The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that you clean between your teeth using floss, or an alternative interdental cleaner, once each day. They also recommend that you brush your teeth twice a day for 2 minutes with fluoride toothpaste.
Your toothbrush can’t reach between your teeth to remove plaque (a sticky film that contains bacteria). Flossing gets between your teeth to clean away the plaque.
By flossing and brushing your teeth, you’re removing plaque and the bacteria in it that feeds on sugar and particles of food that remain in your mouth after eating.
When the bacteria feed, they release an acid that can eat away at your enamel (the hard outer shell of your teeth) and cause cavities.
Also, plaque that isn’t cleaned away can eventually harden into calculus (tartar) that can collect on your gumline and lead to gingivitis and gum disease.
The ADA suggests that the best time to floss is the time that comfortably fits into your schedule.
While some people like to include flossing as part of their morning ritual and start the day with a clean mouth, others prefer flossing before bedtime so they go to bed with a clean mouth.
It doesn’t matter if you brush or floss first, as long as you do a thorough job cleaning all of your teeth and practice good oral hygiene habits every day.
A 2018 study suggested that it’s better to floss first and then brush. The study indicated that flossing first loosened bacteria and debris from between teeth, and brushing afterward cleaned these particles away.
Brushing second also increased fluoride concentration in the interdental plaque, which could reduce the risk of tooth decay by strengthening tooth enamel.
However, the ADA maintains that either flossing first or brushing first is acceptable, depending on what you prefer.
No, you can’t floss too much unless you’re flossing incorrectly. If you apply too much pressure when you floss, or if you floss too vigorously, you may damage your teeth and gums.
You may need to floss more than once a day, especially after meals, to clean out food or debris that’s stuck between your teeth.
Flossing is considered interdental cleaning. It helps remove interproximal dental plaque (the plaque that collects between teeth). It also helps remove debris, such as food particles.
Tools for interdental cleaning include:
- dental floss (waxed or unwaxed)
- dental tape
- pre-threaded flossers
- water flossers
- powered air flossers
- wooden or plastic picks
- tiny flossing brushes (proxy brushes)
Talk to your dentist to see which is best for you. Find one that you like and use it regularly.
Braces are appliances applied to your teeth by an orthodontist to:
- straighten teeth
- close gaps between teeth
- correct bite problems
- align teeth and lips properly
- cutting back on starchy and sugary foods and beverages that contribute to plaque formation
- brushing after every meal to clear food particles from your braces
- rinsing thoroughly to clear the food particles the brush left behind
- using a fluoride rinse, if it’s been recommended by your orthodontist or dentist
- flossing regularly and thoroughly to maintain excellent oral health
When flossing with braces, there are some tools to consider using:
- floss threader, which gets floss under wires
- waxed floss, which is less likely to catch on braces
- water flosser, an interdental flossing tool that uses water
- interdental flossing brushes, which clean out debris and plaque that get caught on brackets and wires, and in between teeth
The American Dental Association suggests that you brush your teeth twice a day — about 2 minutes with a fluoride toothpaste — and use an interdental cleaner, such as floss, once a day. You can floss before or after you brush.
In addition to home brushing and flossing, schedule regular visits with your dentist to identify potential dental problems early, when treatment is commonly simpler and more affordable.