There are two kinds of brushers: those who brush their teeth before breakfast, and those who brush them after. But which one is the right way to keep you healthy?
Lifehacker's Burning Questions recently interviewed two dentists on when the right time to brush, floss, and use mouthwash is, finding that the rules for oral hygiene aren't as hard and fast as you might think. (At least, not if you're brushing and flossing regularly to begin with.) According to Lifehacker, if you're asking questions about how best to brush your teeth at all, your dentist probably isn't too worried about you.
As it turns out, it probably doesn't matter whether you brush before or after breakfast. Your teeth will get clean either way. There is, however, a caveat that applies to after-breakfast brushers—if your meal contains orange juice or anything acidic (coffee is fine), dentists recommend waiting 30 minutes after your meal to pick up the toothbrush. Because the acid in food interacts with the enamel on your teeth, you can do microscopic damage to the enamel if you brush right away.
If you're an after-breakfast brusher who is just now hearing about the 30-minute rule, don't panic. While it's a good idea, it's not that big of a deal, according to some dental professionals, like the Kansas-based dentist Grant Richey. As he told Lifehacker, he would never look at a patient with worn-away enamel and say, "Oh, if you just would have waited 30 minutes after drinking that orange juice this wouldn’t have happened."
And as for flossing? In 2016, a bombshell article by the Associated Press reported that scientific studies have yet to prove that flossing is good for you—but that doesn't mean you should skip it. According to organizations like the American Dental Association, the lack of flossing-friendly data may be due to the difficulty of studying it long-term, rather than it not being valuable. Dentists argue that flossing is such a low-cost, low-risk activity that it's worth it to keep doing it twice a day. When in your morning routine you should do it, though, is still an open question.
Basically, there's no real consensus on whether to floss before or after you've brushed. The important thing is that you floss at all, according to dentists like Mark Burhenne, whose website, Ask the Dentist, recommends "you stick with whatever works for you" when it comes to the timing of your flossing.
“Look, as long as you are brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, and flossing or using another interdental cleaner twice a day, you’re good to go,” Alice Boghosian, a spokesperson for the American Dental Association, told Lifehacker. “God bless people if they feel comfortable flossing after they brush, as long as they’re cleaning between their teeth once a day.”
As for mouthwash, it's not totally necessary to maintain oral health, as Boghosian said. It's more for making your breath smell good. Therefore, it makes sense to do it last so your mouth stays minty fresh as long as possible. Plus, it can help remove plaque on those days when you forget to floss.