Brush, Floss, Mouthwash – The Right Order

Ever wonder what is the correct order to brush, floss, and use mouthwash? It’s actually a great question to be thinking about because the order is of utmost importance.

To understand the correct order, we must first learn about the purpose of each of them in dental hygiene and some basics of teeth care.

Why We Do It


The regular use of floss removes plaque in areas that a tooth brush cannot reach. This will help prevent the buildup of plaque, which if left unchecked will lead to tarter.

When you floss your teeth, you are removing excess food particles that is not visible with the naked eye. Food particles that are not removed will allow bacteria to fester and form into plaque. By removing the little bits and pieces of food between your teeth, you prevent bacteria from taking seed.


Many people use mouthwash because they think it gets rid of bad breath. True to a certain degree, but false in many other respects.

Mouthwash is great for killing bacteria in areas of the mouth that you don’t typically brush. Of course, an upshot of using mouthwash is that it often leaves a good taste in your mouth. However, the reason it helps to get rid of bad breath is because it helps destroy bacteria in the mouth that lead to bad breath.


The purpose of brushing your teeth is two-fold.

  1. To remove particles on or between your teeth mechanically (albeit it’s not particularly good at removing the stuff in between, thus the reason for flossing).
  2. To apply whatever toothpaste or dentifrice you’re using onto your teeth and gums.

Now I don’t want you take point number 1 as a reason to start forcefully scrubbing at your teeth. Don’t do that. In fact, you’re damaging your teeth by doing so. Make sure that you brush gently with the correct brushing technique.

In regards to applying the right toothpaste, research has shown that fluoride, the active ingredients in many toothpastes, is great for the teeth. But you may be brushing all wrong and you may be buying toothpaste with the wrong type of fluoride in it.

How Fluoride Works

Fluoride is a chemical ion that can make your teeth stronger and prevent cavities. It can even reverse early tooth decay.

To work, though, it needs time. Tooth enamel is composed of a crystal called hydroxyapatite. This crystal is in constant stable equilibrium in your saliva. However in certain conditions (often after eating sugary foods or acidic foods), this equilibrium is lost and can result in demineralization. Caries are simply when this balance of demineralization and remineralization is out of whack and demineralization prevails.

When fluoride is present in your saliva, it forms another crystalline structure called fluorapatite instead of hydroxylapatite. Fluorapatite is stronger and less likely to undergo demineralization even in poor oral conditions. In fact it strongly bolsters the remineralization process.

So as you can see, it is beneficial to have fluoride sitting around in your saliva and giving time for this process to work.

Stannous Fluoride – The Secret Weapon

Now that you know how fluoride works, you can see its importance in teeth health. However, the fluoride found in many toothpastes does not have antibacterial properties. Therefore, it won’t actually help much in fighting plaque.

However, there is a form of fluoride, called stannous fluoride, that is actually really good at fighting plaque. It was used frequently in the past but it fell out of favor because it caused staining. Fortunately, with modern technology and stabilizing compounds, the staining side effects are largely not a big issue anymore.

In particular, Colgate’s Total SF has a patented compound that works particularly well with preventing staining and even making your teeth look cleaner.

Colgate Total SF
This toothpaste contains stannous fluoride and has Colgate’s patented zinc phosphate. This is by far the best toothpaste that you can get and it is not just marketing hype. It is affordable and effective.

Returning Back to the Correct Order

So now that you know the basics, what is the right order?

  1. Floss
  2. Mouthwash
  3. Brush your teeth

Floss first to remove any food particles between your teeth. Next use mouthwash to kill any germs that you won’t get with brushing your teeth. Finally brush your teeth with a stannous fluoride toothpaste and do NOT rinse your mouth. You do not want to rinse out the fluoride or else you are getting rid of many of its benefits. This is why brushing your teeth should almost always be last in the process.

Alternatively, you can also floss last. However, what I found in my journey with fighting gingivitis was that flossing made my gums bleed. After I flossed, I needed to rinse my mouth out at least 2-3 times to stop the bleeding (and as such I would rinse the fluoride away). So I therefore got into the habit of flossing first.

Table of Recommended Dental Care Products

Below you will see a table of the products that I recommend the most for taking care of your teeth. You can also read more about the importance of each one in my dental care essentials post.

  • Contains stannous fluoride
  • Bottle with Pump
  • Tropical Fruit Flavor – mediocre, but it works
  • Does not contain alcohol
  • MedicalGeeker Rating 9.7/10

    58 user ratings

    Colgate Total SF
  • Contains stannous fluoride
  • Contains Colgate’s patented zinc phosphate
  • Contains hydrated silica to fight extrinsic stains
  • Great Price
  • MedicalGeeker Rating 9.9/10

    637 user ratings

    Fairywill Electric Toothbrush
  • ADA certified
  • 5 High-performance brushing modes
  • Very inexpensive
  • 2 Minute smart timer
  • MedicalGeeker Rating 9.8/10

    7,907 user ratings

    Waterpik Water Flosser
  • Easy and effective
  • ADA seal of acceptance
  • Comes with 7 separate tips
  • Multiple color options
  • MedicalGeeker Rating 9.7/10

    23,248 user ratings

    So..go and make your teeth and gum happy!