Should I brush my teeth before or after rinsing with mouthwash?

December 12, 2015

Should I brush my teeth before or after rinsing with mouthwash?
Gargling with mouthwash eliminates bacterial plaque, removes food particles, freshens the breath and supplies the tooth surfaces with fluoride.
Use about 20ml of mouthwash and don't drink from the bottle. Swish around for 30sec. Take in a deep breath and tilt your head back.  Gargle by saying “ahhhh,” as slowly as you can. Do not swallow the mouthwash!

A hot topic of debate for many dental professionals is the proper order for oral hygiene routines. Brushing, flossing, and rising are usually mindless actions for many people. They simply get it done instead of paying too much attention to the order or method. Unfortunately a quick scrub before you rush out the door will not do much to preserve your oral health and prevent cavities. Proper routines take a little more care, like knowing whether you should use mouthwash before or after you brush. But first, a few basics.


What is Mouthwash?

Typically mouthwash is an antiseptic solution the dentist recommends to help reduce harmful microbials in the mouth. Most mouth rinse comes in liquid form that people swirl around or gargle to help clean teeth, prevent infection, and freshen breath. Physicians or clinicians might also recommend some rinses as an anti-inflammatory or anti-fungal solution. In yet other cases patients use mouth rinse as a saliva substitute, to help neutralize acid production in the mouth and counteract the effects of xerostomia (dry mouth). Mouthwash is also commonly known as an oral rinse or mouth bath. 


Why Use Mouthwash?

The most common use for commercial antiseptic mouthwash is at home oral hygiene. Using mouthwash daily is a good way to maintain better oral health and eliminate bad breath. It effectively reaches areas of the mouth where the toothbrush and dental floss can’t—the back of the throat, inside of cheeks, and between teeth. Anti-plaque rinses specifically eliminate bacterial plaque. Anti-cavity mouth rinses contain fluoride to help prevent dental decay. However, the daily use of mouthwash does not take the place of brushing and flossing.


When to Use Mouthwash

So, do you use mouthwash before or after you brush? There are actually rational arguments for both. Those who argue for mouthwash before brushing suggest this practice loosens plaque and food particles, making it easier to remove them by brushing. Also, rinsing right after brushing your teeth can wash away the concentrated fluoride in the toothpaste you use.


Those on the opposite side say brushing clears and dislodges the microbial load, and using mouthwash after thoroughly rinses and disinfects the mouth. That said, most dentists agree patients should use a mouthwash containing fluoride after brushing their teeth. And they also suggest you don't rinse your mouth with water right after either. This gives the rinse more time to work and more effectively protects your teeth.


Despite what they say, there are few studies that statistically prove one is more effective than the other. What is most important is you take the time to brush, floss, and rinse daily to prevent the buildup of plaque. Proper technique trumps the order, unless you have been given specific directions from your dentist or health care provider.


How to Rinse with Mouthwash

Just as with brushing and flossing, how you rinse your mouth is also important. Here are some steps to follow:

1. Start with about 20ml (don’t drink right from the bottle)

2. Pour it in your mouth and swish around for half a minute

3. Take in a deep breath and tilt your head back

4. Gargle by saying “ahhhh,” in a low tone, and do it as slowly as you can

5. Tilt your head forward, take in another breath, and swish once more

6. Do not swallow, but spit rinse into the sink


Most companies suggest you don’t eat or drink for 30 minutes after using mouthwash. If you do not rinse with or drink water immediately after it gives the residual solution more time to kill bacteria and keep your breath fresh. 


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