Can I use Listerine instead of brushing my teeth before bed?


Mouthrinses and mouthwashes are not intended to replace tooth brushing. It is important to brush your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste. One of those times should be before going to bed to remove all food particles from teeth and prevent the length of attacks by food on teeth. Using a rinse after brushing can help freshen breath and prevent tooth decay.

Well, you CAN (nobody is going to stop you), but it's not an effective replacement.

Now, if you lose your toothbrush one night, yes, do this instead of nothing. And then buy a new toothbrush tomorrow. But aside from a one-night emergency, why would anyone want to do this? Using any mouthwash is nowhere near as effective as brushing and flossing. Further, most OTC mouthwashes contain alcohol, which will dry out your mouth (and your mouth already gets dry at night -- we need not help it along). Alcohol is also linked to oral cancer.

It takes less than five minutes to brush and floss, folks. It's time well spent, and not something anyone should be looking for a shortcut for.

No rinse, including Listerine, takes the place of brushing and flossing your teeth. The bacteria in your mouth called plaque sticks to the teeth. It can only be removed physically or mechanically. This is done by brushing and flossing.

Dante A. Gonzales, DMD
Orthodontics & Dentofacial Orthopedics
Listerine, as well as many other mouthwashes, are most effective after physically removing the plaque from the teeth and gums by brushing and flossing. It is the accumulation of plaque that causes cavities, gum disease, and bad breath. Plaque, the bacterial buildup on the teeth and gums, is very sticky and adheres to the teeth. It can be removed very easily with good brushing and flossing, however, a mouthwash will not remove plaque. It may temporarily make your mouth feel cleaner and your breath fresher, but that will be very shortlived without proper brushing and flossing.
Hyun J. Song, DDS
No. I would like to make an analogy of washing your car. You need to PHYSICALLY scrub dirt " biofilm" in order to remove the dirt. You would not just spray water....

The reason why we recommend that you brush is to remove "bioflim" -- thin layer of bacteria and debris that is found on the teeth -- kind of like in bathroom sink if you don't clean it. 

Hope this helps!
Mouthwash is used to keep your breath smelling fresh and it is not an effective substitute for brushing your teeth at night. While some mouthwashes have added fluoride to fight cavities they do not work as well as daily brushing and flossing of your teeth, which removes food particles and plaque that can lead to tooth decay.

Continue Learning about Healthy Oral Hygiene

Healthy Oral Hygiene

Healthy Oral Hygiene

Brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing daily constitute the basics of good oral hygiene. Keeping other parts of your mouth, such as your gums, healthy can benefit your overall health by preventing the spread of germs and dis...

ease. At-home care should be supplemented by professional care. When plaque or tartar develops, a dentist or oral hygienist will use special tools to scrape (scale) the teeth clean without damage. Flouride treatment can help keep teeth cavity-free. Learn more about healthy oral hygiene with expert advice from Sharecare.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.