Everything You Need to Know About Mouthwash - National Dental Care

If you’re confused about the array of mouthwash products lining supermarket shelves – or are unsure whether it’s even worth adding mouthwash to your oral hygiene routine – we’ve got you covered. In this article, we’re answering all your mouthwash musings, from the benefits of oral rinsing to whether mouthwash has the power to blast away bad breath.

What does mouthwash do?

Rinsing with mouthwash can help make your mouth feel and smell fresher in the short term, as well as helping to protect against cavities and gum disease, and reducing the amount of dental plaque and bacteria in your mouth.

While there are plenty of cosmetic mouthwash products available to provide a quick freshness boost, you can also buy medical mouthwashes designed to assist in the treatment of certain oral or dental conditions. For example, an oral rinse with antimicrobials can help with gingivitis, while a pain-relieving mouthwash containing benzocaine is useful after dental surgery, or if you have mouth sores.

Can mouthwash fix bad breath?

As convenient as it would be if a quick 30-second rinse could end your bad breath woes, unfortunately mouthwash is not the answer if you suffer from persistent bad breath, or halitosis.

Bad breath can be caused by a number of different factors, including:

  • Inadequate brushing or flossing techniques
  • Gum disease
  • Dental decay
  • Dry mouth syndrome
  • Infected sinuses
  • Radiation treatments for oral cancer

If you’re experiencing the symptoms of bad breath – such as a dry mouth, a white coating on your tongue, or a persistent sour taste in your mouth – your dentist can advise on the best treatment option.

What else can I do to improve my breath?

While mouthwash alone won’t cure bad breath, it can take care of temporary problems, such as the lingering odour from a particularly smelly dish! Aside from a quick mouth rinse, try the following to keep your breath as fresh as can be:

  • Drink plenty of water – staying hydrated helps ensure your mouth is producing enough saliva (AKA your body’s natural mouthwash).
  • Avoid sugary snacks – these can contribute to bad breath problems, especially if you don’t clean your teeth straight after.
  • Stick to your oral hygiene routine – make sure you’re brushing and flossing regularly, as well as cleaning your tongue (you can use a tongue scraper or gently brush with your toothbrush).

What does mouthwash contain?

Ever wondered about the mystery ingredients found in your bottle of mouthwash? While different mouthwash products can contain slightly different ingredients, they generally include the following:

  • Bacteria-killing agents such as alcohol or antimicrobial agents
  • Detergents to dislodge food debris and plaque
  • Flavours and colours to enhance the look and taste
  • Preservatives to keep the mouthwash free of bacteria
  • Water to dissolve the other ingredients
  • Fluoride to help protect teeth against decay

How do I choose a mouthwash?

If you’re ready to rinse, the next step is choosing a mouthwash product that’s right for you. For starters, check out the Australian Dental Association’s list of approved mouthwashes.

Here are some quick tips to help you decide which bottle of mouthwash to reach for:

“I have a dry mouth”

If you suffer from dry mouth, it’s a good idea to opt for an alcohol-free mouthwash. As alcohol is a drying agent, mouthwashes that contain alcohol could end up making your dry mouth worse.

“I’m concerned about tooth decay”

Keen to fight tooth decay? Choose a mouthwash with extra fluoride, which can help to protect teeth against acid attacks and decay. (Be careful not to accidentally swallow your mouthwash, as consuming too much fluoride can be toxic).

“I suffer from gum disease”

For people with certain types of gum disease, a mouthwash containing chlorhexidine (Savacol or Corsodyl) may help. However, be sure to seek professional advice from your dentist in case you require treatment.

“I’m experiencing pain due to dental surgery or mouth sores”

A medical mouthwash that contains benzocaine can help to ease temporary pain caused by dental surgery or mouth sores. Saltwater-based mouthwashes can also provide short-term relief.

“I just want to freshen my breath”

If you’re simply after a quick freshness fix, then reach for a cosmetic mouthwash that you like the smell of.


A National Dental Care practitioner can discuss your oral or dental health concerns, and advise on the best mouthwash for you – make an appointment today.

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