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Should You Floss Before or After Brushing?

Posted on January 28, 2016 | in Dental Care | by

Should You Floss Before Or After Brushing Your Teeth?


The question is not whether to floss…that one is a given. You should floss your teeth, EVERY DAY!

The question is whether to floss before or after you brush your teeth. And that question of course hinges on whether you actually floss at all.

The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends flossing at least once a day to help remove plaque from the areas between your teeth where your toothbrush can’t reach.

Flossing  – whether before or after you brush your teeth – is important because if that sticky, foul-smelling plaque is not removed by brushing and flossing – twice or thrice daily – then that putrid plaque will eventually solidify into calculus or tartar.

As you can see on this article from

For whatever reason, a lot of people struggle with the decision to floss before or after brushing their teeth.

Behavioral economist Dan Ariely suggests it has to do with what’s known as “reward substitution,” which means after your breath is fresh from brushing you’re less inclined to continue caring.

According to Ariely, our typical preference for brushing over flossing boils down to the rewards we create for ourselves:

So why do we like to brush? In large part because the toothpaste industry has cunningly convinced us that to be socially acceptable, we must be minty fresh. Preoccupied as we are with our social standing, we wake up, feel the mint deficit in our mouths and immediately brush.

In essence, this is a case of “reward substitution.” The basic idea is that some actions just aren’t sufficiently motivating by themselves, so we create rewards for them that aren’t necessarily relevant but still get us to do what we’re supposed to.

As outlined in that article, essentially those flossing offenders think that brushing alone provides the minty fresh breath feeling we associate with a clean, healthy mouth, and by the time we’re done, we don’t think flossing will make much more of a difference.

But that’s just plain nonsense!

It sounds a little silly coming from a behavioral economist, but the sentiment is echoed by the American Dental Association as well.

Even Dr. Oz recommends daily flossing…and this is one time we’ll second that notion!



Actually, this article was penned by a NYC dentist…not Dr. Oz, but we’re sure he’d agree.

Floss Before Or After Brushing Your Teeth?

So the questions is not is it necessary to floss, the question is should you floss before or after you brush your teeth?

Here’s the kicker, it doesn’t matter one bit!

The sequence makes no difference as long as you do a thorough job.

Although flossing before brushing your teeth may help you remember to do so, it really doesn’t matter and won’t adversely affect your oral or overall health one way or the other….so long as you actually do floss.

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This post originally appeared on the dental health blog of Dr. Joseph Haddad, and has been republished here with permission.

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+Chris Barnard is Managing Editor of, a patient-centric Social Dental Network blog dedicated to enabling the digital dental health conversation - and the eradication of the cavity creeps.
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