When should I floss?

Q. My daughter came home from school today with a quiz over dental health.  The only question she missed was on flossing.  Should you floss before or after you brush?

A. Flossing does between your teeth what brushing does on the easier-to-reach surfaces.

Using food debris as fuel, bacteria form microscopic colonies on the surface of the tooth.  This community of bacteria is called a biofilm and is the precursor to plaque.  Biofilms organize in a way that forms an acidic micro-environment on the surface of the tooth that fosters tooth decay.

Brushing and flossing disrupts this biofilm and removes the food debris and bacteria, thereby forcing the bacteria to start rebuilding their colonies from scratch again.  Flossing accomplishes this where your toothbrush bristles can’t reach.

As a general guideline, consistency with daily flossing is the key.  As long as the biofilm is disrupted consistently, the bacteria cannot organize fast enough to produce decay. How often and how well you are flossing is the man concern, not where it falls in your oral hygiene routine.

According to the American Dental Association (ADA):

Either way [brushing or flossing first] is acceptable as long as you do a thorough job. However, if you use dental floss before you brush, the fluoride from the toothpaste has a better chance of reaching between teeth.

Bottom line: It doesn’t matter whether you floss before or after you brush as long as you’re flossing on a regular basis.

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