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!