Should You Rinse After Brushing Your Teeth?

Should You Rinse After Brushing Your Teeth?

Should You Rinse Your Mouth After Brushing Your Teeth?
©Subbotina Anna/

Are you supposed to rinse after brushing your teeth?  That’s a common question that people have about brushing.

At the Maine Dental Association meeting last year, a presenter was talking about the benefits of fluoride and asked his dental audience the following question:

“Does anybody here actually rinse out with water after brushing so that they rinse away the tooth-protecting fluoride?!?”

He said it in a tone that let you know that you would feel like a complete idiot if you raised your hand.  Although I do rinse out with water, I didn’t dare raise my hand!  From my vantage point, it looked like only two or three hands were raised out of the hundreds of dentists that were present.

Does that one dentist’s opinion mean that everyone should stop rinsing out with water after they brush their teeth?  No.  In fact, there are valid arguments on both sides of this issue.

Before I discuss whether or not you should rinse out with water after brushing your teeth, let’s take a look at both sides of the argument and some supporting studies.

The Reason Behind Not Rinsing with Water After You Brush Your Teeth

Should You Rinse After Brushing?As I pointed out above, if you rinse with water after brushing your teeth, then you are rinsing away the benefits that fluoride provides to your teeth.

Since most people only brush for somewhere around a minute, the fluoridated toothpaste doesn’t spend much time in contact with the teeth.  By not rinsing out after you’re done brushing, you give the fluoride more time to protect your teeth, which could translate to healthier teeth with fewer cavities.

This theory has been backed by research.

This study concluded that:

…there might be a relation between the caries activity and the retention of fluoride after toothbrushing, and that mouthrinsing with water after the brushing should be reduced to a minimum in order to get the maximum beneficial effect of the daily fluoride exposure through the dentifrice.

Even rinsing with a tiny amount of water and making a mouthwash out of the toothpaste left in your mout after brushing has been shown to be effective.  The textbook Dental Caries by Fejerskov states that “Clinical studies in which some of the participants have been taught to use a small volume of water and the toothpaste slurry left after brushing as a ‘mouthrinse’ have demonstrated that further reductions in caries are achievable. A 26% reduction in the incidence of approximal caries has been claimed for this method.”

Approximal caries is just a fancy way of saying “cavities between two teeth” (but hey, saying it like that wouldn’t have sounded as intelligent!)

It would appear from these academic sources that not rinsing or minimal rinsing with water after brushing can help prevent cavities from occurring.

The Reason Behind Rinsing with Water After You Brush Your Teeth

Many people who rinse after brushing say things like:

– Swallowing toothpaste will irritate your stomach.

– You need to rinse after brushing so you an rinse away all of the bacteria that you just brushed off of your teeth.

If you’re like me, you’ve been rinsing out with water after you brush for your whole life and you don’t feel like it’s really affected your life for the worse.  For example, Yahoo Answers user Just Me, recently stated the following about her brushing habits:

i always rinse after brushing…and not 2 brag…but i have really nice teeth!! idk good luck!! 🙂

If you’re never had a problem with your teeth and you rinse after brushing, is there really a reason to change what you’re doing?  Probably not, especially when you take a look at studies that contradict the studies above.

This study consisted of a clinical trial that lasted for three years and included 407 children.  It emphatically states:

Previous studies have indicated that rinsing the mouth with a beaker of water after toothbrushing may compromise the caries reducing effect of fluoride toothpaste.

It is concluded that post-brushing rinsing with water, under the conditions of this study, does not significantly affect the caries reducing effect of a fluoride toothpaste.

It looks like there is some scientific disagreement on whether or not rinsing with water after brushing really does improve oral health.

Should You Rinse Out With Water After Brushing Your Teeth?

I think the reason that there is some disagreement on this subject is because not rinsing after brushing appears to be only beneficial if you are at a high risk of getting cavities.

How at risk are you for cavities?  Here’s 25 things that make you more likely to get cavities.

Personally, I rinse out after brushing my teeth.  From time-to-time, I will use a fluoride mouth wash or simply put some new toothpaste into my mouth and use that as a mouth wash.  After brushing, I spit and then rinse.

If at your most recent dental checkup you were informed that you have some incipient lesions (small cavities that are just starting), then perhaps not rinsing your mouth out after you brush could help heal those small cavities and get you a clean bill of oral health at your next visit.

Do you have any questions regarding whether or not you should rinse out after brushing?  I’d love to hear what you have to say — simply leave a comment below.  Thanks for reading!


  1. Hi,
    Interesting article.
    If we do not rinse what happens to the general debris that is in the mouth?
    Would it be best to advice people to rinse their mouths well prior to brushing?
    As a nurse I want to know what is the best advice to give my patients.
    I have always rinsed.
    Thanks Sheila.

  2. I am gaining on 60 and have always rinsed (weren’t those the instructions on old tubes of toothpaste? Or am I thinking of shampoo?) Recently as I become “longer in the tooth” and more tooth is exposed I began using a toothpaste that is supposed to protect that area of the tooth and actually rebuild it. It has more flouride. I read the tube to see if it instructed me to rinse or not and it didn’t. Knowing that my children had had a flouride rinse in school or had treatments at the dentist which required them NOT to rinse or drink for a bit I was curious and hence have been reading. I find that even not intending to rinse now I still will find that I have inadventantly rinsed! Habits. Sometimes I rinse before brushing. Then brush and don’t rinse.

  3. To be fair, it isn’t as if Americans are the only loud talkers. I never say anything to anyone, because I know what it’s like to be in a foreign country, and have people act rudely toward you. Oftentimes, I hear people speaking in foreign languages here, and they seem so much louder. I don’t know if it’s just because my brain is picking up on the different sound, but it can be quite annoying. Also, I work at a hotel, and the foreign people that come in do have a tendency to yell. I don’t really mind, because I was told several times to basically shut the hell up in Russia (my voice carries wayyy too much), but strangely enough they tend to be the loudest when they visit America. I don’t know, just my narrow-minded American opinion. Lol! I really enjoyed reading about your theory on the way we talk, though. It makes a lot of sense.

    • whoops, commented on the wrong page. Ugh, it was such a well thought out response too. I wish my computer were working. Thanks for the dentistry advice though, I was actually really curious about what I should do.

    • I have been wondering whats best to do rinse or not rinse, I only been a couple years that I have been rinsing I started because I felt that I was sensitive to the sodium lauryl sulfate in the toothpaste this is a heavy duty cleanser that didnt feel healthy leaving In my mouth after brushing, its surprising that dentists are not concerned about overall health not just cavities and dont think what chemicals are staying in your system from toothpaste

    • i have had white american friends that kept asking me why in the world black people speak loud?evntho i am not american i have noticed the same thing,some foreigners that are living in the us are loud, however, every foreigner is not loud just like every american is not the same.Hope you get my point.

  4. I would imagine that by not rinsing and simply expectorating as much as you can out, you probably remove 99% or more of the typical chemicals in toothpaste that could be harmful (including triclosan shown to be associated with male infertility), but still leave a film of fluoride on the surfaces of your teeth. So I would think you retain the benefit of fluoride with minimal, if any, residual chemicals in your mouth. As far as leaving bacteria behind in your mouth, again, since most of the fluid from brushing is expectorated (maybe 99%+), the bacteria that were stripped off from the teeth during the process of brushing would be 99%+ gone. You can’t get rid of all bacteria no matter how hard you try. Just like when you bathe, the bacterial load on your skin drops several orders of magnitude, but the bacteria grow right back at an exponential rate. In some ways, by not rinsing, the residual triclosan in your mouth may also help to eradicate additional bacteria, especially in those hard to reach places like between 2 teeth or behind your furthest back molars.

    In the end, if you really feel the need to rinse, just do it. But after you rinse, consider putting a dab of toothpaste back on your brush for one more quick round and after expectorating as much as you can out after the second brush, leave the residual saliva in your mouth without rinsing. That’s probably the best method if you don’t mind spending an extra minute brushing.

  5. Fluoride has ZERO benefit after a young age and it’s truly debatable whether it helps at all. Fluoride is toxic. It should be taken out of water and toothpaste.

    I stopped using fluoride toothpaste years ago and I’ve actually had less (zero) cavities than when I was using it. Healthy teeth come down to a healthy diet. All the crap (this includes seemingly “healthy” processed foods) we eat cause cavities.

  6. Floss, mouthwash, brush, spit out, brush tongue, then tongue scrape and spit out again. Has worked for me, no cavaities in over 20 yrs

  7. So what’s the problem? I wouldn’t think of brushing without rinsing afterward to remove the bacteria I just cleaned off my teeth, tongue, and gums. With Water. 2-3 times minimum. However, if you’re cavity prone and using the product to reduce cavities, it would seem prudent to then do one final rinse…with the product. Personally, I doubt I could stand the taste and would end up rinsing with water once again. So where would you stop? Seems like a lot of waste of both product and water, especially when it looks like the studies contradict each other. And a hundred years from now, what difference will it have made anyway?

  8. This is an interesting read on the rinsing after brushing your teeth. I usually don’t rinse, but I’ve noticed that they do have you rinse at the dentist so I wasn’t sure if it was necessary. I’m not especially prone to cavities but since rinsing isn’t essential I’ll just keep going with my normal routine.

  9. There should not be 2 sides of the story when it comes to rinsing or not rinsing after brushing your teeth!!!!!!
    All my life I brush and rinse because of bacteria then I brush again only with a small amount of toothpaste, then I just spit out the saliva which contains the fluoride even though my teeth are still coated which the actual toothpaste………..PROBLEM SOLVED

  10. I liked very much your job at looking for scientific data on this. I just searched for this subject because I was in doubt. I rinsed all my life and the cavities I had in the past were due to sloppy care. I have had almost none for over 20 years now. I would like to add that there is a very important topic to support rinsing that was not touched in your post and some replies have — the toxidity of chemicals present in toothpast. A very important reason for rinsing — one does not want to prevent cavities at the cost of developing cancer.
    Alvaro from Brazil

    • Alvaro, I’m so glad to find this article, and more than this, to read your comment. I am also from Brazil. I rinsed all my life too. I had an American boyfriend and I was chocked the first time I watched him brushing his teeth and not rinsing with water. I thought it was a mistake – his mistake – but then I realized that none of my American friends used to rinse the mouth with water after brushing their teeth. I tried some arguments with my ex, talking about the bacterias that were still in his mouth. He told me: “that makes sense”, but kept going with his habits. Only today I decided to read something about the subject. Well, now I can see both sides, but I will always rinse, for sure.

  11. After a mouth sore that won’t heal, I wrote Crest Pro Health and they told me that mouth sores and sloughing off of skin on the inside cheeks has been reported by many users and to change toothpaste and BE SURE TO FULLY rinse after brushing.

    I never rinsed but would spit really well and have started to rinse slightly to see if that helped my mouth sore.

  12. I appreciate your information on rinsing after brushing my teeth. I don’t often rinse out my mouth after brushing, but I often get a drink of water, which does the same thing. Anyway, I have been told all the time that I have been ruining my teeth brushing by doing this. It is nice to know that it probably doesn’t really matter.

  13. I always rinse out and here’s the reason.

    The vast majority of proprietary brands of toothpaste contain Sodium Saccharine, to which I am allergic.

    My old dentist told me not to rinse, knew I was allergic to Sodium Saccharine, but didn’t point out the problem. If you leave the toothpaste in your mouth traces of Sodium Saccharine run down your throat.

    In my case, it caused a rash in my throat, which was initially suspected to be throat cancer. Thankfully the specialist I saw recognised the problem as an allergic reaction during a nasendoscopy, asked if I suffered from gastritis (which I do) and checked my allergy list. Bingo!

    So my advice is, check what you allergic to, or at least intolerant to, and check the label of the toothpaste, rinse out, and change your brand if you need to.

  14. Hi Tom.I’m 12, and after being on your site for 20~30 min.
    I’ve Lern a lot of things I didn’t now befor.
    You did a lot of good gob!

    Have a great day!

  15. I have had to draw up my own game plan. I have had many fillings. I brush, use mouthwash and then back up with a Water Pik .I also follow up a couple times a week with dental floss. Until dental science comes up with a good Vaccine against Strep Mutans and a couple other bacteria.; we are all fighting a losing battle. I seems as though the dental industry and all the other adjunct industries do not want to see carries beaten. We will still have to keep using primitive methods. We seem to be able to lick a lot of other sickness but this complex one. Roger Stewart MT(ASCP)

  16. What if you just gargle mouthwash then brush then not rinse after brushing? That should work 99% of the fluoride right?

  17. If a person is dead-tired one particular evening, and so can’t floss and brush their teeth before going to sleep – but they intend to floss and brush immediately on awakening – which of these two would be the best alternative to use before going to bed: 1) Rinse with Listerine or 2) Rinse with a fluoridated mouthwash?

  18. I always rinse after brushing my teeth because I don’t like the feel of all of that toothpaste still in my mouth. Plus, rinsing doesn’t take the good smell of fresh breath away. It just gets a good amount of the leftover residue out of your mouth. And you are still left with clean smelling breath!

Leave a Reply