You don’t have to be told the importance of good dental hygiene. Taking care of your teeth not only fights bad breath, it can also prevent cavities, gum disease, and contribute to a healthy set of pearly whites.
But when it comes to flossing and brushing your teeth, like many, you might not give much thought to the proper order.
This article will explain why this sequence is best, and provide tips on how to get the most out of flossing and brushing.
Good dental hygiene involves more than just brushing your teeth. Yes, brushing is an excellent way to clean your teeth, remove dental plaque, and prevent cavities. But brushing alone isn’t enough to keep your teeth healthy and prevent gum disease.
Flossing contributes to good dental hygiene because it lifts and removes plaque and food in between your teeth. Brushing also removes plaque and food debris, but the bristles of a toothbrush can’t reach deep in between teeth to remove it all. Therefore, flossing helps keep your mouth as clean as possible.
Some people get into a routine of brushing then flossing. The problem with this sequence is that any food, plaque, and bacteria released by flossing from in between your teeth remains in your mouth until the next time you brush.
However, when you floss and then brush, the brushing action removes these released particles from the mouth. As a result, there’s less dental plaque in your mouth, and you’ll have a lower risk of developing gum disease.
The fluoride in your toothpaste is also better able to do its job in protecting your teeth when particles are removed first, noted a small 2018 studyTrusted Source.
Prevents gum disease
Gum disease, also called periodontal disease, is a mouth infection that destroys the soft tissue and bones that support your teeth. Gum disease occurs when there’s too much bacteria on the surface of the teeth.
Signs of gum disease include:
Gets rid of plaque
Because plaque is a primary cause of gum disease, it’s important to floss and brush each day. Plaque usually hardens on the teeth within 24 to 36 hours. If you floss your teeth regularly, and then brush afterwards, plaque usually will not harden on your teeth.
After flossing and brushing, don’t forget to spit out any remaining toothpaste in your mouth. But you shouldn’t rinse your mouth. This likely comes as a surprise since many people have been conditioned to rinse out their mouth with water or mouthwash after brushing.
Here’s why you don’t want to rinse
Rinsing your mouth after brushing washes away fluoride — a mineral added to many dental products to help strengthen teeth. As a result, the toothpaste isn’t as effective at preventing tooth decay.
You want the fluoride in your toothpaste to remain on your teeth for as long as possible. So fight the urge to rinse with water immediately after brushing. If you’re concerned about having too much toothpaste residue in your mouth, swish only about 1 teaspoon of water in your mouth and then spit.
If you like using mouthwash for fresher breath, and to further prevent cavities, wait a couple of hours after brushing your teeth. If you use a fluoride mouthwash, don’t eat or drink for at least 30 minutes after rinsing your mouth.
To keep your teeth clean and healthy, here are a few tips for proper flossing, brushing, and rinsing:
- Floss regularly. Always floss your teeth at least once a day, either in the morning or at night before bed. To properly floss, break off about 12 to 18 inches of floss and wrap both ends around your fingers. Gently move the floss up and down the sides of each tooth to remove plaque, bacteria, and food debris.
- Skip the toothpick. Use floss instead of a toothpick to remove food stuck in between your teeth. Using a toothpick can damage your gums and lead to an infection.
- Brush twice a day. Brush your teeth at least twice a day, for a full 2 minutes. Hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle and gently move the brush back and forth over your teeth. Be sure to brush the inner and outer surface of all your teeth.
- Try fluoride. Use a fluoride toothpaste and mouthwash to help strengthen your tooth enamel and prevent tooth decay.
- Be gentle. Don’t be too aggressive when flossing to avoid bleeding gums. When the floss reaches your gum line, curve it against your tooth to form a C-shape.
- Don’t forget to brush your tongue. This also fights bad breath, removes bacteria, and contributes to good dental hygiene.
- Look for the seal. Only use dental products with the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance.
- See a pro. Schedule routine dental cleanings at least twice a year.
Not only should you see a dentist for routine dental cleanings, you should also see a dentist if you suspect any problems with your oral health.
Your dentist can check your teeth and order dental X-rays to help identify any problems. Signs that you need to see a dentist include:
- red, swollen gums
- gums that bleed easily after brushing or flossing
- sensitivity to hot and cold
- persistent bad breath
- loose teeth
- receding gums
- tooth pain
Any of the above symptoms accompanied by fever could indicate an infection. Be sure to report all symptoms to your dentist.
Dental problems like cavities and gum disease are preventable, but the key is sticking with a good dental care routine. This involves regularly flossing and brushing, and using mouthwash at the appropriate times.
Good oral health results in more than fresh breath. It also prevents gum disease and contributes to your overall health.