According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC),half of Americans age 30 and older have some form of gum disease. That’s one out of every two people. According to the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) this disease can be devastating if left untreated.Research has shown that it can lead to tooth loss, and is associated with other chronic inflammatory illnesses, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Most of us are keenly aware of the basics of good oral hygiene. Brush twice a day in a circular motion and floss daily. We’ve been taught how to take care of our teeth since we were knee high. But when it comes to rinsing after brushing some of us could be missing a key component that could further assist in the prevention of gum disease.
The great debate: To rinse or not?
Most of us are used to rinsing our mouths out after we finish brushing. It is the natural last step. Your teeth are clean and your breath is fresh, so you do one final rinse and you’re on your way. Research, however, has found that this may be counterproductive especially if you’re not brushing for a full two minutes or longer. If you rinse with water immediately after brushing your teeth, you essentially are rinsing away all of the benefits that fluoride provides to your teeth. By not rinsing after brushing, you give the fluoride more time to protect your teeth, which could be the catalyst to healthier teeth and fewer cavities.  However, there is also research that shows that fluoride is toxic and excessive exposure may do more harm than good.
So, for those with sensitive stomachs or who fear that ingesting toothpaste can harm you over time – since scientists have not reached a definitive conclusion on the dangers of over-ingesting fluoride – experts suggest that if you must rinse, do it by creating a “slurry”. Sip a tiny amount of water and mix it with the toothpaste foam in your mouth. You should briskly swish the mixture around in your mouth and then spit it out with no further rinsing. If you do choose to rinse with a mouth full of water, be sure you brush for at least two minutes to allow the fluoride to work its magic.
Proper tooth care: The basics
Proper tooth care coupled with simply not rinsing following brushing is the key to minimizing the risks of developing tooth decay and gingivitis.
Oral hygienists agree that proper oral health care consists of:
- Brushing your teeth twice daily with a fluoride: Using the proper technique to brush your teeth is probably more important than how long you actually brush according to dentists. By brushing twice a day and not rinsing or using the “slurry” method you allow the fluoride to more effectively make teeth more resistant to acid from plaque bacteria and sugars in the mouth and reverse the early tooth decay.
- Flossing your teeth daily: The ADA recommends cleaning between your teeth once a day. This is important because not all plaque is removed by brushing. Flossing may also help prevent gum disease and cavities.
- Brushing for at least 2 minutes every time you brush: Oral health experts suggest two minutes of brushing because “if you’re not brushing your teeth long enough, you may not be getting your teeth clean enough. If you leave behind bacteria on the teeth after brushing, it can lead to serious problems such as gingivitis or periodontitis.” Two minutes is the minimum amount of time researchers say the average person needs to spend brushing– especially for those choosing to fully rinse after brushing. Fluoride needs time to penetrate the teeth and anything under two minutes greatly reduces its effectiveness.
Not rinsing after brushing could be what keeps your teeth healthy and allows you to stave off gum disease. No matter what you decide, follow the steps outlined above and don’t be the next gum disease statistic.
|||^||American Academy of Periodontology: CDC: HALF OF AMERICAN ADULTS HAVE PERIODONTAL DISEASE|
|||^||American Academy of Periodontology: PERIODONTAL DISEASE FACT SHEET|
|||^||Lifehack: 5 Ways To Maintain Good Oral Hygiene|
|||^||National Center for Biotechnology Information: Factors related to fluoride retention after toothbrushing and possible connection to caries activity|
|||^||WebMD: Dental Health and Cavities|
|||^||How Stuff Works: Why is there fluoride-free toothpaste?|
|||^||Berkeley Wellness: Should You Rinse after Brushing?|
|||^||Dental Health Foundation: Fluoride Toothpastes|
|||^||American Dental Association: Federal Government, ADA Emphasize Importance of Flossing and Interdental Cleaners|
|||^||Mouth Healthy: Plaque|
|||^||Colgate Oral Health Center: How Long Should You Brush Your Teeth For?|