Brushing Order: Should You Floss Before or After Brushing and Rinsing?

You might not think about the order in which you brush your teeth, but it makes a big difference whether you floss before or after brushing. Regardless of the order, you should brush and rinse twice and floss once daily. But, if you are not following the correct brushing order, you are not getting the full benefits of your oral hygiene routine.

Stop wasting time and toothpaste by learning the correct order to brush, floss, and rinse. Discover which toothpaste and mouthwash are the most effective for long-lasting fresh breath. And see why many people unwittingly work against their oral health goals by flossing, brushing, and rinsing in the wrong order.

If you follow a diligent oral hygiene routine but aren’t seeing the improvements you expect, it could be in regards to whether you floss before or after brushing. Your dentist probably reminds you to brush twice and floss once a day every six months at your regular dental check-up. But you might not be reminded with as much frequency of the correct order to floss, brush, and rinse.

It is better to follow any flossing and brushing order than not do it. But dentists recommend a specific brushing order to get the most out of your routine:

Should I brush my teeth first?

  • No, don’t brush your teeth yet! Flossing is the first step.

To paraphrase a quote by the late Alexander Pope, “To err is human; to [floss] is divine.” The first step to your brushing order is not to brush but to floss. Flossing clears the coating of plaque and debris hiding between your teeth and gums. If you begin your oral hygiene routine by brushing your teeth, the bristles can’t get past the plaque to clean the crevices.

Flossing is a vital part of your routine because it improves the effectiveness of brushing and rinsing, so take your time and be thorough. Using your thumb and pointer fingers, take a grip of the ends of your floss and pull it taut. Gently rub the floss back and forth against your teeth and guide it down to the gums. When the floss reaches the gums, curve the floss into a horseshoe shape around your tooth and continue the gentle rubbing motion.

What is the second step in my dental routine?

  • Brushing your teeth is the second step.

Flossing clears out the debris from between your teeth and gums, clearing the path for your toothbrush bristles to go to work. You might be tempted to rinse your mouth with mouthwash before brushing to remove the debris leftover from flossing. Don’t rinse with mouthwash yet!

Avoid using mouthwash and then brushing your teeth. Avoid mouthwash that contains preservative citric acid, as it has a lower pH value and can cause damage to your teeth over time. Mouthwash contains fluoride, which helps to strengthen your teeth’s enamel, but it is also highly acidic. The acidic fluoride makes the enamel of your teeth vulnerable to abrasive activities, like brushing and can cause your enamel to erode.

Do not rinse your mouth with water after brushing your teeth with fluoridated, low-abrasive toothpaste. Toothpaste works best when it can stick to your teeth, but water can rinse the toothpaste off before it delivers the calcium fluoride to your teeth’s enamel. By removing surface plaque and debris, you create more surface contact area with the fluoride in your toothpaste.

What is the final step of brushing my teeth?

  • Rinsing with mouthwash is the final step in your brushing order.

Mouthwash delivers a flood of fluoride to your teeth and gums while giving you a blast of minty-fresh breath. Rinsing with mouthwash after brushing is a great way to prevent cavities and offensive breath. Be sure to allow the mouthwash to touch your teeth for at least 30 seconds to a full minute. Do not drink or rinse your mouth with water for at least a half-hour after rinsing with mouthwash to ensure maximum effect.

Why does my breath still smell bad?

  • Use a tongue scraper or toothbrush to clean your tongue after brushing your teeth.

If you follow the correct brushing order but still have bad breath, the culprit is probably your tongue. Before rinsing your mouth with mouthwash, use your toothbrush or a tongue scraper to clean your tongue. Be sure to scrape gently so as not to damage your tastebuds.

What else can you do to create a bright and healthy smile?

Following the correct brushing order will produce better long-term results in the health and brilliance of your smile. If you have significant gaps between your teeth, consider using a proxy brush, or a water flosser, and get a dental check-up every three to four months to halt gum disease in its tracks. Whether you floss before or after brushing, call our office to schedule a dental consultation and learn how to maintain a healthy smile for years to come.