Should You Use Mouthwash Before or After Brushing?


Strong and healthy teeth are not only a good sign of oral health but may contribute to your body’s overall health and wellness.

We all know that maintaining regular brushing and flossing habits is the foundation for oral hygiene, but rinsing your mouth with mouthwash can also have its benefits.

Yet, if you are just planning to start using mouthwash in your oral hygiene routine, you may be confused about how you should incorporate it; should you rinse your mouth before brushing? Or will rinsing the mouth after brushing be more beneficial?

The fact that different dental experts have different opinions surrounding the topic also didn’t help, but in this post, we are here to help you.

Here, we’ll discuss all you need to know about mouthwash: when to do it, how to choose the right mouthwash according to your unique needs, and other tips you can use to boost your oral hygiene and health.

Without further ado, let us begin right away.

Do You Actually Need Mouthwash?

Let’s first address the elephant in the room: mouthwash isn’t a direct substitute for flossing and brushing your teeth.

Mouthwash only contains around 450ppm of fluoride, which isn’t an ideal quantity to fight bacteria. As a comparison, most fluoride toothpaste contains around 1450 ppm of fluoride.

So, mouthwash is not a sufficient substitute for your toothpaste, and you shouldn’t substitute regular brushing with rinsing.

Yet, mouthwash can be a very useful addition that can help amplify the benefits of maintaining a good oral hygiene routine.

In situations when proper flossing and brushing your teeth are difficult to perform, rinsing your mouth with mouthwash can help protect the mouth, gums, and teeth from bacterial buildup, which will mean additional protection against tooth decay, erosion, and cavity, among other oral health issues.

Should You Use Mouthwash Before or After Brushing?

You may wonder when to use mouthwash when you first add rinsing your mouth to your oral hygiene routine, and this is actually a good question.

Unfortunately, the answer to this question is not so simple, and different experts and reputable organisations offer different opinions and recommendations.

NHS (National Health Service), for example, does not recommend mouthwash right after brushing, and according to them, this practice may wash away the fluoride from your toothpaste. The NHS instead recommends giving some time after brushing your teeth before using mouthwash.

Yet, the Mayo Clinic instead recommends rinsing your mouth with mouthwash right after brushing and flossing your teeth, which directly contradicts NHS’s recommendations.

So, what’s our answer to this question?

In our opinion, it doesn’t matter, and this aligns with ADA (American Dental Association)‘s recommendations that you may choose to use mouthwash whenever, based on personal preference.

You can use mouthwash before or after you brush your teeth, and it won’t significantly affect its benefits.

The best time to use mouthwash, however, is right after you eat. Sugars in your food and drinks will make your mouth more acidic, and this acidity is what causes tooth decay and other oral health issues. 

Yet, brushing your teeth immediately after eating is not recommended since you may end up spreading acid into your teeth, which is a common cause of tooth decay and erosion. This is why rinsing your mouth with mouthwash after you eat can be a good substitute to lower your oral acidity and freshen your breath.

However, keep in mind that different mouthwash manufacturers may recommend differently based on their product’s ingredients and other factors. Make sure to check the label on your mouthwash product so you can maximise its effects. 

So, what are the benefits you can expect from using mouthwash?

What Are The Benefits of a Mouthwash?

Mouthwash is best known for freshening your breath and reducing halitosis (foul mouth odour). However, different mouthwash products may offer different benefits.

Some mouthwash products may only function to freshen breath (with relatively low fluoride content), and some other products may also offer antibacterial qualities with higher fluoride. Also, dentists may prescribe specific mouthwash products that can help their patients in treating specific conditions.

Yet, it’s also important to consider the fact that mouthwash (being liquid) can be effective in cleaning areas in your mouth that can’t be reached with your toothbrush or floss. Mouthwash can help clean and control plaque (a thin bacterial film that builds up on your teeth and gums), which can cause infections, cavities, gum diseases, and other oral health issues.

Keep in mind, however, that a mouthwash is not intended to cure severe oral health issues, and you should see your dentist immediately if conditions like persistent halitosis (bad breath), dental abscess, or signs of gum diseases are present.

Common Mouthwash Content and Their Benefits

We’ve mentioned how different mouthwash ingredients may produce different benefits, and here are the common ones you should look for when checking the mouthwash’s label:

  1. Fluoride. We’ve mentioned fluoride several times in this post. It’s the most common ingredient not only in mouthwashes but in most other oral hygiene products. The main function of fluoride is to combat bacteria and reduce plaque (bacterial film) buildup, effectively reducing the risks of tooth decay, cavities, and infections, among other issues.
  2. Odour neutralizer/deodorizer. Pretty self-explanatory, different ingredients can be used here, but the purpose remains to reduce halitosis (foul breath odour) and freshen your breath. Astringent salt is a common ingredient that can temporarily reduce halitosis.
  3. Bleachers. Some mouthwash products may also contain bleachers or whitener ingredients like peroxide that can help remove stains from the teeth’s surface and prevent yellowing stains from building up.
  4. Antibacterials. Some mouthwash products may also contain specific ingredients that can combat bacteria and other microbes to prevent and reduce plaque buildup. Mouthwash products with these ingredients may also be prescribed by dentists to help treat early-stage gum disease and light infections.

Choosing The Right Mouthwash Product

As we can see, different mouthwash products can include different ingredients, each offering different oral health and/or hygiene benefits. So, it’s important to choose the right mouthwash product according to your current needs.

Here are some important considerations in choosing between different types of mouthwash products:

  1. Your sensitivity. Different people have different levels of tooth and gums sensitivity, and depending on the current oral health conditions, sensitivity can also increase. People with high sensitivity may find some types of mouthwash products too painful to use. If you know that your tooth and gums are sensitive, or if you are currently recovering from tooth extraction, root canal, or other painful procedure, opt for a mouthwash product with more soothing ingredients like green tea extracts, aloe vera, or chamomile.
  2. Antibacterial needs. Does your current condition require antibacterial and plaque control ingredients? If you are currently suffering from oral health conditions related to plaque buildup (i.e., gum diseases), then you might want to get a mouthwash product with plaque control ingredients. Ask your dentist for suggestions about such a product.
  3. Alcohol content. Many mouthwash products contain alcohol, which is a natural antibacterial. Alcohol is also effective in eliminating foul odour, so it can refresh your breath. However, alcohol can reduce saliva production and cause dryness (which can contribute to foul breath.) Alcohol-based mouthwash can also be dangerous when swallowed, especially by children.

Using Mouthwash: Best Practices

As a general rule of thumb, read the label of the mouthwash product before using it. Most of them should provide step-by-step instructions on how to use the product properly.

However, here are some best practices and tips you can use:

  • Use only the right amount as indicated on the mouthwash’s label. If you are not sure, ask your dentist.
  • Swish the mouthwash for half a minute to one minute while keeping your mouth closed. Again, follow the instructions on the label.
  • Do not swallow the mouthwash. This is important, especially for children. Keep it away from children’s reach, as mouthwash can contain toxic materials that can be fatal when swallowed in a large amount. Supervise your children when using mouthwash.
  • Avoid consuming any food and drinks (and smoking) for 20 minutes after using mouthwash. This is so you can keep fluoride and other beneficial ingredients on your teeth’s surface longer.
  • Don’t expect instant results. Be patient and use the mouthwash regularly for a few weeks before you see significant results.

To make the most of your mouthwash, as well as your oral hygiene routine, here are some additional tips:

  • Eat a well-balanced diet. Limit high-sugar foods and drinks
  • Avoid frequent snacking, especially for snacks high in sugars and starches
  • Drink fluoridated water regularly
  • See your dentist for regular checkups, at least every six months
  • Keep a habit of brushing and flossing two times a day.
  • Change your toothbrush every three to four months or when it looks frayed.

Maintaining Your Oral Hygiene

While mouthwash cannot replace regular brushing and flossing, it can be a great addition to your oral hygiene routine. Mouthwash is especially effective in reducing halitosis (foul breath odour) and preventing plaque buildup.

So, should you use mouthwash before or after brushing? You can do either based on your preferences, but it’s best not to use mouthwash directly after brushing your teeth since it may rinse the fluoride you’d otherwise get from your toothbrush.