Should I Brush or Floss My Teeth First?


Sort of like the order in which you stretch and workout—or pour lemonade and iced tea into your Arnold Palmer—it’s not important whether you brush or floss first. The important thing is that you’re brushing and flossing (or flossing and brushing) frequently; your toothbrush and roll of floss are crucial weapons in the fight against sticky, white, bacteria-laden plaque, which leads to cavities (though not as quickly as meth). As such, the big guns at the American Dental Association recommend brushing twice a day and flossing at least once a day.

But the ADA is fine with either sequence—brushing before flossing or flossing before brushing. And for good reason: Patricia McClory, a pediatric dentist practicing in Ventura County, California, says there are only minor differences between doing either one first. Flossing first clears a path for the fluoride in your toothpaste to better penetrate your teeth, while brushing first gets the biggest pieces of debris out of the way, so floss can get straight to work on the most stubborn food barnacles.

If you like to pre-party in the morning, consider a shot of mouthwash before your flossing festival or brushing bash. McClory says that certain mouthwashes can help reduce bacteria and freshen breath, but they don’t excuse you from the whole hygiene routine. “Rinsing before brushing can help to remove debris in the mouth,” she explains. “However, rinsing with mouthwash is no replacement for thorough brushing and flossing.”

The real winners here are those of us who can brush and floss, stretch and run and mix an Arnold Palmer simultaneously. With all that extra time freed up, you can really commit to mouthwash, and perfect your Gargle Challenge game.

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