Should Your Kids Brush or Floss First?

Choosing to brush or floss first

No matter your age, dentists recommend that you brush your teeth twice a day and that you also floss at least once. That’s standard is true across the board, whether you’re a child or a great-grandparent. Good oral hygiene requires both brushing and flossing working in tandem to ensure you remove bacteria and food particles from the teeth and gums.

As you’ve been teaching your child good tooth brushing habits, maybe they’ve asked you whether you should brush your teeth or floss first. Although most parents would answer that brushing teeth should come first, are you sure that’s the case? Do we answer that way out of habit, or is there actually sound scientific research behind it?

At Toothfairy Pediatric Dental, our expert team of doctors and staff specialize in not only providing the highest-quality oral care, but also in taking the time to educate our patients and their parents. Let’s explore the idea about the proper order of brushing and flossing.

A Little Perspective on Brushing Teeth Or Flossing First

The most important consideration is honestly whether your children floss their teeth at all!

The American Dental Association recently published a survey that only sixteen percent of adults actually flossed once a day. If you can help teach your children the healthy habit of flossing, they’ll already have some of the healthiest teeth around, regardless of whether they brush their teeth or floss first.

Arguments For Brushing First

Although there’s little empirical data to show that most children brush their teeth first instead of flossing, most dentists would agree that a “brush first” mentality is the norm. The reasoning behind it is simple: because brushing should take place twice a day and flossing only takes place once a day, the mindset is that flossing is an “add on” to the normal tooth brushing routine. This could be one of the reasons that people floss so irregularly, because they never build the habit.

Why should kids brush first instead of floss? Here are two arguments from those who prefer to brush first:

  • Toothbrushing loosens plaque and debris. When it’s time for a child to brush their teeth, they have hours worth of bacteria and plaque that needs to be scrubbed away. It’s better to brush away the easier-to-reach particles first, and then work on flossing afterward.
  • Toothbrushing prepares the mouth for flossing. If your child uses a dentist-recommended fluoride toothpaste, their mouth will be almost completely treated by the fluoride once they’re done brushing for the suggested two minutes. The only place that the fluoride won’t reach? The tight areas between the teeth. By flossing after brushing, your child will be able to push some of the residual fluoride between the teeth that wouldn’t get it otherwise. This could result in stronger teeth.

Arguments For Flossing First

Again, flossing first may not be the typical order for oral care, but believe it or not, those who floss first report some very real benefits. Children who have a “floss first” routine could experience several advantages.

  • Flossing first may give a better overall clean. When a child brushes first, they remove the hardest-to-reach particles from between their teeth, but they will still linger in the mouth. By brushing after flossing, you’ll be able to completely brush away those bits of debris. If you brush your teeth first before flossing, it’s likely that more plaque will stay in your mouth.
  • Flossing first helps the mouth retain more fluoride. The Journal of Periodontology recently did a study on fluoride retention in relation to children brushing their teeth or flossing first. Through their research, they found that a “floss first” routine gave the mouth higher fluoride retention than from brushing teeth first.

So, Brush Teeth Or Floss First?

girl with missing tooth smiling

In the end, which is actually better? The previously mentioned study in the Journal of Periodontology was conducted by the American Academy of Periodontology. Their findings were that there is a small advantage to flossing before brushing. However, there is no clear consensus from the overall dental community of which is better.

In the end, there’s one thing that every dentist is likely to agree with: if your child is brushing twice a day and flossing once a day, they’re doing very well for themselves! Whatever advantages can be had brushing teeth first or flossing first are minor. If they have a routine that they’re willing to stick to, simply encourage them to keep up the good work.

Expert Pediatric Dentistry From Toothfairy

If you live in the Reno area, Toothfairy Pediatric dental wants to be your family’s go-to place for pediatric dental care. We also offer pediatric orthodontic treatment as well, which means all of your child’s oral care can take place under one roof. We accept most dental insurance plans, including Medicaid, and we also make the process simple for families who need to pay out-of-pocket.

Contact us today so we can help maintain your child’s well-brushed, well-flossed smile!

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