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Rinsing After Brushing Your Teeth: Yea or Nay?

You've probably been rinsing your mouth after brushing your teeth because that's what you've been taught to do. In fact, you've been doing it your entire life and it seems like the right thing to do, but is it?


Toothpaste in mouth after brushing
Toothpaste in mouth after brushing

Recently you've been hearing and seeing a lot of news articles about how you shouldn't rinse after brushing. What? Hold on a moment, that can't be true right? Well it is kind of true... or at least there is some truth to it. However, whether or not it is the best thing to do is certainly up for debate.


We're going to present both sides of the argument, the reasons for rinsing afterwards and also reasons for not rinsing afterwards. There is merit to both sides of the argument and the final decision will be yours to make.


Why you shouldn't rinse after brushing your teeth

The idea for not rinsing your mouth after you finish brushing was popularized by the NHS.

  • Don't rinse with water straight after toothbrushing

  • After brushing, spit out any excess toothpaste.

  • Don't rinse your mouth immediately after brushing, as it'll wash away the concentrated fluoride in the remaining toothpaste.

  • Rinsing dilutes it and reduces its preventative effects.


Every online article that states you shouldn't rinse afterwards were quoting the NHS as the source. As far as we know, the American Dental Association (ADA) has no such recommendations. In fact, the ADA simply leaves it up to you to decide what you want to do with no instructions about rinsing. They do recommend brushing for two minutes twice a day.




You can watch the video on how to brush your teeth by the ADA. Unfortunately there is no mention about what to do with rinsing after you finish.


Is there merit in not rinsing?

The NHS makes a very convincing argument in that rinsing does dilute the preventative effects of fluoride toothpaste. That is an undeniable fact.


The vast majority of fluoride's benefits are due to its topical effect. That means the preventative benefits occur while the fluoride is in direct contact with the teeth. The longer it stays on the teeth, more effective it will be. Consequently, the less time it has to be in contact with the teeth, the less effective it will be.


If you don't rinse out, the fluoride gets to stay on the enamel and work its magic. However if you rinse immediately after brushing, you will wash away all of the residual fluoride on the teeth. That is what the NHS meant when they said it dilutes the preventative effect.


  • Strengthens teeth

  • Repairs teeth

  • Protects teeth

  • Anti-bacterial

  • Anti-sensitivity


Why you should rinse after brushing

As desirable as the benefits from not rinsing out after brushing may be, it does come with quite a few downsides. There are quite a few issues to take into consideration such as its safety and practicality.


Risk of not rinsing

Toothpaste seems straightforward to use because all you do is squirt some on your toothbrush and brush away. However if you take the time to read the label on the packaging, there is a warning in regards to swallowing toothpaste.


Toothpaste warning label about swallowing

Most of the toothpastes have a warning similar to the product label above. It explicitly states that you should get medical help or contact poison control if you accidentally swallow toothpaste.


Brushing with fluoride toothpaste may be helpful in preventing cavities but you need to use it properly. Not swallowing it is the right thing to do because excess fluoride can be harmful.


  • Nausea and vomiting with blood

  • Abdominal pain

  • Diarrhea

  • Weakness

  • Hypocalcemia

  • Muscle tetany of hand and feet

  • Hypotension

  • Bronchospasm

  • Fixed and dilated pupils

  • Hyperkalemia

  • Ventricular arrhythmias and cardiac arrest

  • Loss of body (hypovolemic shock and decreased blood pressure)

  • polyuria resembling diabetes insipidus

  • Acute polyuric renal failure

  • Metabolic and respiratory acidosis

  • Coma and convulsions terminating in death


When you don't rinse after brushing, you risk swallowing the toothpaste which may lead to any of the above symptoms. All of which are not pleasant and potentially hazardous to your health.


If you do decide to rinse, you may not be getting the full fluoride benefit but you at least eliminate the risk of swallowing toothpaste. Rinsing is the safer decision that is foolproof.


Rinsing is more practical

Due to the adverse effects of swallowing fluoride toothpaste, you must continually spit out afterwards if you weren't going to rinse. That is a minor inconvenience if you were at home all day because there is a sink or wastebasket close by.


However if you were heading outside to run errands or go to work, that may not be the most practical choice. You can't walk around outside while spitting out toothpaste every minute. That is not very dignified nor is it considerate to those around you.


If you rinsed out after brushing, you wouldn't run into this problem because you can immediately swallow after rinsing.


The same problem even arises when you brush before going to bed. If you don't rinse out, you can't go straight to bed because there is still toothpaste foaming in your mouth. You would need to wait to finish spitting out everything and then probably go to sleep after half an hour.


You can't sleep right away if you don't rinse so it causes an inconvenience. You don't want to be swallowing toothpaste in your sleep! However if you rinse afterwards you can sleep right away. Therefore it is more practical and more convenient for you to rinse your mouth after using toothpaste.


VERDICT

Either way is acceptable because there is merit in their own respective ways. The decision is ultimately yours to make and you can't really go wrong with either.


With that being said, in our opinion we do believe that you should rinse after brushing your teeth simply because it is more practical. That is if we're talking about routine oral hygiene by brushing twice a day.


Benefits for rinsing afterwards:

  • Minimize risk of swallowing toothpaste.

  • You don't have to keep spitting out toothpaste for the next 30 minutes.

  • You can eat breakfast right away.

  • You can head out to work immediately and don't have to worry about spitting.

  • You can go to sleep immediately and don't have to worry about swallowing it.


Essentially it is of greater inconvenience if you decide to bathe your teeth in toothpaste by trying to maximize the fluoride effect. You have to be close by to a sink or wastebasket so that you can spit the extra toothpaste into it every few minutes.


Nonetheless, we do believe that there is a time and place to not rinse after brushing. That is if you have demineralized teeth or incipient carious lesions. These small cavities or initial stages of tooth decay can be reversed so they do need an extra fluoride boost.


By not rinsing, you allow the fluoride to work longer to help repair the teeth. This is the only time which we believe you should utilize no rinsing afterwards. However if your teeth are perfectly healthy, we don't believe you need to go the extra mile. Your teeth don't need the extra help so why bother?


Our Recommendation:

  • You should rinse after brushing on a daily basis.

  • If you have demineralized teeth and you're trying to remineralize them, you should not rinse after brushing.


That's everything that our dentists in Long Island City have to say about this oral hygiene practice.

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About the author: Dr David Chen, DDS

Hello, I'm Dr Chen and I'm an actively practicing dentist in Long Island City, NY. I graduated from Columbia University College of Dental Medicine in 2016 but prior to going to dental school I was already working in the dental field. It's been more than a decade since I first got to know dentistry and let me tell you, time flies by quickly. Since then I've developed a fondness for writing, which is how this all got started!

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Medical Disclaimer:

This blog is purely meant for information purposes and should not be used as medical advice. Each situation in your mouth is unique and complex. It is not possible to give advice nor diagnose any oral conditions based on text nor virtual consultations. The best thing to do is to go in person to see your dentist for an examination and consultation so that you can receive the best care possible.

The purpose of all of this oral health information is to encourage you to see your dentist and to inform you of what you may expect during your visit. Due to the unfortunate nature of dentistry, there isn't really any true home remedies that will get rid of dental problems. Roughly 99.99% of them require in-person intervention by a healthcare professional.

Hint: That is the reason why you can't eliminate seeing dentists in your life!

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