Should You Use Mouthwash Before Or After Brushing?

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Is it better to use mouthwash before or after brushing your teeth? Is there even a correct order when it come to the steps in your daily oral hygiene routine?

In this brief article, we are going to discuss the top oral health benefits of using mouthwash, why the mouthwash you use ought to be of the fluoridated variety, and at which step of your daily oral care routine to use mouthwash for maximum benefit.

Top benefits of using mouthwash

First of all, it is important to make one thing clear – mouthwash is not mandatory for maintaining or improving your oral health. The only two steps in your daily oral health routine that should be mandatory are flossing and of course brushing.

A disconcerting amount of people use mouthwash as an occasional substitute for toothbrushing, but it really isn’t. Instead, mouthwash should be looked at as an addition, an extra tool that it is nice to have handy in your toolbox, but not strictly necessary.

Having said that, mouthwash offers a variety of dental health benefits that are worth taking into consideration – here they are, in no particular order.

Freshens breath

The main reason to use mouthwash on a daily basis is because it quickly and effectively freshens your breath while also killing harmful bacteria that may otherwise build up in your mouth throughout the day.

You shouldn’t brush your teeth more frequently than twice a day, so if you like to refresh your mouth intermittently throughout the day, using mouthwash is better than brushing your teeth again.

Mouthwash can also be a good thing to keep in your desk drawer or in the glove compartment of your car, in case you have meetings, job interviews, dates or other commitments arise and would like to make a good impression. This is particularly true if you are a smoker.

Helps prevent tooth decay

If you use fluoridated mouthwash on a regular basis, it can help prevent tooth decay.

Fluoride toothpaste and fluoride mouthwash both help to strengthen and rebuild tooth enamel while killing bacteria. 

Supporting your enamel is extremely important, as the enamel layer is what protects your teeth from decay and infection. All tooth decay is preceded by enamel erosion, so if you do what you can to keep your enamel strong and healthy, this will go a long way towards protecting you against cavities. 

Helps prevent gum disease

Your teeth are not the only aspect of your oral hygiene that benefits from fluoride. To keep your mouth healthy, you also need to remember to take great care of your gums.

Food particles and plaque do not only build up and get stuck between the teeth, but also between the teeth and the gums, as well as all along the gum line. 

Plaque and tartar secretes bacteria and acids which attack the enamel, and the gums. It follows that if plaque buildup and food particles are not properly removed on a daily basis, the gums become vulnerable and susceptible to infection and disease. 

Using a fluoride mouthwash can help rinse out remaining food particles of plaque buildup that you may have missed with your floss, interdental brushes and toothbrush bristles.

Why you should use fluoridated mouthwash

The importance of fluoride cannot be overstated. 

Ideally, you should always use a fluoride toothpaste, and a fluoridated mouthwash to boot. Can your daily oral care routine involve too much fluoride? Hardly.

Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral offering the dual benefits of being able to fight plaque and gum erosion at the same time. It is little wonder why fluoride is the most important line of defence against harmful mouth bacteria, enamel erosion, dental decay and gum disease.

This is the ideal oral health routine

Yes, there is such a thing as the ideal order of things when it comes to your oral care routine.

If you are one of the many adults who are still unsure, at least you are in the right place to learn. And it is never too late to learn more about oral hygiene and how to keep your mouth free from cavities and periodontal disease.

Without further ado, these are the steps, in the right order, that your dental routine should consist of.


There is no hard and fast rule saying that you must floss before brushing your teeth, but it is the preferable option.

Flossing your teeth provides multiple oral health benefits, for both your teeth and gums. When you floss, you lift and loosen the food particles and plaque buildup that has gotten trapped between your teeth, as well as between your teeth and your gum line. 

With a piece of dental floss, or with interdental brushes if your teeth are too crowded and close together for flossing, you are able to reach those food particles and plaque that the bristles of your toothbrush simply cannot get to.

Flossing once a day is sufficient. In fact, flossing multiple times a day can do more harm than good, as it can agitate your gums.

To learn more about why it is better to floss before rather than after brushing your teeth, read our article on the subject here.


Once you have flossed, it is time to brush your teeth. The American Dental Association recommends that you brush your teeth twice a day, for a minimum of two minutes each time.

Brushing your teeth more frequently than twice a day is not recommended, as this can wear down your enamel and counterintuitively cause tooth erosion and leave your teeth vulnerable to decay. In other words, instead of brushing frequently, focus on doing a thorough job of it.

Brushing is arguably the most important step in your oral hygiene routine. Brushing properly will remove food particles and plaque, and the active ingredients in the toothpaste will kill bacteria while also freshening your breath.

When brushing, the correct technique to use is to move your toothbrush in small circular motions, rather than back and forth. Apply gentle pressure – don’t be too forceful as this can also wear on your enamel. And as a besides, it is always better to use a soft-bristled toothbrush than one with harder bristles. You want to be gentle on your teeth, while still making sure that they are getting a thorough clean.

When you have just brushed your teeth, rather than immediately going on to use mouthwash, let any excess toothpaste sit on your teeth for a while without rinsing. This lets the fluoride work its magic on your teeth for longer.

Mouth rinse

Using mouthwash is the optional third step in your dental care routine. Use fluoridated mouthwash rather than any other kind.

One mouthful of mouthwash should be enough. Swish it around your mouth for at least thirty seconds, then spit it out.

Mouth rinse is absolutely a good oral health tool to have in your arsenal, but it doesn’t have to be part of your daily routine. Not when there are other, more effective steps you can take instead, like avoiding frequent snacking, staying on top of your regular brushing, and seeing your dentist regularly.


Mouthwash does much more than simply eliminate bad breath. 

When incorporated into your oral hygiene routine as and when you need a bit of extra fluoride or mouth freshing, it can help reduce tooth decay by strengthening your tooth enamel, as well as protect your gums from periodontal disease.

Even so, using mouthwash is not mandatory, unlike flossing and brushing, both of which you should always do on a daily basis without exception. Don’t believe it? Read our article about what happens if you don’t brush your teeth.

Dr Febin Mary George - Editor

With more than 10 years as a dental surgeon, Dr Febin Mary George is passionate about educating consumers around the world to help look after their teeth.

She completed her Bachelor of Surgery at the Century Institute of Dental Science and Research Centre in 2010.

Alongside editing the International Journal of Dental Clinics she has also written for major publications including Thrive Global.