Never Do This After Brushing Your Teeth, Dentists Warn


As far as daily duties go, it's hard to think of anything as important as making sure to brush your teeth. And it's not just about cavities and fighting bad breath: Staying on top of your oral hygiene can also affect your overall health too. But if you want to get the most out of brushing your teeth, dentists warn you should always avoid one thing when you're finished. Read on to see what seemingly harmless habit could be bad news for your mouth.

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Dentists say you shouldn't rinse your mouth with water after brushing your teeth.

Scrubbing your teeth in the morning or at night can be a quick way to feel fresh and clean. But if you've been reaching for a water cup to help rinse out excess toothpaste, you could unwittingly be doing some dental damage.

"Rinsing our mouth with water is very bad for our teeth as it washes away the protective fluoride left behind by brushing," according to Nigel Carter, BDS, 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."

Essentially, while your post-brush gargling may not be causing cavities itself, you're not doing your mouth any favors. "By spitting toothpaste out then not rinsing with water, it ensures that the fluoride found in the majority of toothpastes will remain on the teeth and continue to be effective," Carter explains.

You should also wait 20 to 30 minutes to use certain kinds of mouthwash after brushing.

According to a 2016 survey conducted by the Oral Health Foundation, rinsing with water after brushing is quite popular: 62 percent of respondents—or nearly two in three people—reported it as part of their routine, while just 23 percent spit correctly without using water. But it also found that 14 percent of respondents chose to rinse and spit with mouthwash immediately after brushing.

"It may also be surprising to some, but using mouthwash directly after brushing is also bad for our teeth as it also rinses away fluoride," Carter explained.

Waiting 20 minutes to switch to swishing mouthwash after brushing is a good idea if you want to get the full effect of fluoride on your teeth—especially if it contains alcohol, Healthline suggests. The one exception is using mouthwash that contains fluoride as an ingredient, which can help keep fluoride levels in the mouth elevated even after a rinse.

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Some dentists argue rinsing can help remove bacteria from the mouth after brushing.

However, some dentists argue that there's more to cleaning your teeth than letting fluoride do its job, suggesting that rinsing could potentially serve an essential function in oral hygiene.

"It's a good idea [to rinse], as there's bacteria in the toothpaste after brushing," Michaela Tozzi, DMD, a dentist in Las Vegas who specializes in oral hygiene and cosmetic dentistry, tells health and wellness website Well+Good. "Rinse long enough so there's no residue remaining in your mouth. Water is fine, but if you prefer mouthwash, use a non-alcohol-based rinse."

But the routine is slightly different for anyone using specific toothpastes such as "fluoride for sensitivity and enamel strength." In that case, you should brush, rinse with water, and spit before reapplying toothpaste directly with your finger and spitting again. "Do the same with a calcium-based toothpaste for demineralized and weakened enamel," Tozzi recommends.

You should also be waiting an hour after eating to brush your teeth in the first place.

Whether you're rinsing or not, it turns out that when you choose to scrub your teeth can also have a significant effect on your oral health: Specifically, dentists warn that brushing your teeth right after eating is ill-advised. This is because digestion begins in the mouth, which creates an acidic environment that's not the best condition to brush your teeth in, according to Jeannie Grecco, DDS, of Rejuvenation Dentistry.

"When you eat foods containing sugar (or simple starches that break down into sugars inside your mouth), cavity-causing bacteria inside your mouth feed on the sugars and produce acid. When your teeth are exposed to a highly acidic environment, it temporarily weakens your enamel (the hard, outer surface of the tooth) by causing it to lose minerals," says Jin Lin, DMD, the owner of Hurst Pediatric Dentistry. "Rubbing your enamel with a toothbrush when it is in this weakened state may further damage the enamel," adding that a 30-minuted interval between brushing and eating or drinking anything afterward offers toothpaste the best chance to have a good effect on our teeth.

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), it's best to wait at least an hour after eating to brush your teeth. Neil J. Gajjar, DDS, former president of the Academy of General Dentistry, says this amount of time "allows time for your body to neutralize the acidic environment that may have been created by acidic foods that were ingested." This shift back to a neutral pH is the natural result of your saliva, which contains antibodies that fight off cavity-causing bacteria, Gajjar explains. Those 60 extra minutes will ensure your spit has had enough time to do its job.

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