Over the years, scientists have actually devoted themselves to determining whether you should brush your teeth or floss first. The most recent study, published in the Journal of Periodontology in 2018, found that a floss first, brush second sequence reduced plaque more than doing this regimen the other way around. It makes sense that a sweep of floss removes food between teeth and paves the way for your toothbrush to do a better job.
So that’s what you should do, right? Maybe. That’s just one study, points out Bryan J. Frantz, DMD, president of the American Academy of Periodontology. Other studies through the years have shown different things, so “overall, the data is inconclusive whether one should go before the other,” he says.
But what is incontrovertible is that “you have to clean in between your teeth to remove plaque bacteria. That’s the single most important thing you can do to prevent gingivitis and periodontal disease,” he says.
And you definitely want to, since periodontal disease is one of the most common chronic diseases in the world, stresses Dr. Frantz. And it can be a huge a danger to your overall health—it’s been linked to diabetes, heart disease, and even Alzheimer’s disease. And periodontal disease can affect your wallet, too, via costly dental bills if you don’t catch it early enough and end up with tooth loss.
Which is why your dentist keeps coming back to you flossing your teeth. Really, it’s not that bad. And dental floss is even getting kind of trendy. Quip has a sleek new dispenser, EcoVibe makes a black charcoal floss (also in a nifty container), and Burst also has a black floss that expands on contact with saliva with the goal of deeper cleaning between teeth.
So when it comes to the question of should you brush or floss first, you kind of knew we were going to get here: Don’t get hung up on which to do when; just do both every day.