What is the ideal ritual for adequate oral hygiene? Surprisingly, there is no consensus even among dentists and scientists, let alone among the general public. And one of the questions that create heated debates is: flossing or brushing? Or, for that matter, can you replace one with the other?
If you go unprepared to do an internet search, the answers will confuse you. Some people vouch for tooth brushing. Others state that it is quite enough to floss. In this article, we will look at the debate from a strictly medical perspective and use reputable sources of information.
What Does Flossing Do?
When you floss your teeth, you pass a special type of thread between your teeth, dislodging food residues that get stuck in these tight spaces. Flossing is easy and does not take a lot of time. You can use regular dental floss or flossing picks (if you want to use only one hand).
What Does Brushing Do?
With brushing, the toothpaste is spread over the surface of the teeth. Combining the mechanical action of scraping and the chemical effect of the toothpaste formula, food residue and bacteria are removed, and the enamel of the teeth is protected and cleaned.
Which Comes First?
Before we move on to the importance of one over the other, here is another debate to settle: what is the correct order of operations? Should you floss first then brush teeth, or vice-versa?
Most people are used to brushing and then flossing their teeth. However, a study conducted by Oral Health Foundation states that it should be the other way round. As the Chief Executive of the foundation, Dr. Nigel Carter OBE, stated: “Brushing alone only cleans three of the five surfaces of our teeth, so cleaning between them before we pick up our toothbrush is hugely beneficial”.
So, Is Flossing More Important than Brushing?
Now for the sensitive part of the article: flossing or brushing? Most family dentistry practices say, most certainly, you should do both. But this article should give you a clear answer. And this is: proper flossing technique is more efficient than brushing.
However, please note that you should really put effort into flossing and have a dentist teach you how to do it correctly. Why is it so important? The answer is – because tooth brushing never reached between the teeth. And this is where food gets stuck. This is where plaque starts building up.
As you may know, plaque is responsible for far more than the yellow color of the teeth. It can also attack the gum, leading to periodontis (gum disease). It is responsible for halitosis (bad breath).
What Type of Floss Should You Choose?
Finally, let us take a quick look at the various types of dental floss available. The regular floss has the thickness of cotton thread, but it is actually made of nylon. It is available as basic floss or waxed floss. The waxed model is recommended for people with sensitive teeth and gums, as it slides more easily between the teeth.
For people with larges spaces between the teeth, dental tape is the recommended flossing product. It has the same characteristics as regular floss, but it is wider, covering the spaces between the teeth more efficiently.