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Should You Rinse After Brushing Your Teeth?

Should You Rinse After Brushing?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

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!


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5 Comments |  Leave A Comment

  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

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About Me

Tom, Creator of Oral AnswersHi, I'm Tom. I recently graduated from dental school and am now a dentist in Bridgewater, Virginia. I started this blog to help people take better care of their teeth. You can learn more about me or ask me a question.

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