Flossing: Should you do it before or after brushing your teeth?

Dentists recommend flossing at least once a day in order to clean the tooth surfaces that cannot be reached with a toothbrush. But should it be done before or after brushing?

According to the American Dental Association, it doesn’t really matter when you floss. Whether you do so before or after brushing is more a matter of personal preference.

The important thing is to thoroughly clean the spaces between your teeth at least once a day, ideally at night before going to bed. Food particles and bacteria that accumulate between your teeth can lead to a build-up of plaque on the teeth and along the gum line.

Plaque is a sticky substance that contains bacteria and food debris. If it isn’t removed with tooth brushing and flossing, it can turn to tartar within 24 to 36 hours. Tartar is a much harder substance that can only be removed with special instruments used in dental clinics.

An accumulation of plaque or tartar promotes the onset of gum disease. Early signs of gum disease include red gums or gums that bleed during tooth brushing. If left untreated, this can even reach the bones that support the teeth and lead to abscesses or tooth loss.

Brushing and flossing your teeth every day is the best way to prevent or reverse the start of gum disease. It’s normal for gums to bleed a little bit the first few times you floss. The bleeding should stop after a few days. If it doesn’t, consult your dentist.

If you’re having trouble flossing, there are other tools you can use to clean between your teeth, such as little brushes or plastic toothpicks. Ask your dentist or dental hygienist which method would be best for you, and how to use it.

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