Is it better to rinse your mouth or let saliva do its job?

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Offline thedoc

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Rob Faraone asked the Naked Scientists:
From a dental health perspective, is it better, when one wakes up at night to urinate, to swish some fresh water in the mouth and thus flush the mouth of acid buildup; OR is it better to not do so and let the anti-bacterial strengths of saliva work in the mouth.

Underlying objective or point of interest is to minimise dental decay.
Rob Faraone (long time, regular and enthusiastic listener)

What do you think?
« Last Edit: 31/07/2012 10:30:01 by _system »


Offline chris

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Saliva's rich in bicarbonate and calcium, so it will help to counter oral acids produced by plaque bacteria and it will help to remineralise acid-eroded enamel. Water, on the other hand, contains much lower concentrations of both ions, so would not do the job half as well. It also doesn't contain micro-suppressing agents like antibodies and lysozyme. But - and this is where things are less clear-cut, saliva is produced more slowly and therefore might take longer to wash away sugars deposited in the mouth from food.

Therefore, I think the best approach is to not clean teeth directly after a meal; instead, wait for mouth pH to rise under the influence of saliva again, and allow some tooth remineralisation; but clean teeth after half an hour or so using a calcium and fluoride-rich toothpaste.

I don't have a reference for this, I am basing it purely on my intuition as a microbiologist and a doctor; I'd be grateful if anyone does have any published data they can share with us on this area.

I never forget a face, but in your case I'll make an exception - Groucho Marx