We commonly get asked questions regarding the optimal order in which to perform the various strategies we teach for oral hygiene to stop tooth decay, get rid of bad breath, and halt the progression of gum disease.
Questions like, “Should we brush first and then floss or floss and then brush?” and, “when should I use the tongue scraper?” are among the many versions of this question.
Knowing what sequence in which to practice the various oral hygiene techniques can be dizzying, especially for those new to navigating this path to optimal oral health.
In this article we will share the oral hygiene sequence we have found that best supports us along our path to optimal oral health (and why).
You see, these kinds of questions tend to skip over the information that we consider of primary importance. Instead, they jump straight into the technical details.
Of course, what oral hygiene habits we practice do matter and how we do them (the order in which we do them) also helps us optimize our oral health. However, why we do something and how we do it are generally more important than what we do.
Let’s take the simple practice of brushing our teeth to demonstrate an example. We believe that understanding why we brush and how to brush are of greater importance than what tool we brush with. We detail the greater importance of this ‘why/how/what’ issue in our 2 part series on ‘Are electric or manual toothbrushes better for optimal oral health?‘
So, with the relative importance of brushing and flossing with conscious awareness in place, let’s figure out together the best sequence to help navigate to optimal oral health.
1. Brush first
Why should we brush first?
Two reasons, really.
First, most of us already have a strongly ingrained habit of brushing. It’s easier to ‘attach’ other habits to an already existing habit. So, start with brushing, then add other strategies after brushing. That way, we ‘get the ball rolling’ by modifying a habit we’ve already established.
The second reason to brush first is to clean the biggest surfaces, the teeth and along the gum line, first. Whether you’re focus is on disrupting bad bugs, removing plaque from teeth, or stimulating gum tissue, taking care of this important step first makes sense.
If you’d like to better grasp why brushing is so helpful, we have an article titled, “4 reasons why brushing is so important” which answers this question well.
Also, here’s an article (with videos at the bottom) that details how to brush your teeth to reduce gum disease, a video on how circle back and brush your teeth to stop tooth decay, and a link to our awesome Bass toothbrushes.
While we’re here talking about brushing, here’s an article that details 3 ways to keep bad bugs from growing on your toothbrush.
And last on brushing, for those of you like us who tend to ponder questions that our culture just takes as gospel, here’s a fun article that dives into how long we should brush our teeth. (A second title for this article could be ‘Whoever proclaimed 2 minutes was the golden rule for brushing anyway?)
2. Clean the tongue
Assuming you brush your teeth in the bathroom, it makes sense to clean your tongue next. Since we do need a sink to clean the tongue, taking care of this essential piece to any health-giving oral hygiene routine is the next step.
(If you don’t know why you have to be in the bathroom for this, you are in for a rude awakening when you start scraping your tongue! The gunk that comes off the tongue requires a sink nearby! :))
If you have chronic bad breath, here’s a quick, two-step tongue cleaning solution
that details how to get rid of bad breath forever.
If you want to really ramp up your ability to have fresh breath all the time, download our FREE e-book “What to do when you absolutely MUST have fresh breath” today.
3. Floss consciously
Ok, so we have the big surfaces cleaned. Now it’s time to take care of the often-neglected spaces between the teeth.
We like to floss after brushing and tongue cleaning for two reasons.
First, we want to have the bigger surfaces of the teeth clean already from brushing, then remove any plaque/food debris from between teeth. This is especially true if your mouth tends to grow plaque easily. The thinking is that when we remove plaque from the teeth and along the gum line, the plaque can be smooshed into the gaps between our teeth.
So, if we skip flossing, we could literally be packing plaque into the spaces between our teeth. Bad news for sure!
The second reason we floss after brushing and cleaning the tongue is because we often floss after leaving the bathroom. This provides us more time to floss really consciously and not feel the rush to ‘get it done’ so we can get out of the bathroom and get on with the evening.
What activity can you do for a few minutes after brushing that doesn’t require much attention while you practice conscious flossing? We tend to go sit on a couch and chat. Taking a few minutes to floss well (aka consciously) and pay attention to what the floss tells you about the state of health in your mouth is a HUGE step in the right direction.
Speaking of flossing, here are a few helpful resources on flossing. First, 4 reasons why flosser picks are not a healthy option, next, how to avoid the 4 most common flossing mistakes, and finally, our analysis of what the best flosses on the market are and why.
Also, here’s a video that explains why flossing is such a critically important oral hygiene habit, and here’s a video that explains how to floss without damaging your gums.
Swishing last helps remove any plaque/debris that your oral hygiene routine just liberated from your teeth and gum line. It’s important to note that swishing contributes the least to helping to reduce gum disease risk. It’s mostly a good ‘final step’.
That said, one great benefit of regular, vigorous swishing is the exercise we gain from it (the important word here is ‘vigorous’). By actively swishing, we pump the tissues in and around the mouth, which helps them detox and function better. A traditional method of cleansing the mouth is called oil pulling. Here’s an article we dedicated to this ancient oral hygiene practice that details the benefits of oil pulling.
To super charge your swishing and turn it into an active mouth washing step, add a drop or two of our HealThy Mouth Blend. Here’s a link to a video tutorial that shows 4 powerful ways anyone can create optimal oral health in their own lives.
Last, if you would like to learn more about the power of swishing to improve our oral (and whole body) health, here’s a video that explains how swishing our own saliva may be the most powerful step to support our oral microbiome (the bacterial environment in our mouths). We call this exercise ‘Mouth Probiotics’.
For those with advanced gum disease…
If you are currently using our HealThy Mouth System to address deeper gum pockets related to periodontal disease, we recommend that you use your OraWellness pocket applicator last. That way, you’ll have cleaned all surfaces of your mouth AND then finished by dealing with any deep pockets, leaving your mouth super clean so it can rest for several hours through the night with a very low ‘bad bug’ population density, which promotes an ideal healing environment.
In the end, what really matters most is that we:
1. Understand why oral hygiene is important
2. Clean our mouths regularly
3. Bring as much conscious awareness to the process as we can
4. Use products and strategies that have been created/formulated to really help (and not just fill a tube)
So what about you? What order do you use to have a healthy, happy mouth?
Helpful, Related Resources:
Are Electric or Manual Toothbrushes Better? (part 1) [article]
Are Electric or Manual Toothbrushes Better? (part 2) [article]
4 Reasons Why Brushing is So Important [article]
How to Brush Your Teeth to Reduce Gum Disease [article and video]
3 Easy Ways to Keep Bad Bugs from Growing on Your Toothbrush [article]
How Long Should We Brush Our Teeth? [article]
How to Get Rid of Bad Breath (Halitosis) Forever [article and video]
How to Create Greater Oral Health for the Whole Family “Conscious Flossing” [article]
4 Reasons Why Flosser Picks Are NOT a Healthy Option [article]
How to avoid the 4 most common flossing mistakes [article]
What’s the Best Floss on the Market and Why? [floss analysis]
WHY is flossing such a critically important oral hygiene habit? [video tutorial]
How to floss and NOT damage your gums [video tutorial]
What to Do if You Really Hate to Floss [article]
The Benefits of Oil Pulling [article]
How to Support an Ideal Oral Biome “Mouth Probiotics”