Do you really need a mouthwash?

Do I really need a mouthwash?

Mouthwash dates to 1 AD when Romans used urine to purge bacteria from the mouth, an ingredient that stuck around until the 18th century. Its modern-day form started in the late 1800s when alcohol was added to help kill germs and bacteria. Listerine, a brand that is synonymous with mouthwash itself, was originally invented as an antiseptic for surgical procedures and to clean floors.

Today’s mouthwashes promise to kill germs that cause plaque and gingivitis, prevent tartar buildup, prevent cavities, whiten your teeth, improve gum and teeth sensitivity, and/or freshen your breath.

studies show that most over-the-counter antiplaque rinses and antiseptics do little more to combat plaque and gum disease than rinsing with water; brushing and flossing are the ultimate debris-ridders.

Do they deliver? Sort of. Do you really need mouthwash for oral health? Unless recommended by your dentist, not really.

Essentially, there are two types of mouthwashes: cosmetic, which temporarily freshens your breath and is sold in most stores, and therapeutic (over-the-counter and prescription), for tackling oral health issues. In general, products marketed as mouthwashes are cosmetic, and rinses tend to be therapeutic, though not always.

While yes, rinsing your mouth with a liquid is a good way to free food particles from between your teeth (and that fresh taste is nice plus), studies show that most over-the-counter antiplaque rinses and antiseptics do little more to combat plaque and gum disease than rinsing with water; brushing and flossing are the ultimate debris-ridders.

Bad Breath Aid

If you have a healthy mouth, most mouthwashes will curb bad breath – often the result of something you ate or drank – and freshen your mouth for up to three hours. Garlic, onions, coffee and alcohol are common offenders, though health issues such as indigestion and sinus infections can also create temporary unpleasant oral odors as well.

If you have persistent bad breath, it’s because of gas-emitting bacteria on the tongue and below the gum line, which can also cause tooth decay and gum infection. In these instances, the best remedy is regular brushing at least twice daily, daily flossing and regular dental check-ups.

Therapeutic rinses

Your dentist may advise you to use a therapeutic rinse to kill bacteria, especially if you have an oral infection or after dental work, such as a tooth extraction. Some are fluoride rinses that fight plaque, cavities or both. Alcohol-based rinses can dry out your mouth, which leads to cavities and decay, so talk to your dentist or dilute with water.

Therapeutic rinses with xylitol help to treat dry mouth symptoms and reduce bacteria growth. Some rinses can be used to reduce plaque and inflammation of the gums.

 

How to use mouthwash

If you use mouthwash, whether as a preference or prescribed, check the label to see if you should dilute with water. If they label or your dentist, don’t dilute it, or you may not get the full benefits.

Pay attention to the clock. Most mouthwashes recommend swishing for 30 seconds before spitting it out. Check the label to confirm and never swallow the rinse.

Don’t rinse your mouth, eat or smoke for 30 minutes after you use a mouthwash to avoid diluting the fluoride and rinsing it away.

Children under the age of 6 should not use mouthwash, unless directed by a dentist, because they may swallow large amounts of the liquid inadvertently.

And remember, mouthwash is NOT a replacement for brushing and flossing!

Posted In: Oral & Dental Health Tips