You probably brush your teeth now the same way you’ve been doing it your whole life.

Brush, spit, rinse.

You may have had a brushing clock in the bathroom to remind you to brush long enough when you were little, or perhaps a teacher or parent taught you a fun song to sing while brushing. There are many ways to make brushing fun for kids, and we encourage parents to make oral care a fun experience for their children.

But have you ever considered teaching your children not to rinse after they’re done brushing? Are there benefits to skipping the rinse? Or to move it around in the order of things?

The Lowdown on Rinsing your Teeth After Brushing

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The Pros of Rinsing Before Brushing

Most teeth brushers rinse their mouth with water after their last toothpaste spit. It’s a societal norm. Nobody questions it. It’s just the status quo for teeth brushing. Plus, it’s natural to desire a good rinse to rid your mouth of any lingering toothpaste.

But what if we told you that the final rinse might not be best for your teeth? The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends brushing with fluoride-containing toothpaste. Fluoride is a mineral added to drinking water, many kinds of toothpaste, and other dental products to help strengthen the enamel on your teeth. Trace amounts of fluoride are also naturally found in many foods we eat, but we need more to keep our teeth strong and healthy.

For fluoride to do its job and your teeth to reap the benefits, it must sit on your teeth for several minutes. However, it’s not healthy to swallow high amounts of fluoride, so that’s why it became common practice to rinse your mouth out after brushing. Others may rinse to get rid of the strong, minty taste of brushing. Sadly, when you rinse right away, you rinse the benefits of fluoride off with it.

The Recommendation

Many dentists recommend spitting excess toothpaste and saliva out after brushing but skipping a final rinse. Instead, try flossing, then rinsing, then brushing. Leave the fluoride on your teeth, don’t eat or drink for 10 minutes after brushing, and go about your day while reaping all the benefits of fluoride.

You can also get a fluoride treatment at the dentist. A fluoride treatment involves a high concentration of fluoride applied to your teeth for several minutes. Then it is recommended to stay away from food or drinks for 30 minutes so the fluoride can stay put and seep into your pearly whites.

The Cons of Skipping the Rinse

Mostly, it’s perfectly safe to skip the rinse after brushing your teeth. Otherwise, dentists wouldn’t recommend it. However, there are some side effects to consider if you happen to swallow too much fluoride. If you ingest too much, the following can occur:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea

It is extremely rare to ingest enough fluoride to bring on these symptoms. You have to swallow A LOT to experience them. To avoid these symptoms for your children, ensure they are using dental products for their age group. It’s almost impossible for adults to reach fluoride toxicity by swallowing some toothpaste every once in a while. And to avoid toxicity for children, don’t allow them to use adult toothpaste.

If you skip the rinse after flossing, however, you could risk leaving particles of food in your mouth that could hurt your teeth. That’s why the floss, rinse, and brush model is a good one.

Recommendations for Children

Taking care of your child’s teeth early on is vital in creating good habits for them and setting the tide for a healthy mouth. In 2014, the recommendations changed for children and fluoride. Up until then, the ADA recommended waiting until a child is 3 years old to give them fluoride toothpaste. Now, the ADA recommends “the use of a ‘smear’ of fluoride toothpaste (approximately 0.1 gram of toothpaste or 0.1 milligrams of fluoride) for children younger than 2 years and a pea-sized amount (approximately 0.25 g toothpaste or 0.25 mg fluoride) for children from 2 to 6 years of age.” Fluoride is for all; just adjust the amounts for your tiny ones. Ask your Utah family dentist for toothpaste and other fluoride recommendations.

What about a Fluoride Mouthwash?

Can’t you just rinse with a fluoride mouthwash and have the best of both worlds? You may wash a bit of the toothpaste off, but you’ll get that refreshing final rinse and replenish the fluoride that was lost.

Not necessarily. Fluoride mouthwash is not a substitute for the high concentrations of fluoride found in toothpaste. For best results, stick with floss, rinse, and brush.

Bottom Line

If you’re looking to strengthen your teeth, it may be time to change your dental hygiene habits by moving that final rinse earlier in your routine, especially if you’re prone to tooth decay. But don’t forget the most important aspects of dental care: brushing, flossing, getting bi-annual cleanings, and following your Utah Dentist’s recommendations for lifelong healthy teeth.