Is it better to floss before or after brushing?

Cleaning between your teeth, also known as interdental cleaning, is important because it cleans where a regular toothbrush simply cannot reach. You might use floss, floss aids, interdental brushes, rubber bristle brushes, and/or water flossers. We know that both brushing your teeth and cleaning between your teeth are very important. 

As a general recommendation,

Everyone should brush for 2 minutes twice a day and clean between your teeth once a day.


Is it better to clean between the teeth or brush the teeth first?

The quick answer is that either way is acceptable, because you are cleaning different surfaces of the teeth.

When you ask friends, family, or even dental professionals what is the best method they may start explaining based on their own personal experiences. Some people like to floss before brushing to better ensure that any material between teeth is swept out of the mouth. Others prefer to first brush before working with floss between their teeth (ADA, 2021).

There is limited research on this topic. In a systematic review published in 2022 it concludes flossing before or after brushing has no significant effect on reducing dental plaque (Silva et al., 2022). Whereas, a randomized controlled trial published in 2018 concludes that flossing followed by brushing is preferred to brushing then flossing in order to reduce interdental plaque (Mazhari et al., 2018). This sequence was also found to increase fluoride concentration delivered from the toothpaste, which makes your tooth enamel stronger, making it easier to resist decay.

Below are reasons why flossing first could be beneficial:

  • The chemical ingredients, like fluoride, in toothpaste should have as much contact time with the teeth as possible. Floss, brush, and spit. Brushing after flossing allows the fluoride to not be removed or disrupted. Do not rinse your mouth after brushing.
  • When flossing first, you are still likely to brush. If you brush first, you might skip flossing because you think your mouth feels clean or are short on time or tired. You then postpone flossing for a later time, and many times it never happens.

Read more:


Silva C, Albuquerque P, de Assis P, Lopes C, Anníbal H, Lago MCA, Braz R. Does flossing before or after brushing influence the reduction in the plaque index? A systematic review and meta-analysis. Int J Dent Hyg. 2022 Feb;20(1):18-25. doi: 10.1111/idh.12546. Epub 2021 Aug 24. PMID: 34402188.

Mazhari, F., Boskabady, M., Moeintaghavi, A., & Habibi, A. (2018). The effect of toothbrushing and flossing sequence on interdental plaque reduction and fluoride retention: A randomized controlled clinical trial. Journal of periodontology89(7), 824–832.

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