Dental Professionals Click Here!

Floss Teeth Before Brushing

Remove plaque for a smile that's clean and healthy

By Dr. Daniel A. DelCastillo

Daily flossing is something I always recommend to my patients, because I often see the bad things that can happen when you neglect this crucial oral hygiene habit. People who don't floss definitely have more problems than those who do — the most common being tooth decay in between the teeth (also called interproximal decay), and periodontal (gum) disease.

This is especially true of people who have dental crowns and don't take care of them. A crown (or cap) is a type of dental restoration that completely covers a damaged tooth. When plaque is not removed daily from capped teeth at the gum line (where the crown meets the tooth root), tooth decay can work its way under the crown. This is more complicated to treat than a simple cavity, and it may result in root canal problems, or even loss of the tooth.

Plaque that is not removed can harden into tartar (also called calculus), which may inflame the gums. If the plaque bacteria then attack the bone beneath the gums, they may cause a more severe form of periodontal disease that can loosen the teeth. So as important as it is to floss healthy teeth, it's even more essential for the areas around crowns, bridgework and dental implants. What's the best way to go about it?

I recommend flossing before you brush for several reasons. First of all, flossing will loosen anything that is stuck between your teeth so it can then be brushed away; it's a better way to clear out the debris. And once the spaces between your teeth are clear, the cavity-fighting fluoride in your toothpaste can work its way into those small areas. If plaque or food debris is stuck in there when you are brushing, the fluoride won't get in.

Flossing before brushing can also point out areas in your mouth that need a little more attention from your brush. For example, if you find that you are pulling out more debris with your floss in a particular area, or you see a bit of blood when you floss, these are places where you should spend more time brushing — gently, of course.

Finally, there is a concern that flossing saved for last may not happen at all. It would be different if flossing were a truly enjoyable activity. But if you are like most people and find flossing more of a chore, it may be best to get it done first — and then savor that fresh, minty feeling you get from brushing as your reward for finishing up your complete daily oral hygiene regimen. If your mouth feels fresh and clean before you've even flossed, you may just say…well, the heck with it.

The key is to get into the flossing habit — however you do it. In the long run, it could save you a whole lot of aggravation, pain, and money spent on dental work. And don't forget to visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings! That's another key component of effective routine oral hygiene. Plus, it's a great place to get all of your brushing and flossing questions answered.

Enter to Win a Smile Makeover.