Good dental hygiene entails regularly brushing and flossing the teeth. For a lot of people, brushing the teeth is pretty much a piece of cake — put toothpaste on the toothbrush, brush down to the gums and do every surface of your teeth. Little circles with a soft toothbrush and you’re going to have pretty clean looking teeth.
Please don’t skip flossing!
On the other hand, many people skip flossing their teeth. Studies indicate that as much as 90% of people do not floss their teeth. Understandable because for one it is quite a meticulous process. Kids take time to learn the skill, and in our busy lives it can seem to take forever to get around and floss every tooth. Try to be patient and with practice it can be done more quickly than brushing your teeth. Don’t feel bad if it seems slow at first, just practice.
Then there’s the stuff that starts flying around, like remnants of food as well as the plaque (bacteria and its by-products, yuck) lurking along the gum line. Messy on your bathroom mirror, but it makes you realise what can be missed with brushing alone.
How to floss if your gums are prone to bleeding
Finally, many people experience bleeding of their gums after flossing and become nervous that this is damage caused by the floss. As long as you are being a little bit careful with the floss (try gently sawing it through the point where teeth meet and then gently sliding up and down each tooth), you will not be damaging the gums. Bleeding occurs because the gums are inflamed from plaque and food being there irritating them. So if you see some bleeding, you should think more cleaning (flossing) not less, as once you remove the food and plaque for a few days, bleeding will stop as the gums have become healthy. If bleeding does continue, see your dentist as you may need a professional clean to remove hard build up (calculus or tartar) to get your gums back in good shape.
Which first – brush or floss?
With that being said, when is the right time to floss? Should you brush then floss, or floss then brush? There is no definite answer here. Much like asking which came first, the chicken or the egg. The important thing is to make these two actions part of a regular habit.
There are those who advocate flossing first. As mentioned earlier, when you are flossing, you are dealing with the by-product of the bacteria found in your teeth and the gum line. These by-products can smell awful, hence many people believe that brushing afterwards can flush the smell away.
On the other hand, there are those who advise to brush first before flossing. You see, when you brush your teeth, you are allowing the products in the toothpaste to remove plaque and sometimes toughen or remineralise the teeth. While brushing allows you to clean and toughen quite a large area of your teeth, there are spots where your toothbrush cannot reach. By flossing, you are not only removing food debris and bacterial by-product lodged between the teeth, you are also allowing the residual fluoride left after brushing to get into those spots which toothbrushes cannot reach.