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The T(r)OOTH of the Matter

The T(r)OOTH of the Matter

By:  Sasha Klemawesch, MD

During residency, we had a DDS come do a grand rounds lecture. During it, he advised not rinsing after brushing. I paid no heed to his recommendation at the time since the idea of not rinsing your mouth out after you brush your teeth seemed so bizarre and gross (also probably I was too busy passing notes w my coresident to listen all that closely to a dental lecture – snore!).

The American zeitgeist writ large tends to reinforce the “normality” of swishing and spitting after brushing; picture every couple in every movie you have ever seen standing at the vanity together getting ready for bed; all of them brush, rinse, spit and then smile lovingly at one another (or glare daggers depending on the film).

However, apparently Hollywood and I have gotten it all wrong for decades. My personal dentist recently prescribed fluoride toothpaste and told me to not rinse, eat or drink for at least 15 min after brushing with it, preferrable 30, explaining that were I to do so, I would be giving the fluoride a few mere seconds to try and act before washing it away. You wouldn’t shell out 20 bucks for topical steroids or pain relievers to just immediately scrub them off post-application, would you? When he put it that way it made sense, but I was still Super averse to the notion of not rinsing after brushing; it just seemed so sticky and foreign! However, I assure you, in less than a week, not only did I get over the lack of rinse, but my mouth actually came to feel good and fresh by doing so, and now it’s second nature.

Two other tidbits related to teeth-brushing but non-dental in nature:

(1) Try using your non-dominant hand when brushing next time. Doing so will force your brain to work to establish novel neural pathways which can be especially helpful in delaying cognitive decline as you age.

Second, while the hand swap will benefit brain health, standing on one leg will help your physical health. While seemingly insignificant, if you really force yourself to balance on one leg at a time even for the minute you are brushing your teeth, you are working on balance, core, and leg strength, and those daily minutes will add up. 

I confess, the latter two are coming much more slowly and with greater difficulty than the no-rinsing thing, but I keep trying.

Finally, last teeth-related item; when you finish reading this article, look up and whoever the first person you see is, flash them a big toothy grin. I guarantee both you and they will immediately feel happier by doing so!