There is a general misconception involving tooth brushing and rinsing, and at Gallegos Family Dentistry, we have found that this issue is rarely addressed and clarified. Many may have grown up with the habit of brushing with toothpaste, then rinsing with water, and then perhaps utilizing a mouthwash. This sequence is problematic because it eliminates half the benefits of tooth brushing. While the act of tooth brushing serves to remove plaque (bacteria) accumulation that occurs throughout the day, the fluoridated toothpaste serves to remineralize teeth.
Throughout the course of a day, our teeth cycle between stages of demineralization and remineralization. After consuming foods or drinks that contain sugar, the bacteria in our mouth break down the sugars and convert them to lactic acid. This lactic acid persists to demineralize (or soften and corrode tooth enamel) for a brief period of time. Naturally occurring proteins, cellular compounds, and enzymes in saliva, as well as multiple sources of fluoride supplementation, aid in remineralization (the re-hardening of soft spots on teeth caused by the demineralization process). Over time, if demineralization occurs without sufficient compensatory remineralization, the soft spots on the enamel will continue to get larger, and eventually the weakened enamel will break off to form a true cavity (hole) in the tooth.
Some may recall that after professional strength fluoride treatment in a dental office, they are instructed to not eat or drink anything for 30-45 minutes. The exact same recommendations apply to tooth brushing with fluoridated toothpaste. After all the plaque is removed from thorough brushing, expectorate, or spit out, all excess toothpaste without rinsing and allow the fluoride from the toothpaste to remain on the teeth for 30-45 minutes for maximum and appropriate absorption. Rinsing immediately with water or mouthwash effectively removes all the fluoride and its associated benefits of remineralization on teeth. Note: fluoride mouthwashes contain less fluoride than toothpaste, so rinsing with a fluoridated mouthwash immediately after toothbrushing is counterproductive; instead, fluoride mouthwashes should be used in the middle of the day.
For a lifetime of healthy teeth, Gallegos Family Dentistry proposes the following home care regimen for individuals who are 6 years of age and older: Brush once in the morning without rinsing, use ACT® Fluoride rinse after lunch, use ACT® Fluoride rinse 30-45+ minutes before dinner, floss at night, and brush a second time at night without rinsing.