We recently came across a TikTok video where London-based dentist, Anna Peterson warned that “Using mouthwash after brushing your teeth is going to give you tooth decay.” The response to her warning was quite interesting with the biggest questions being “how are you supposed to use mouthwash then,” or “when do you use mouthwash if not after brushing?” While mouthwash is certainly no replacement for brushing or flossing your teeth, it’s also only effective when it’s used correctly. Therefore, since your Raleigh dentist regularly advises her patients to use mouthwash, we thought now might be a good time to discuss best practices for using mouth wash including how often and when as it relates to brushing and flossing your teeth.
When should you use mouthwash?
One of the most common questions we receive about mouthwash is whether you should use it before or after brushing your teeth, because the answer is “it depends.” It truly does depend on what exactly you’re expecting the mouthwash to do for your mouth. Mouthwash is intended to help kill bacteria in your mouth or loosen particles and plaque that are in your mouth. However, there are so many different mouthwashes available, that it’s important to pay attention.
For example, most mouth washes are pretty similar with the biggest differentiating factors being flavor or the ability to whiten teeth (which kinda seems like a stretch if you ask us). However, we find that many mouthwashes also contain alcohol. In theory, alcohol would be great since you’d think it would kill undesirable bacteria. However, alcohol can dry out your mouth and lower the production of saliva which is your mouth’s natural defense mechanism against bad bacteria. Therefore, your Raleigh dentist actually recommends that you use alcohol-free mouthwash.
That said, let’s consider the actual timing of using mouthwash as part of your oral health routine.
1. Use Mouthwash BEFORE Brushing
Using mouthwash before brushing your teeth is an effective way of breaking up a lot of plaque and particles in your mouth, which makes it even easier for your toothbrush to get the harder spots of your mouth, and get rid of plaque. Think of it like rinsing off your plate after dinner before putting the plate in the dishwasher. Sure, there are detergents that claim to remove everything from your plate in the dishwasher, but you’d feel better if you gave your plate a pre-wash.
2. Use Mouthwash AFTER Brushing
Alternatively, you might choose to use mouthwash after brushing. If we continue on with the dishes analogy, using mouthwash after brushing your teeth is similar to soaking your dishes in diluted bleach water after they’re clean. While we’re not sure anyone actually does this, by using mouthwash after you brush, you are making sure that everything you took the time to scrub off your teeth including plaque is long gone. Furthermore, if you don’t rinse your mouth after using mouthwash, you’re essentially helping to disinfect your mouth for a longer amount of time.
That said, this approach is exactly what the TikTok dentist was warning us about as she suggested that by using mouthwash immediately after brushing “you just rinse off all the high-concentration fluoride, for a low-concentration fluoride,” which can make your mouth a magnet for microbes.
3. Use Mouthwash BETWEEN Brushings
Building on the previous point, you may actually be better off if you use mouthwash in between brushings, specifically right after you eat. Consider this approach just as if you were in the middle of Invisalign treatment. During treatment, it is recommended that you brush after every meal/snack/drink (that isn’t water). Rather than brush after every meal, you would actually use mouthwash, and here’s why:
The foods we eat often have sugars in them that make your mouth acidic, which causes your teeth to dissolve. If you were to brush after every meal, you’d essentially brush that acid right into your teeth which can cause tooth erosion. We don’t want that. Rather use mouthwash to loosen up those particles until your next proper teeth brushing session. Think of it like a palate cleanser.
Still confused? We still believe that mouthwash is a useful tool and if you have any questions about how you should be using it, just ask your dental hygienist at your next appointment. Or if you’re looking for a new Raleigh dentist, we’d love to provide dental care for your entire family and new patients are always welcome. Give Dr. Katherine E. Garrett a call to schedule your appointment. Don’t wait until you have a dental emergency, call our office today!