Is flossing better than brushing?

The age-old oral hygiene debate – does dedicated flossing or diligent brushing provide superior cleaning and oral health benefits? The truth is, both are essential components that work synergistically. Neither can replace the other.

While brushing is undoubtedly a cornerstone of oral hygiene, its reach has limitations. Toothbrushes can effectively clean the surfaces of your teeth and gums that are easily accessible, but they often struggle to navigate the tight spaces between teeth and along the gumline. This is where flossing steps in as the unsung hero of your dental routine.

Flossing serves as the perfect complement to brushing by addressing the areas your toothbrush can’t quite reach. It dives into the nooks and crannies between teeth, removing trapped food particles and plaque that, if left unchecked, can lead to gum disease, cavities, and even bad breath. These spaces are havens for harmful bacteria, and flossing is the key to evicting them.

Let’s examine the unique value of flossing and brushing in more detail…

Is flossing better than brushing

Flossing’s Targeted Cleaning Abilities

Flossing is more than just a dental hygiene routine; it’s a precision instrument in the arsenal against oral health issues. Its unique cleaning abilities address areas that brushing alone simply cannot reach, making it an irreplaceable component of your daily dental regimen.

Here’s a closer look at the targeted cleaning prowess of flossing:

1. Interdental plaque removal

Flossing is your secret weapon against plaque build-up in the spaces between teeth and beneath the gumlines. These are havens for bacterial overgrowth, where the bristles of your toothbrush struggle to penetrate. By effectively removing up to 80% of plaque from these inaccessible zones, flossing helps prevent the onset of gum disease and cavities.

2. Food and debris clearance

Those tight spaces between teeth can become treasure troves for food particles, calculus, and debris. Floss dives into these crevices, eradicating these culprits before they can kickstart the decay process. It’s a level of precision that toothbrush bristles simply cannot replicate.

3. Polishing the tooth surfaces

Flossing isn’t limited to just the in-between spaces. It extends its meticulous cleaning prowess to the mesial and distal sides of teeth – the front and back surfaces where cavities often find their footing. By maintaining these surfaces free from plaque and debris, flossing contributes to cavity prevention.

4. Gumline and pocket access

Gum disease often begins in small pockets and along the gumline. Flossing allows you to access these critical areas, effectively removing plaque and bacteria where trouble tends to originate.

5. Effectively clean behind dental appliances and restorations

Flossing is versatile enough to navigate behind dental appliances like braces or retainers, ensuring that no area goes untouched. It also cleans effectively around dental restorations, such as crowns or fillings, to maintain their longevity.

6. Meticulous cleaning regardless of tooth placement

Whether your teeth are perfectly aligned or slightly crooked, flossing provides meticulous cleaning regardless of tooth position. This is particularly valuable for those with crowded or misaligned teeth, as it prevents hidden plaque and decay.

While brushing cleans facial and lingual surfaces, flossing is unmatched for interproximal cleaning. It reaches where bristles simply cannot.

Brushing Benefits the Full Tooth Surface

While flossing specializes in the spaces between teeth, brushing offers a unique set of benefits, creating a powerful combination for comprehensive oral care:

1. Surface plaque removal

Brushing is like the frontline soldier in your oral hygiene army. It efficiently sweeps away surface plaque, bacteria, and debris from the readily accessible areas—the crowns of your teeth and the sides facing your tongue and cheeks. This daily ritual keeps your teeth’s visible surfaces clean and free from the daily buildup of oral nasties.

2. Cleaning fully erupted surfaces

One of brushing’s strengths lies in its ability to clean all fully erupted tooth surfaces, regardless of their positioning within the dental arch. It reaches both the front and back surfaces, ensuring that every tooth receives its share of cleansing attention.

3. Disrupting pre-cavity lesions and stains

Brushing plays a pivotal role in disrupting pre-cavity lesions and removing extrinsic stains on the external enamel caused by foods, drinks, and smoking. It’s your first line of defense against the early stages of tooth decay and unsightly discolorations.

4. Polishing smooth surfaces

Toothpaste abrasives in your toothbrush work to polish the smooth surfaces of your teeth. This polishing action not only contributes to a bright and shiny smile but also aids in the removal of surface stains and maintains the integrity of your enamel.

For a comprehensive clean, brushing tackles debris, biofilms, and stains on all outer tooth aspects while floss handles the tight inner surfaces.

Proper Technique for Flossing and Brushing Matters

To gain the unique advantages of brushing and flossing, using good form is critical:

  • Floss carefully along the sides of each tooth to avoid snapping and irritating gums.
  • Brush thoroughlyalong gumlines to disrupt colonies, but avoid excessive pressure.
  • Use soft brush heads and silky floss to prevent enamel and gum damage.
  • Take time with both – rushing compromises effectiveness.
  • Ensure all tooth surfaces and gaps between teeth are accessed.

When performed properly, brushing and flossing work synergistically to provide unparalleled oral hygiene.

Should You Do Both?

Absolutely – dental experts overwhelmingly recommend brushing and flossing together for optimal health:

  • Studies confirm combining brushing and flossing removes the most plaque, reduces gingivitis best, and improves gum health above either alone.
  • Layering flossing and brushing provides protection from caries and periodontal disease unavailable from one or the other.
  • Some people have special needs and risk factors that dictate focusing efforts on either brushing or flossing under dental guidance. But both together is ideal for most.

Aim to brush twice and floss thoroughly once daily as your gold standard oral care routine. Doing both protects your smile in all areas for the long run.

Final Note

In essence, while flossing excels at tackling those hard-to-reach spaces between teeth, brushing is the stalwart guardian of your teeth’s visible surfaces. Together, they form a dynamic duo, ensuring that your oral health receives comprehensive care, from the hidden nooks and crannies to the surfaces that greet the world with your beautiful smile.


  • Editorial team

    A team comprising oral health care professionals, researchers, and professional Writers, striving to impart you with the knowledge to improve your oral health, and that of your loved ones. 

  • Lilly

    Lilly, aka, Liza Lee, is a passionate community oral health officer and our lead writer. She's not only well-versed in performing a multitude of dental procedures, including preventive, restorative, and cosmetic, but also an avid writer. Driven by the significant oral health burden all around her, Lilly strives to build capacity and promote oral health. She envisions making a lasting impact by advancing research, prevention, and promotion efforts to alleviate oral health disparities. Please share your views and opinions on my posts.

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