From the time you were a young child, you were likely taught to brush your teeth well at least twice a day, swishing and spitting with water when you’re done. But some people say that doing so diminishes the benefits of good dental hygiene. So, should you rinse after brushing teeth?
While it’s certainly not the end of the world if you wash your mouth out after brushing, there are some reasons to consider skipping this step. Here’s how to get the best results from your dental hygiene.
The Importance of Proper Dental Hygiene
While taking care of your teeth and gums might not seem as significant as other health aspects like your blood pressure or heart health, oral hygiene is actually an essential part of maintaining your overall health.
Your mouth contains a plethora of bacteria, some good and some potentially harmful. And since it is the primary entry place to your digestive and respiratory tracts, a “dirty” mouth could make it easier for disease-causing bacteria to enter either of those systems, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Fortunately, your body’s immune system fights off many germs naturally, but adequate oral hygiene, such as regular brushing and flossing, also helps to keep them from getting out of control. It also prevents bacteria from causing tooth decay, gum disease and oral infections, as you probably know if you’ve ever seen a single toothpaste commercial
Mayo Clinic further warns that poor oral health can contribute to several serious health conditions, including:
- Endocarditis, an infection of the inner lining of your heart chambers or valves, which typically occurs when certain bacteria spread through the bloodstream.
- Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease, clogged arteries and stroke, which may be linked to inflammation and infections caused by oral bacteria.
- Pregnancy and birth complications.
- Pneumonia, which can be caused by certain bacteria traveling from the mouth into the lungs.
Now that we know why taking care of your mouth is so important — beyond having a nice smile and pleasant breath — let’s get back to the question at hand.
Should You Rinse After Brushing Teeth?
According to the American Dental Association, there are several steps to brushing your teeth properly. You should begin with a soft-bristled toothbrush that fits your mouth comfortably. Holding the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gums, you should begin moving it back and forth gently in short strokes, covering one tooth in each stroke.
Move between the outer, inner and chewing surfaces of the teeth, tilting the toothbrush vertically and using up-and-down strokes on the inside surfaces. The ADA says to brush for two minutes twice a day.
After brushing, spit out any excess toothpaste. But, following that step, should you rinse after brushing teeth?
The Oral Health Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving oral health and wellbeing around the world, says rinsing after brushing teeth is one of the primary mistakes people make in terms of oral health care. The organization discovered in a study that 62% of adults rinse after brushing, which can make you more prone to developing tooth decay.
“Rinsing our mouth with water is very bad for our teeth as it washes away the protective fluoride left behind by brushing,” said Dr. Nigel Carter OBE, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation. “Fluoride is the single most important ingredient in toothpaste. It greatly helps oral health by strengthening the tooth enamel, making it more resistant to tooth decay. It also reduces the amount of acid that the bacteria on your teeth produce.”
In addition, it’s a good idea to avoid eating or drinking anything at night after brushing.
Should You Use Mouthwash?
Although it’s not necessary for healthy teeth and gums, using mouthwash can be a beneficial part of your hygiene routine. For instance, when added to regular flossing and brushing, rinsing with antiseptic mouthwash has been shown to significantly reduce plaque and gingivitis.
However, it is important to use mouthwash the right way. Rinsing with mouthwash prior to brushing allows you to enjoy the features of the product you want, such as fresh breath or whiter teeth, without washing away the fluoride that your toothpaste provides. You can also opt to swish and spit with mouthwash in between brushing so that it doesn’t negate the benefits of toothpaste.
Other Toothbrushing Tips
While experts warn against rinsing after brushing your teeth, there are other things you can incorporate into your dental hygiene routine to have the healthiest teeth, gums and body possible.
For instance, the ADA recommends cleaning between teeth once a day to help eliminate plaque, food particles and bacteria in those spaces and under the gum line that your toothbrush bristles can’t reach.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises rinsing your toothbrush after brushing, allowing it to air-dry and storing it in an upright position to prevent the spread of germs.
Replace your toothbrush every three to four months or sooner, if the bristles wear out, or brushing will not be as effective. Eating a balanced diet without a lot of sugary beverages and snacks will promote a healthy mouth, as well. Of course, you should also visit a dentist regularly to prevent and treat oral diseases.