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Teeth Brushing vs. Flossing - When To Brush and When To Floss

Armen Hareyan's picture
Tooth brushing vs tooth flossing

We have all been told by our dentists to brush and floss our teeth twice daily. However, it's easy to convince ourselves that flossing isn't necessary and brushing alone is sufficient. To floss or not to floss seems to always be the question! Is it really as beneficial as brushing? Which is better for our oral health?


To settle teeth brushing vs teeth flossing dispute, Dr. Ron Beasley of StoneCreek Dental Care breaks down the differences between brushing and flossing to determine the true victor of this oral-health battle royale.

Cleaning the Surface of Teeth

The flat, outer surfaces of your teeth are the most visible and show signs of decay if not cared for properly. After you eat, tiny microscopic food particles cling to the surface of your teeth, and attract harmful bacteria that feast on your “leftovers.” Over time, these harmful bacteria can build up and form a sticky film we know as plaque – a leading cause of tooth decay. Gently brushing at a 45-degree angle will help remove the food particles and bacteria from the surface of your teeth, and prevent the build-up of plaque. Flossing, unfortunately, simply cannot compete with the surface-cleaning ability of a toothbrush.
Winner – Brushing

Removing Food Debris between Teeth

Unbeknownst to some, bacteria doesn’t just live on the surface of the teeth. When you chew, food particles permeate the tight gaps and crevices between your teeth and gets lodged – sometimes deeply. While brushing effectively removes debris from the surface of the teeth, the bristles cannot penetrate these hard-to-reach areas. Thankfully, floss easily slides in between the teeth to remove trapped food particles and bacteria, and prevent the formation of plaque.
Winner – Flossing

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Freshening Breath

Halitosis, commonly known as “bad breath,” is frequently caused by poor oral hygiene. Bacteria feasting on leftover food particles in the mouth produce a foul-smelling byproduct – sulfur compounds. Bad breath can also be caused by dry mouth, which occurs when the flow of saliva decreases. Saliva plays a pivotal role in helping remove food particles that start a chain reaction toward an unpleasant odor. For many, a dirty tongue is a breeding ground for bacteria and is often the biggest bad-breath offender. While floss can reach where the toothbrush cannot, brushing the tongue is a much better way to resolve this unwanted, yet prevalent issue.
Winner – Brushing

Preventing Gingivitis

Gingivitis, the first stage of gum disease, is an inflammation of the gums caused by the buildup of tartar (calcified plaque) on the gum line. If left untreated, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis – a more severe form of gum disease in which the gums separate from the teeth and form pockets that harbor bacteria. This is a serious concern, because this bacteria not only destroys the teeth, but also the surrounding tissues and supportive structures in the mouth. Brushing up to the gum line can help prevent gingivitis, but flossing (using proper technique) allows you to more easily reach the areas near the gums that are most susceptible to the formation of gingivitis.
Winner – Flossing

Avoiding Major Health Concerns

Did you know that harmful bacteria in the mouth can travel through the bloodstream to other areas of the body, causing inflammation and other health concerns? Poor oral health is highly correlated with more serious health issues like heart disease and diabetes. Considering this, it’s extremely important to brush AND floss daily to stay healthy.
Winner – It’s a Draw!

The final verdict on tooth brushing vs tooth flossing
Flossing and brushing are equally important in maintaining good oral health. Simply brushing is not enough, and flossing alone is also insufficient. It is also crucial to make and keep your regular dental appointments for a deep cleaning, and so your dentist can detect and treat any potential issues early.