Mouthwash is commonly used by many as part of their daily oral hygiene routine. Regular use of mouthwash is often recommended by most dentists; however, the use of mouthwash should never be considered a replacement for daily tooth brushing and flossing.

Risks & Benefits of Using Mouthwash

Is mouthwash necessary? Not essentially. Incorporating the use of mouthwash in your daily routine is a healthy habit and can offer a lot of benefits. However, it is also important to keep in mind that along with advantages, mouthwashes also carry some disadvantages.

Benefits of Mouthwash

Reduction in Cavities:

Mouthwashes that contain fluoride are known to prevent cavity formation. Fluorides strengthen teeth and help in combating the demineralization of teeth caused due to bacterial dissolution.

Treatment of Gum Disease:

Accumulation of plaque and bacteria in the mouth leads to the development of gum diseases like gingivitis. Therapeutic mouthwashes usually have antibacterial agents like chlorhexidine that reduce bacterial growth in the mouth.

Teeth Whitening:

Some new formulas of mouthwashes have whitening agents like carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide that have a lightening effect on teeth. While they are not as effective as a professional whitening treatment, they may help in reducing the yellowing of teeth over time.

Prevent Bad Breath:

Mouthwash is considered the best and most immediate fix to combating bad breath. Cetylpyridinium chloride is an agent commonly used in mouthwashes aimed at reducing bad breath. There are usually flavoring agents added in mouthwashes as well, most commonly mint, to leave you with a pleasant aftertaste.

Wash Away Debris:

Different individuals have different preferences with regard to the use of mouthwash. Some prefer to use it before brushing while others do it after brushing their teeth. Using a mouthwash before brushing your teeth can help in dislodging food particles from between teeth that can then be cleaned out by the toothbrush. Rinsing with a mouthwash after brushing can help in clearing out debris from areas that could not be reached by the toothbrush.

Soothe Canker Sores:

People who suffer from canker sores often find relief from low-alcohol mouthwashes that are targeted towards this condition. The mouthwash helps in getting rid of the bacteria that causes irritation of the sores and provides a soothing effect.

Side Effects of Mouthwash

Staining of Teeth:

Antibacterial mouthwashes contain agents like chlorhexidine gluconate, which can react with compounds from food particles in the mouth and lead to staining of teeth. It is advised to use chlorhexidine mouthwashes sparingly and not use it for more than 2 weeks at a stretch.

Damage to Oral Tissues:

Most over-the-counter mouthwashes are alcohol-based that can have serious side-effects with continuous and judicious use. The alcohol has a drying effect on the oral tissues and can disrupt saliva production in the mouth. Some people might have severe reactions to the alcohol content that can even lead to ulcers or burns in the mouth. Mouthwashes with too high of an alcohol content may even lead to irritation of canker sores instead of soothing them.

Destroys Oral Microbiota:

Much like antibiotics can disrupt the balance of bacteria in the gut, both good and bad, and mouthwashes destroy all the bacteria in the mouth too. While a lot of micro-organisms in the mouth are responsible for issues like cavities, gum diseases, and bad breath, a lot of oral bacteria also help in the remineralization process of the teeth that have been affected by cavities. Mouthwashes indiscriminately kill all bacteria and eliminate the chances or reversing tooth decay.

Masking Bad Breath:

Bad breath or halitosis is caused by odor-producing bacteria in the mouth. Cosmetic mouthwashes simply mask bad breath by providing temporary freshness and should not be used as a replacement to tooth brushing. Oral issues need to be addressed professionally in order to treat halitosis completely.

Some pointers to keep in mind before choosing a mouthwash:

  • It is advisable to use alcohol-free or low-alcohol mouthwashes to reduce the chances of damage caused to the oral tissues due to the alcohol.
  • Don’t forget to look for the ADA-approved seal on the bottle of your mouthwash.
  • There is no such thing as the ‘best mouthwash’. Talk to your dentist about the most suitable mouthwash for you. Mouthwashes like Listerine benefit those with gum diseases; high-fluoride mouthwashes are recommended for those with high chances of developing cavities.
  • Children below 6 years of age should not be using mouthwash due to a high risk of accidental ingestion. If it is advised by the dentist, adult supervision is necessary while letting your child use a mouthwash.