Almost 200 million Americans use mouthwash or dental rinse. Are you one of them? If you aren’t, should you be? As mouthwash usage has increased, so has the number of options. While there are certain cases where mouthwash use should be avoided (such as those with recurring oral lesions and children under the age of six), the decision to rinse – or not - often comes down to personal preference. To help you decide, we’ve broken down the pros and cons.
How does it actually work?
Mouthwash uses antiseptic ingredients such as alcohol, menthol, and eucalyptol to kill bacteria. These ingredients can get into the crevices between your teeth and hard-to-reach places (think the very back of your mouth) to kill the filmy bacteria that can collect there. These ingredients are also why mouthwash can sting at first. You can also opt for a mouthwash that contains fluoride additives. These formulas coat your teeth and absorb into the tooth enamel, which helps to make your teeth more durable and plaque-resistant. While over-the-counter fluoride oral rinses are similar to the rinse you get at the end of your dental cleaning, they are not as powerful.
The pros of using mouthwash
- Fight cavities - Mouthwash can help fight cavities by removing bacteria that might otherwise cling to your teeth and contribute to decay. If your mouthwash contains fluoride, it also helps to strengthen your teeth’s enamel, which provides some additional protection against cavities.
- Keep your gums healthy - Because mouthwash helps rinse away bacteria, there is less of it to collect around your gums, which causes inflammation, infection, and gum disease.
- Whiten teeth - Some mouthwashes contain ingredients like hydrogen peroxide, which helps remove stains to create an overall whiter appearance.
- Freshen your breath – Whether it’s coffee or takeout, we all need a breath refresh once in a while. Mouthwash is a great way to get minty fresh with just a few swishes.
- Soothe canker sores – Though small, canker sores (i.e., mouth ulcers) are painful, making eating and drinking extremely uncomfortable. Non-alcohol, gentle mouthwashes can help canker sores heal faster by killing the bacteria around the sore that causes inflammation.
The cons of using mouthwash
- Potential irritation – While mouthwashes with a high alcohol content have strong antibacterial properties, they can also irritate the tissues in the mouth and make it more difficult for canker sores to heal.
- Accidental consumption - Some mouthwashes contain ingredients that are harmful if ingested. These include Chlorhexidine gluconate, Methyl salicylate, and Hydrogen peroxide. Accidentally swallowing a small amount of mouthwash is generally not harmful, but ingesting large amounts can be dangerous.
- Potential dry mouth – Most people turn to mouthwash to help combat bad breath, cavities, and even tooth sensitivity. However, excessive use of alcohol-based mouthwashes can dry out your mouth, actually promotes the same symptoms patients want to remedy.
- Hiding oral health issues – Some people turn to mouthwash to cover chronic bad breath. Though this may work for the short-term, it could delay treating a serious condition if users neglect to visit their dentist to address the real issue.
Nobody knows your oral health better than your dentist! If you want to start using mouthwash, it’s best to ask which type is right for you before heading to the drugstore. Whether you’re dealing with a specific condition or you’re simply interested in whiter teeth and fresh breath, we’re happy to point you in the right direction. Contact our dental team with questions or to schedule a consultation.