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Should You Floss Before Or After Brushing Your Teeth?

Should You Floss Before Or After Brushing Your Teeth?

Dr. Michael Layton
March 23, 2015

The best manual toothbrushing technique or the most advanced electric pulsating toothbrush machinery is no substitute for flossing. Dentists and dental hygienists are universal in their recommendation of flossing after brushing the teeth.

Periodontal and orthodontic patients are also advised to floss on a regular basis. Another dental aid for removing plaque and debris from teeth is called an interdental cleaner.

The History of Dental Floss

The exact date and the creation of dental floss is unknown. The earliest modern day origin of dental floss in the western world was in 1815. The American dentist Dr. Levi Spear Parmly published a book, A Practical Guide to the Management of Teeth. This dental book emphasized the importance of brushing and flossing on a daily basis. It wouldn’t be until 1882 that the unwaxed silk floss would be introduced by the Codman and Shurtleff Company. Johnson & Johnson was granted the patent for dental floss in 1898. The rising costs of silk during World War II was replaced by nylon as the primary material. Dr. Charles Bass was credited with making dental floss an essential part of persons daily oral hygiene.

The Function of Dental Floss

The function of floss is simple and clear cut. Dental floss removes food that is trapped between the teeth, preventing bacteria from hardening into plaque. Manual toothbrush bristles are ineffective in removing food debris from those hard to reach places.girl using dental floss in surrey

Plaque that is not removed from the teeth turns in tartar if left unchecked. Another name for tartar is called calculus. Tartar is a big problem for people who just brush their teeth. If not removed the prevalence of tartar can form underneath the gum line and irritate the gum tissue. Unremoved tartar can turn into cavities and periodontal gum disease.

People with discoloured teeth sometimes have a tartar problem that threatens oral health. Having stained teeth is not just cosmetically unattractive its a health hazard. Heavy coffee and tea drinkers, smokers and meat eaters are at risk for excessive tartar buildup.

Keep this in mind unremoved plaque turns into tartar that ends up forming on teeth. Hardened plaque if left on the teeth long enough will have to be removed by a dental professional. Without the intervention of a dental professional the gum tissue can become infected. Gum tissue that is infected can bleed easily or become swollen, this oral condition is called gingivitis the first stage of gum disease.

Why go through the pain of going to a dental professional to correct a problem that can be solved by simply flossing everyday?

Flossing should be a part of everyone’s daily oral care regimen. Reducing the likelihood of plaque and tartar only takes a few minutes per day. Gum disease like gingivitis is easily preventable. Waiting until you require a dental professional’s intervention should be a last resort when it comes to maintaining your oral care.

Foods That Stick To Your Teeth


  • Popcorn kernels - The number #1 main culprit, popcorn kernels always seem to get lodged between the gaps in the teeth. Hard to remove and one of the causes of halitosis.
  • Barbeque ribs - Barbeque season is almost here and bbq ribs are a summer food. Barbeque rib meat have a tendency to get stuck between the back molars of the teeth until removed by flossing.
  • Candied apples - The hard caramel coating not only causes tooth decay but the sugar adheres to the grooves of the teeth. Bits of the caramel coating can easily become lodged between the teeth.
  • Raspberries - A typical raspberry can contain up to 120 seeds. Tiny raspberry seeds easily get lodged between the teeth. Raspberries are one of the healthiest antioxidant foods to consume but hard to remove.


Cause of Bad Breath

The cause of bad breath is the breakdown of food particles left over after eating, these same undigested food particles decompose and putrefy causing a foul smell. A lack of saliva and food particles in the mouth lead to bad breath especially in the morning. Another name for chronic bad breath is halitosis.

Halitosis is caused by the following conditions:

  • alcohol
  • smoking
  • drinking coffee
  • gum disease
  • dentures
  • eating spicy foods
  • lack of saliva
  • consuming onions and garlic regularly
  • periodontal surgery gone wrong
  • mouth infections
  • not brushing and flossing on a regular basis

Preventing Bad Breath

The cause of halitosis is easily remedied by brushing and flossing the teeth after each meal on a regular basis. Purchasing a tongue cleaner or scraper goes a long way to preventing chronic bad breath. Drinking up to 8 glasses of water per day goes a long way to hydrating the mouth and is good for saliva production. Eating acidic foods like oranges, grapefruits, lemons and limes stimulates saliva flow. Adopting a plant based diet rich in antioxidants purifies the body from the inside out. Consuming parsley and cilantro after a meal or putting it in a smoothie stimulates saliva flow and cleans the body internally.

The following foods are recommended for fresh breath:

  • parsley
  • cilantro
  • mint leaves
  • gentle brushing with baking soda
  • lemon juice in water
  • eucalyptus mouthwash (crushing 2 oz. of leaves and distilling in vodka for 7 days, strain the eucalyptus leaves and gargle with the infused water)
  • cardamom
  • spearmint
  • peppermint
  • rosemary
  • ginger
  • lavender
  • nutmeg
  • cinnamon
  • fennel
  • basil

How To Floss

Brushing by itself is not enough, flossing is more efficient at removing plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. Making flossing a daily habit in the morning or evening before going to bed will become second nature if done regularly.

The 3 steps of flossing:

  1. Cut 30 cm of dental floss. Wrap the opposite ends around your middle fingers, leaving 2 inches between your fingers. Use the index fingers to guide the floss between the teeth.
  2. Begin flossing at the back or front. Wrap the floss into a “C” shape around the base of the tooth slightly under the gumline.
  3. Floss both sides of the tooth to remove plaque.

Benefits of Flossing and When To Floss

Dentists agree there is no rule cast in stone that flossing should be performed before or after brushing your teeth. Many people prefer to floss prior to brushing their teeth, minor bleeding can sometimes occur during flossing.

Flossing before or after brushing your teeth is a personal decision, according to research there is not a right or wrong way. Clearing food particles from the teeth allows the fluoride in your toothpaste to penetrate the teeth. The most important practice is to simply floss on a regular basis. Prevention is better than the cure. Remember flossing once per day keeps the dental drill away.

About Dr. Michael Layton

Dr. Michael Layton - South Surrey Dentist, Dental ImplantsDr. Michael Layton (DDS) is the dentist for Peace Arch Dental, a dental office in the South Surrey/White Rock, B.C. area. He has been in the dental industry for the last decade and received his Doctor of Dental Surgery from the University of Washington. He takes pride in providing positive and caring dental solutions for people of every walk of life. You can follow him on Google+.

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