Should You Rinse After Brushing Your Teeth? What Research Shows – Healthline

Dental Advices Provided to you by: Brite Medical Center
Most of us have had the same routine for brushing our teeth since we were small and first learned the habit: brush, spit, rinse.
But even though it’s natural to have a strong desire to rinse out your mouth with water after brushing, it isn’t always recommended.
Toothpastes that contain fluoride and other ingredients meant to strengthen your tooth enamel might need a bit of extra time on the surface of your teeth for you to get their full benefit.
Let’s cover the pros and cons of rinsing after brushing, so you can decide if it’s time to make a change to your routine.
Fluoride is a mineral that helps prevent tooth decay, among other benefits. Trace amounts of fluoride are found naturally in some of the food that you eat, but it’s also added to drinking water and oral health products to help improve dental health.
Fluoride helps your teeth most when it’s applied directly to your teeth. Fluoride that stays put on your teeth for several minutes provides the greatest benefit.
Conventional wisdom around rinsing your mouth out with water after brushing does have some basis in fact. In general, you’re not supposed to swallow high concentrations of fluoride.
Some dental products contain concentrations of fluoride higher than what’s recommended for you to ingest each day. So the strategy of rinsing your mouth out after brushing became common practice as a way to prevent a significant amount of fluoride ingestion.
There’s also the very real desire to want to replace the strong, minty taste of toothpaste in your mouth with something neutral, like water. Rinsing the taste out of your mouth after brushing is sometimes just fulfilling your body’s urge to get rid of the taste.
Unfortunately, when you rinse immediately after brushing, you’re erasing a lot of the benefit of applying fluoride to your teeth.
Some experts, including the U.K.’s Oral Health Foundation, now recommend spitting out any excess saliva or toothpaste after you’re done brushing as opposed to rinsing your teeth.
Leave the fluoride on your teeth as you go about your day, and try to avoid eating or drinking for 10 minutes or more after brushing is done.
There isn’t a lot of up-to-date research on how long, exactly, to leave the toothpaste on your teeth.
According to the American Dental Association, professional fluoride treatments at the dentist office — which are higher concentrations of fluoride than toothpaste — are applied for several minutes, and then you may be asked not to rinse, eat, or drink for at least 30 minutes afterward. That is so the fluoride can stay on your teeth.
When you brush at home, you may want to also wait before you rinse to maximize the beneficial cavity fighting effect of fluoride.
It’s generally considered safe for most people to ditch the rinse step after brushing their teeth. However, there some side effects to consider.
Ingesting a large amount of any fluoride dental product is not recommended. Ingesting too much fluoride can result in:
However, these side effects are extremely rare when only a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste is used. These side effects also usually only happen when children ingest large amounts of fluoride products meant for adults, or if fluoride products intended for use in the dentist’s office are used inappropriately.
It would be very difficult for a healthy adult to achieve any level of fluoride toxicity simply by swallowing a small amount of toothpaste once in a while.
The American Dental Association now recommends that children under the age of 3 can also use fluoride toothpaste as soon as they get their first tooth.
However, a child’s guardian should only smear a rice grain sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste on the toothbrush, and the child should rinse right after brushing.
The other confusing piece of this is the flossing question. Current guidance recommends that you always rinse your mouth after flossing to flush out the loose bacteria and plaque that might be left in your mouth.
A small 2018 study of dental students showed that flossing before you brush could help solve this problem. Participants in the study who flossed before brushing retained a higher concentration of fluoride after their daily routine.
Mouthwash, also known as oral rinse, is another dental hygiene product. Mouthwash is typically used to freshen your breath, and most formulas contain alcohol.
Certain mouthwash formulas can be used to strengthen tooth enamel and prevent cavities. Unlike brushing, most dental healthcare professionals see mouthwash as an optional step for extra protection.
If you apply mouthwash without fluoride directly after brushing with fluoride toothpaste, you could be rinsing fluoride off your tooth enamel, which would do more harm than good. However, if you’re using a mouthwash that contains enamel-building ingredients, such as fluoride, it may help keep fluoride levels elevated in the mouth after brushing.
There aren’t many clinical studies to compare the outcomes of using mouthwash right after brushing or waiting some time in between.
However, to be on the safe side, you may want to wait around 20 minutes after brushing your teeth to use an oral rinse, especially if it contains alcohol or doesn’t contain fluoride.
There’s not a consensus whether you should rinse out your mouth with water after brushing your teeth, but not rinsing could be beneficial for people who are prone to tooth decay.
Skipping a rinse after you brush and only spitting the toothpaste out is better, because it leaves a fluoride coating on your teeth to help protect against cavities. However, rinsing can be helpful to get rid of plaque after flossing, get the taste of toothpaste out of your mouth, and prevent you from swallowing too much fluoride.
Remember that the most important thing is that you practice good oral hygiene every day. Get your dentist’s opinion if you’re still curious or concerned about whether rinsing will make a big difference.
Last medically reviewed on September 15, 2021
Our experts continually monitor the health and wellness space, and we update our articles when new information becomes available.
Current Version
Sep 15, 2021
Written By
Kathryn Watson
Edited By
Roman Gokhman
Medically Reviewed By
Jennifer Archibald, DDS
Copy Edited By
Jen Anderson
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