Opinion: Not the answer I expectorated


I called my friend yesterday.

“Hi, Bob, it’s Dick. I have a weird question to ask you,” I said. “Mary Ellen and I disagree on what most people do. When you are finished brushing your teeth, do you rinse and spit or just spit?”

“Geesh, Dick, I have never thought about that until now. I’ll call you back at the end of your column.”

I found a few websites on this very topic. One of the so-called experts said he had a small dental practice in rural Virginia with about 50 patients — a total of 200 teeth. He was a big fan of rinsing and then spitting after your daily brushing. Another dentist from England didn’t believe in rinsing, but he wasn’t a proponent of daily brushing, either.

Dentist John Love is considered “the leading voice on dental appliances.” Dr. Love is an advocate of spitting only, but he uses the word expectorate instead, which impressed one manufacturer when he auditioned to be the voiceover talent for their talking toothbrushes.

A popular website says regardless of which method you use, the most important thing is to avoid sugary foods. At the bottom of the website, there is this note: We Use Cookies.

One woman said she was positive her toothpaste tube says to “always rinse after use.” Then she posted that she had confused her toothpaste with her shampoo. Now, she’s concerned that she may have swallowed too much soap.

I decided to bite the bullet and call my own dentist, although I knew that biting bullets was not something he recommended.

“Dr. Townshend, this is Dick Wolfsie. Could you tell me if I should spit and rinse after I brush, or just spit?”

“Dick, do you know how often I get asked that that question?”

“How often?”

“Never. Goodbye, Dick, and don’t forget to floss.”

This was becoming even more perplexing.

Floss, brush, spit, rinse?

Brush, floss, rinse, spit?

Spit, rinse, brush, floss?

Rinse, brush, spit, floss?

I realize some of those sequences made no sense. Why would you spit first? But I was considering every option.

I put the whole thing out of my mind by thinking about important things like:

  • Should I put on both socks first and then my shoes, or one foot’s sock and shoe at a time? Also, should I shave before or after I shower?
  • Then, the phone rang. It was Bob calling me back, as promised.
  • “Dick, it’s Bob. Cathy just watched me in the bathroom. She says I brush, spit, rinse and spit. By the way, I also floss at the end.”
  • “That’s a big help, Bob. Thanks. I think I’m getting a better idea of the normal order.”
  • “You’re welcome. Now tell me, when should I use my mouthwash?”