Is Mouthwash Magic?

You probably already suspect the answer; there’s no single magic product that will take your mouth from unhealthy to healthy in a single, effortless step. That’s not to say there is no place for oral rinses in your oral care routine. But, if you’ve been watching commercials that advertise mouthwash that will freshen your breath, clean your entire mouth, whiten your teeth to blinding brightness, and kill any germs, thereby preventing gum disease, you should realize you’re being oversold. So, what should you avoid in a mouthwash to bypass getting caught up in the hype, and what role can oral rinses play in a healthy oral care routine?


Avoid: Mouthwash Induced Dehydration

Some of the common commercial mouthwash brands have a higher alcohol content than beer or wine, over 40 proof in many cases. Using a high-alcohol content mouthwash as a frequent part of your oral care routine can increase a serious oral health risk, namely that alcohol can dry out the mouth. Some patients even report peeling inside the mouth from extreme dryness. Saliva is the mouth’s natural defense mechanism, and dry mouth will increase your risk of cavities and gum disease.  Instead of helping keep your mouth healthy, frequent use of alcohol-containing mouthwash can exacerbate problems in the mouth.

Healthy Alternative: Treat Dry Mouth with a Properly Formulated Rinse

There are rinses with formulas that hydrate the mouth and treat dry mouth symptoms. Look for a rinse that is specifically for dry mouth. Xylitol is a good ingredient to include when treating dry mouth, and it has been shown to reduce caries risk. pH balanced rinses also provide the additional benefit of hydrating your mouth without increasing the risk of acid attack.


Avoid: Indiscriminate Germ Killing

It’s a common thought that we want to kill all the bacteria in the mouth to prevent illness. The reality, however, is more complex. Healthy bacteria can live in your biofilm and keep your oral health balanced, or the biofilm can shift to too many cariogenic (cavity-causing) bacteria. Killing off all the healthy bacteria makes it easier for the dangerous, infectious bacteria to take over. A mouthwash that has a strong germ-killing agent when it’s not needed will do more harm than good.

Healthy Alternative: Treat Problems Only

If you have consulted with your dentist and your professional oral care team has determined that you have bacterial overgrowth, a treatment rinse can be a valuable asset in your caries fight. The important part of using treatment is to make sure you have the disease you are treating before you start using it.


Avoid: Substituting Mouthwash for Brushing

Rinsing with a mouthwash is not a substitute for proper oral care routines. Brushing and flossing are the key components of a proper oral care routine. Regardless of the compelling animations in the mouthwash commercials, swishing a fluid around your mouth will not substitute for regular cleaning.

Healthy Alternative: Swish as an Add-On

There are benefits to swishing after brushing to rinse away the final bits of debris you dislodged by brushing and flossing. Plain water can be as helpful for this purpose as a rinse in some circumstances. It’s an add-on, not a substitute.


Avoid: Falling for the White Tooth Hype

Peroxide rinses offer a promise of a dazzling smile. But, most people can’t keep the rinse in contact with the teeth long enough to see a measurable benefit.

Healthy Alternative: See Your Dentist for Help Whitening Teeth

If you’re not happy with the color of your pearly whites, visit your dentist for professional help correcting your color to one you are happy with.


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