What’s the best way to take care of my teeth? Should we brush or floss first, and is a mouthwash recommended for daily use?
This question is a lot like the “which came first - the chicken or the egg?!” Truth be told, research is a bit inconclusive. There’s one camp that says brush first using a fluoridated toothpaste and then use the floss to drag the fluoride through the contacts; there’s another that says floss first so the plaque is removed for the fluoride to act on the teeth from your brushing. But for any fluoride to strengthen the enamel and make the teeth more resistant to plaque-causing bacteria, the surface of the teeth needs to be meticulously clean. It’s a bit like getting paint on - regardless of the paint you use, if the surface is contaminated with dust the paint can’t stick to it!
My recommendation is if you want to be really thorough, use a water flosser first. It is extremely easy to use and blasts the plaque of the teeth using water pressure instead of just moving it around. Then use a soft bristled toothbrush preferably electric which is generally more effective than a manual one to get the toothpaste into all the nooks and crannies, and use a floss to finish. It would be ideal to spit all the excess toothpaste and not rinse. This allows the fluoride in the toothpaste remnants to continue strengthening the teeth even after brushing but if you “must” rinse then use a fluoridated mouthwash and not water.
Lastly, please remember that anything less than two minutes of brushing will usually not be enough to remove all the plaque effectively. I recommend using an electric brush because most of them have built-in timers that will give you an audible buzz or use an external timer or a stopwatch on your phone to give you an indication of the time.
Dr. Tanveer Ahmed is Medical Director at New Ivory Dental & Implant Clinic