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Should You Use Mouthwash Before or After Brushing?

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Brushing and flossing are the foundations of a good oral hygiene routine‚ but mouthwash can also be a useful addition, thanks to the many oral health benefits it has to offer. If you've recently started using mouthwash, you may be wondering how you should incorporate it into your routine. Is it better to use mouthwash before or after brushing? And what else can you do to boost your oral health?

Benefits of Mouthwash

Mouthwash is probably best known for freshening your breath, but adding it to your daily oral care routine can provide many other benefits, too.

The South African Dental Association (SADA) recommends that you protect your mouth while on the go and after meals and snacks by rinsing with a fluoride mouthwash; this will freshen your breath and help guard against cavities. As the American Academy of Periodontology notes, untreated gum disease can lead to complications such as gum recession and tooth loss, but using mouthwash can help boost your prevention efforts.

Mouthwash achieves these oral health benefits by helping to control plaque, which is a thin film of germs that builds up on your teeth. When plaque isn't removed, it eventually hardens into tartar. The American Dental Association (ADA) reports that mouthwash can actually slow down the formation of tartar, too.

When to Use Mouthwash

When you first add mouthwash to your oral care routine, you may wonder: Should you use mouthwash before or after brushing? This is a good question, and it doesn't have a simple answer. The scientific research is limited, and reputable organisations offer different recommendations.

The US-based Mayo Clinic recommends using mouthwash after brushing and flossing your teeth. However, the National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom recommends avoiding mouthwash right after brushing, since this may wash away the fluoride from your toothpaste. Instead, the NHS recommends using mouthwash at a different time of day.

The ADA states that you can use mouthwash either before or after brushing, depending on your personal preference. That said, mouthwash manufacturers may recommend an order based on their product's ingredients, so check the label on your product to ensure that you maximise its effects.

Other Ways to Boost Your Oral Care Routine

Mouthwash may enhance your oral care routine, but remember: it's not a substitute for regular brushing and flossing. Brush your teeth twice a day for at least two minutes to remove food particles and plaque from your teeth, and floss once a day to clean between your teeth and along your gumline.

If you want to make further improvements to your daily oral care routine, consider these tips from the South African Dental Association (SADA):

  • Eat a well-balanced, tooth-healthy diet
  • Limit high-sugar foods and drinks, such as sweets and fizzy drinks
  • Avoid frequent snacking
  • Apply toothpaste to the full length of your toothbrush head
  • See your dentist regularly for check-ups.

While it's not a replacement for brushing and flossing, mouthwash can play an important role in your oral hygiene routine. It can help to freshen your breath, remove plaque and reduce your risk of cavities and gum problems. For help deciding whether to use mouthwash before or after brushing, talk to your dentist.

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