I used to rinse after brushing my teeth -- and even went back over them with a wet toothbrush -- to remove any remnants of toothpaste left in my mouth. But then I found out from a dentist's TikTok video that doing this isn't the most effective method.
Instead, I now spit out as much toothpaste as I can without swishing with water so I can allow the toothpaste to do its job just a little longer. However, I wasn't sure why I was doing this -- or what the benefits were -- until I spoke with an expert.
I talked to Dr. Edmond Hewlett, consumer advisor for the American Dental Association and a professor at UCLA School of Dentistry, to find out why you shouldn't rinse your mouth with water after brushing your teeth. Here's the answer. For more tips, here's why you should floss before brushing your teeth.
Why you should skip rinsing with water after brushing your teeth
Fluoride is an important ingredient in toothpaste that helps make the enamel harder and more resistant to acids that cause cavities. Hewlett says it's the most well-established effective ingredient in toothpaste, so make sure yours has fluoride in it.
When you brush your teeth, you're cleaning any film and bacteria from food and sugary drinks. When you go a step further and skip rinsing, you're leaving the fluoride from the toothpaste in your mouth for a longer time, giving you a better effect from the fluoride.
Wait at least 15 minutes after brushing to drink water. After brushing your teeth, Hewlett explains, your saliva will clear the toothpaste out so you won't taste it all day.
What if you've been rinsing all your life?
If you're just finding out about this tip, you may be thinking you've been undoing all your hard work of brushing every day. But that's not true. Hewlett says as long as you brush the standard two times a day for two minutes each time, the fluoride will remain in your mouth to help protect your teeth.
You're still doing what you need to do to have good oral health to protect your teeth. The idea of not rinsing is just an extra step to help the fluoride be even more effective.
"When you measure a person's fluoride levels in saliva, if they don't rinse, there's more fluoride," Hewlett said. But it's not going to be a waste of your time if you do rinse. He said research is still being done to determine the difference it makes in the long term to prevent cavities.
Your dental health also plays a role
There are different risk levels for getting cavities per person, Hewlett said.
"If you typically don't get cavities, then you should continue using fluoride toothpaste. The decision to rinse or not to rinse after brushing probably won't make a difference."
On the other hand, for those who struggle with cavities, not rinsing is probably a better decision. Additionally, you should get help from your dentist to find out why you're getting cavities regularly -- for instance, it could be your eating habits, snacking on sugary foods or not brushing your teeth regularly. If you're at higher risk for cavities, you should do everything you can to help prevent them.
Is it OK to use mouthwash to rinse your teeth after brushing?
Most mouthwashes contain less fluoride than toothpaste, so rinsing with mouthwash right after brushing can wash away the concentrated fluoride from your teeth. Instead, opt for using mouthwash at another time, like after lunch or coffee.
More tooth brushing tips
Here are some additional tips for keeping your oral health up to par.
- Always use a soft bristle toothbrush, and never medium or hard. Hewlett says anything but soft can increase the risk of gum recession.
- It doesn't matter if you floss before or after you brush your teeth, as long as you floss once a day to remove plaque and stuck food.
- You don't have to aggressively brush your teeth to get them clean. While scrubbing your dishes with extra force may make them extra clean, it's not necessary for your teeth and can also lead to gum recession.
- Gently brush along the gum line with a soft bristle brush to help prevent gum disease.
- Always consult with your dentist for personalized advice. They understand what your oral health profile looks like.
For more, here's the best time to brush your teeth in the morning.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.