Swish, swish, spit! The average mouthwash is only in your mouth for around 30 seconds before you spit it down the plughole, so it makes you wonder – does mouthwash really make a difference to your oral hygiene?
Mouthwash is a popular oral hygiene product, but it’s had its fair share of controversy – with many believing it has absolutely no affect whatsoever.
In this post, we’ll explore mouthwash, dispel the myths, uncover the truth and reveal why dental mouthwash can be a useful weapon in your dental health arsenal.
Brush, floss… rinse?
Most of us understand the importance of daily brushing and flossing, but we’re often asked by our dental patients whether or not it’s a good idea to use mouthwash as part of their dental routine.
Brushing removes most food, bacteria and plaque from the surface of your teeth. Flossing gets in between your teeth (where your brush can’t reach) and can even scrape your tongue clean.
But what’s the deal with rinsing your mouth?
What is mouthwash?
There are many types and brands of mouthwash on the market, and it’s easy to be confused by the colours and assortment on 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
- Flavours: and colours that improve the look and taste.
- Preservatives: that prevent 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 causes 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 favourite flavour, there can be more to mouthwashes than meets the eye.
Some important things to consider include:
- 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 actually 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. Bear in mind patients should 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 expert dentists often recommend using salt water 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.
The bottom line, does mouthwash work?
Yes. A short 30-second mouthwash investment can result in a clear reduction in dental issues such as plaque and gingivitis.
Other benefits that come from committing to a regular dental regime that includes mouthwash include:
- Fresher breath: Mouthwash can make your mouth feel and smell fresher
- May provide additional protection against cavities and gum disease: when you use a mouth rinse with fluoride – don’t dilute the fluoride mouthwash with water as this stops the fluoride from coating the teeth
- ‘Bye bye’ bacteria: Mouthwash can reduce the amount of dental plaque and bacteria in your mouth
But it’s important to note that mouthwash shouldn’t be used as your only weapon in the fight for good oral health; it should be included as part of your daily dental routine, along with regular brushing, flossing and professional dental check-ups.