Should I be rinsing my mouth with water after I brush?

Updated August 19, 2016

Everyone rinses their mouth with water after brushing their teeth, don’t they? How else are you supposed to get rid of that strong minty taste and clear your mouth of leftover toothpaste? Well, rinsing your mouth after brushing may not be the right thing to do. In actual fact, if you do rinse out your mouth with water after brushing, you are getting rid of the fluoride from your mouth, which protects your teeth. Fluoride remineralizes your enamel, helps young children develop their adult teeth and decreases the acid production of plaque.

So, if fluoride does all of this good stuff, then why would you want to wash it out of your mouth with water? As with everything there are two sides to the argument, let’s look at them both.

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Argument 1: Why you should not rinse your mouth with water after brushing?

As we’ve already mentioned, rinsing with water after brushing flushes away the fluoride that is so beneficial to your teeth. However, the majority of people brush their teeth for less than a minute, which doesn’t give the fluoride toothpaste very much time to work on your teeth. If you don’t rinse, then the fluoride has more time to get to work protecting your teeth. The result? Healthier, cleaner teeth which are less prone to cavities.

Argument 2: Why you should rinse your mouth with water after brushing?

The rinsers out there will tell you that ingesting toothpaste will harm your stomach and cause irritations. They will also tell you that you must rinse out your mouth after brushing in order to wash away all of that bacteria that came off your teeth during brushing. This makes as much sense as the argument for not rinsing with water after brushing, so what should you do?

What does science say?

A study conducted on the factors relating to fluoride retention after brushing, confirms that there “might be a relation between the caries activity and the retention of fluoride after toothbrushing, and that mouth rinsing 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.” It seems that not rinsing with water after brushing leads to less cavities occurring.

But wait!

Another study conducted over three years on the effect of post-brush rinsing behavior on dental caries revealed “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 the scientists can’t agree on this one either.

The big question: to rinse or not to rinse?

If you do choose to rinse your mouth, should you be rinsing with cold, warm, or hot water? Does it make a difference? It really does not matter what temperature the water is when you rinse your mouth unless you have a sensitivity. Some people have sensitive teeth and are very aware if the water is hot or cold. For these individuals, rinsing with a warm water is the best option.

A better recommendation instead of stating whether one should or should not rinse after brushing should be to use less toothpaste. Toothpaste, like soap, suds up when it interacts with your teeth and water. If you want less toothpaste slurry in your mouth after you are done brushing, reduce the amount of toothpaste on your brush. For example, if you normally place an entire line the length of your brush, cut that amount in half and only use a line over half your brush. This way you will not create the suds and will not need to rinse after you spit out the last bit of toothpaste from brushing. Just wipe your mouth of excess on the sides, and away you go.

If you do not like the taste of the toothpaste and that is your primary reason for rinsing your mouth with water, then try a bunch of different toothpaste to see which one fits your individual style better. There are many flavored versions out there that you may like better than your current toothpaste. Most common on the market are mint toothpastes, but there are other toothpastes on the market such as cinnamon, orange, chamomile, and bubble gum.

Another factor may be whether you are using a paste toothpaste or a gel toothpaste. One does not suds up as much as the other, requiring you to use less water. If you have not tried this, experiment a little and see whether you like a paste or a gel tooth cleaner better. When looking at the ingredient list on a tube of toothpaste, you are looking to see whether the cleaner has surfactants listed. A surfactant is going to be listed as sodium lauryl sulfate and this is the chemical that creates the suds when you are brushing. If you find a toothpaste that does not have this ingredient, you will have much less suds and no need to rinse with water after brushing.

For people who do not like all the chemicals in their toothpaste, there are natural toothpastes on the market such as Tom’s Toothpaste of Maine. Genuine toothpastes are made from natural ingredients such as ginger oil or seaweed extracts. They do not contain all the excess chemicals in most toothpastes. Make sure you do purchase a natural toothpaste with fluoride included as this ingredient is necessary for strong enamel and to prevent tooth decay.

If you are at higher risk of cavities than the average person then don’t rinse. Keeping more fluoride in your mouth for longer can only be beneficial. But remember to brush your teeth for at least the recommended two minutes. This will give the fluoride more time to do its job.

On the other hand, if you don’t overeat sugar, don't have bad crowns or fillings, bad oral hygiene or lots of cavity-causing bacteria then it’s not going to make a big difference whether you rinse or not as your teeth are not as susceptible to cavities in the first place.

The choice is yours! 

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