Most of us probably never think about whether we should use mouthwash before or after brushing. We simply follow a standard routine of scrubbing with paste and then swishing the wash. But it turns out we should be flipping that around to keep our teeth their whitest and healthiest.
We shared this simple tip in a recent issue of our print magazine (Buy on Amazon, $15.97 for one year subscription): Rinsing with antiseptic mouthwash right after brushing can actually splash away all the brightening and enamel-building fluoride you just put on your teeth while brushing. Obviously, that defeats the whole point.
In fact, many dentists recommend skipping swishing after you brush, even with regular water. Instead, just spit out any of the excess paste you lathered up and let the residual amount left on your teeth do its job for at least 30 minutes before rinsing, eating, or drinking. (Psst: You’re probably also using way too much toothpaste.)
Aside from letting the fluoride stick around, rinsing with mouthwash before you brush has a couple other healthy benefits. Watertower Dental Care in Chicago explains that it can help kill bad bacteria in your mouth and loosen up any particles and plaque clinging to your teeth and gums. This will then make it easier for your brush to really scrub away any remaining gunk. They compare it to how many of us rinse our dishes before putting them in the dishwasher to make sure they come out sparkling. Makes sense!
If you’re set in your brush-then-rinse ways, just remember you need to wait 30 minutes in-between to give the fluoride time to work. For the rest of us who’d rather not set a timer, starting with mouthwash is an easy way to make sure we’re keeping our teeth healthy and bright!
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This article originally appeared on our sister site, First for Women.