This story is a part of Show Your Teeth, a package in which Allure examines dental care (or lack thereof) in the U.S. and what we can do at home to better care for our teeth.
What’s your skin-care routine like? Among the cleansers, toners, and serums alone, it’s probably got at least five steps, and you definitely know what order those steps go in. But what about your dental routine? According to dentists, your twice-daily dental routine should actually consist of several steps that go in a very specific order, just as for skin care. But most folks aren’t aware of that or just don’t care to dedicate time to yet another multistep routine (relatable).
As London-based periodontist Reena Wadia hypothesizes to Allure, that’s because skin care often offers immediate results, whereas the rewards of dental care can be more delayed. “The science of skin care has programmed us to strive for instantly visible results that are both flawless and long-lasting,” she says. “While some of the benefits of dental, and especially preventative care, may not be outright visible, they are incredibly impactful for the long term.” Dedicating time to a full dental-care routine (and doing it in the right order, which is actually a thing) is one of the best investments you can make for yourself, according to Wadia.
So, what does an ideal dental-care routine look like? In what order should we be brushing, flossing, and using mouthwash every morning and night? Below, learn the correct dental-care routine order, straight from the horse’s — er, dentist’s — mouth.
1: Start with a rinse in the morning
Many people might use mouthwash as the last step in their routine, but Rob Raimondi, a New York City dentist, recommends rinsing first — morning and night. “When we are sleeping, our salivary glands stop secreting saliva, and opportunistic aerobic bacteria that cause gum disease and cavities increase their activity,” he explains. A mouthwash can take care of that right away. A couple of his favorites are Listerine Zero and The Natural Dentist Healthy Gums Rinse.
Be careful not to use mouthwash immediately after brushing your teeth, by the way. “It will wash away all the ‘good stuff’ in the toothpaste,” Wadia says.
2: Clean between your teeth
It might sound backward, but yes, you’re supposed to floss before you brush your teeth. As Wadia explains, a toothbrush (even when used effectively) can only reach the front and back sides of teeth. Flossing after you brush is certainly better than not flossing at all — she likens no flossing at all to only cleaning one side of a dirty dish and putting it back in the cupboard. That said, it’s best if the floss comes first “so that when you do brush your teeth, the toothpaste can have good access in between the teeth,” says Wadia.