Is It Good to Use Mouthwash?

You’ve got lots of choices if you’re looking for a way to freshen your breath. But if you want to do something healthy for your teeth and gums too, make mouth rinsing part of your daily routine.

“Today mouthwashes are not just perfumes for the breath,” says Mark Wolff, DDS, Ph.D., chair of cariology and comprehensive care at New York University College of Dentistry. “They can also reduce gingivitis [gum disease], tooth decay, tartar, and plaque, and they can whiten.”

Do I Need to Rinse?

Mouthwash is not a substitute for brushing and flossing. But if you have trouble doing those correctly, rinsing can help protect you from cavities or gum disease. Fluoride rinses help prevent tooth decay.

“Mouthwashes, when added to a good home care regimen of brushing and flossing, can target a condition that you are facing,” Wolff says. “You don’t swish for 2 minutes with a whitening mouthwash and suddenly have white teeth. But if you brush well and keep the plaque off of them and use that mouthwash as part of the package, you do get whiter teeth.”

A mouth rinse won’t cure serious problems, though. If you have regular bleeding of your gums or consistently bad breath, for example, see your dentist. He might prescribe a mouthwash that’s stronger than the kind you buy over the counter.

What Is Mouthwash?

There are many types and brands of mouthwash on the market, and it’s easy to be confused by the display at the supermarket.

A good starting point when choosing your mouthwash is to check which ingredients are used. While each mouthwash may be slightly different, most will include the following:

  • Alcohol: or other antimicrobial agents to help kill bacteria and other germs that contribute to tooth decay and bad breath.
  • Detergents: to help dislodge and remove food debris and loose plaque
  • Flavors: and colors that improve the look and taste.
  • Preservatives: that prevent the growth of bacteria in the mouthwash
  • Water: to dissolve the other ingredients

Some mouthwashes may also contain fluoride to help make teeth more resistant to acid attacks, and so help defend against tooth decay.

DENTAL FACT: Saliva is our mouth’s natural mouthwash. It helps rinse away bacteria that can cause bad breath and gingivitis.

Which Is The Best Mouthwash for Me?

Not all mouthwashes are created equal. While it can be as simple as choosing a mouthwash with your favorite flavor, there can be more to mouthwashes than meets the eye.

Some important things to consider include:

  • The smell of success: If a fresh breath of confidence is what you’re after, keep it simple and pick a mouthwash you like the smell of
  • Dry mouth? Go alcohol-free: If you suffer from dry mouth, we recommend using an alcohol-free mouthwash. Alcohol is a drying agent, and if your mouth is dry, you can’t produce saliva.
  • Mouthwashes that contain alcohol can make dry mouth much worse for you
  • Fluoride forever: There are lots of mouthwashes available with extra fluoride to help fight tooth decay. But as with all mouthwashes, it’s important that you don’t accidentally swallow them, as consuming too much fluoride mouth rinse can be toxic
  • Gum disease on notice: If you have a problem with gum disease then chlorhexidine (Savacol or Corsodyl) is worth considering. But always seek professional assessment before proceeding with any over the counter remedies.
  • Refuse to choose: There are even some brands on the market that contain chlorhexidine, fluoride and are alcohol-free too!

But whichever mouthwash you choose, the key to getting the most from your mouthwash is to make it a regular part of your oral health routine.

Simple Salt Water

If you’re looking for a more natural mouth wash option we also recommend using a simple saltwater mouthwash. Saltwater mouthwashes are an excellent short term treatment, especially if you have wounds in your mouth – for instance when you’ve had teeth removed.

Salt acts as a natural disinfectant and also removes any swelling from the tissues. Our National Dental Care practitioners often recommend using saltwater for two or three weeks after dental surgery, as well as in cases of infection or mouth ulcers.

Long term use of a saltwater mouth rinse is not recommended as it could lead to tooth erosion by eating away and softening the tooth enamel and making your teeth more susceptible to chipping and cavities.

Safety Tips

Unless they’re designed specifically for young children, most mouthwashes are meant for those who are 6 years old and up. Children older than 6 who might swallow mouthwash should be supervised during their use.

Before purchasing mouthwash for your child, it’s a good idea to check with their dentist.

Mouthwash containing alcohol may not be suitable for people who are trying to avoid alcohol.


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