When it comes to oral hygiene, Dr. Glaros’ mantra is “Floss First.” That way, you can’t “forget” to do it. And not many folks will routinely “forget” to brush.
Now science suggests another good reason to floss first: It may help you do a better overall job with your cleaning.
That’s the conclusion of a small but compelling study just published in Oral Health & Preventive Dentistry. Thirty-five subjects participated. For the first two weeks, they flossed first, then brushed. For the last two weeks, they reversed the practice. For one week in between, they followed their usual hygiene practice.
Plaque control was significantly better when participants flossed first.
Why? It may be that flossing first loosens bacteria from between the teeth, making it easier to brush away afterward. It could be that we unconsciously spend a little more time and effort at the beginning of a task – in this case, cleaning the teeth – than when we’re nearing its end. Flossing first may turn out to mean flossing better.
And truth be told, it’s not that hard to do it quickly and effectively. Yes, if you look at some of the step-by-step breakdowns or other guides you’ll find online, the task can seem overly complicated. Yet there are good techniques that can actually get the job done in less time than it takes to brush.
Of course, there are those who say that it’s not time or difficulty that’s the issue. They don’t like that flossing makes their gums bleed. Yet these are exactly the people who need to be flossing more! The bleeding is a sign of disease. While there are things we can do to help you control it, only YOU are capable of taking the steps needed to reverse the disease process.
Cleaning between your teeth – with floss and/or another interdental tool – is essential, along with good nutrition, exercise, and quality sleep. If you use tobacco, you need to stop. It’s the number one risk factor for periodontal disease.
Ultimately, if you’re not flossing, you’re leaving about 40% of your teeth covered with bacteria and other oral pathogens. And that’s when things can get…well…a little gross:
(Note: We don’t necessarily recommend or endorse the products advertised at the end of that clip, but we found the imagery so powerful, we just had to share. A thousand words, you know…)
Don’t want the pathogens to take over? Floss daily. And floss first.
Image by Patricia H. Schuette, via Flickr