhile, 8% said they never flossed at all. More than half of those who don’t floss daily said they don’t want to do it because flossing takes so much time.  

While it’s true that adding flossing to your daily routine will only make it longer, nothing can take its place. Flossing is essential because it provides extra protection against tooth decay and cavities. It also minimizes your risk of developing gum disease.  

How do you develop a habit of flossing? To get in the habit, dentists recommend you choose a specific time to do it. It doesn’t matter if it’s in the morning, after your lunch, or before bedtime.  

However, we recommend that you do it before bedtime to remove all food debris collected within the day. But if you’re just starting, choosing a time based on your preference is okay. It’s better than nothing.  


Get a floss and strategically place it beside your toothbrush so you won’t forget it. Remember, out of sight, out of mind. Keep it visible so you won’t skip this step. Challenge yourself to complete a one-week streak. Don’t worry if you miss a day or two as long as you do it again tomorrow. Consistency is key to success.  


by Tryon Family Dentistry

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