Which Should Come First, the Brush or the Floss?

Which Should Come First, the Brush or the Floss?

Actually, either way is fine but there is a bit of logic for each dental hygiene battle rhythm! But, in general, we’re just happy when you floss and your teeth are clean. It’s really up to you and your child.

Some kids (and adults!) prefer to brush first to remove the icky mouth feel of any food debris that’s been left in the mouth for a period of time.  It may be easier to floss also if any debris that gets stuck in the valleys between the sides of the teeth is removed to make flossing a little neater.

However, others with fairly clean mouths like to jostle free anything in between the teeth so that it is easier for the brush to reach and sweep away.

Frankly, either way is probably fine so long as you take the time to do each task correctly.

Why dentists tell you to floss

Brushing cleans tooth surfaces, removing bacteria and preventing plaque buildup. This prevents tooth decay and helps to fight against gum disease. But you can’t reach in between teeth with a toothbrush and a surprisingly large amount of food and bacteria like to live between the teeth. Those spaces are near the gumline too, so they’re particularly important areas that you need to keep clean to prevent plaque from setting up sanctuary there!

Flossing goes where your toothbrush can’t reach. We can teach your kids on how to floss gently but effectively by using a “C” shape surrounding each tooth in each contact area before moving on to the next area. Flossing is a great habit to instill in kids. We love kids who can’t sleep without flossing! That child will have great teeth with strong bones to support them into old age!

Floss first or brush first?

Again, that’s up to you and your child. We think these things go intimately hand-in-hand and both should be done daily.

In no way should flossing replace brushing, and vice-versa. Flossing can’t clean tooth surfaces very well and brushing can’t go where flossing can.  

We suggest you gently and thoroughly brush. Angle the brush at 45 degrees to the gums and brush with back-and-forth and circular strokes to massage the gums and thoroughly clean teeth. This should be done 3 times daily.

Then, floss each contact area where teeth touch by gently breaking the contact and rubbing the sides of each teeth up and down gently with the floss with mild in and out motion to bring anything between the teeth out into the open.

You may consider a follow up brushing or flossing first if you are always finding debris between your teeth while flossing.

It’s never a bad idea to follow up these behaviors with an anti-microbial mouthrinse to freshen breath further while reducing the bad bacteria count in your mouth.

For stubborn children, it might motivate them to brush and floss if you try plaque disclosing tablets. You can get these from your dentist or over the counter at pharmacies. You chew the tablets after brushing. Plaque that hasn’t been removed will be stained red or blue and help them better understand if they are doing well or poorly with their oral hygiene routine.

The results can be eye-opening!

About Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontic Specialists of Michigan, the offices of Drs. Plunkett, Ralstrom, Makowski, Thanasas, Ker, and Associates

Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontic Specialists of Michigan have specialized in pediatric dentistry and orthodontics since 1968. Our family-friendly and newly renovated office gives patients and families a more comfortable and consistent experience with dentistry from the very beginning. Our pediatric dentists treat children from newborn to 18 years of age while our orthodontists provide care for both children and adults and are proud to be Premier Providers of Invisalign and Invisalign Teen services. The ability to treat all patients with compassion and individuality, including those that may have special needs reaches beyond our facility, which has treatment rooms available for children who require additional privacy and customized care options.  We pioneered valued hospital affiliations to allow dental services to be performed at DMC Children’s Hospital and St. John Macomb Hospital, when appropriate or necessary, and our specialists are also proud to be on staff at Henry Ford and Beaumont hospitals.

39400 Garfield Rd., Suite 200
Clinton Township, MI
Phone: 586-286-0700
Fax: 586-286-5932