Mouth rinse – to use or not to use

Something we often get asked is “Should I use a mouth rinse after brushing?” Or “Can I use a mouth rinse instead of brushing?”

Since there are so many different types of mouth rinses on offer, it can be a very difficult and confusing choice for the consumer. So, it really depends on the reason why you want to use it. There are mouth rinses designed to manage bad breath (halitosis), cavities, gum disease or dry mouth.

Whichever you decide on, a mouthwash shouldn’t be used as your only weapon in the fight for good oral health. To achieve a healthy mouth, you need to be brushing regularly, flossing and receiving professional dental care. The fact is that brushing removes most food, bacteria and plaque from the surface of your teeth. Flossing gets in between your teeth (where your toothbrush can’t reach) and can even scrape your tongue clean.

A mouthwash can also be effective if gargling for at least 30 seconds before spitting out. Saliva is our mouth’s natural mouthwash. It helps rinse away bacteria that can cause bad breath and gingivitis. Therefore, a short 30-second mouthwash can result in a clear reduction in dental issues such as plaque and gingivitis. It will also make your mouth feel and smell fresher.

Each mouthwash may be slightly different, most will include addition to water, flavours and preservatives, but the active ingredients are:

Alcohol – helps kill bacteria that contribute to tooth decay and bad breath. If you suffer from dry mouth, we recommend using an alcohol-free mouthwash. Alcohol tends to make your mouth dry by breaking down the mucus-like coating, which keeps the mouth moist. As a result, bad breath may worsen as a dry mouth enhances bacterial growth.

Antimicrobial agents – such as Chlorohexidine also helps lower the bacterial load. But always seek professional assessment before proceeding with any over the counter remedies. For instance,Chlorohexidine is known to produce staining, as it may react with residue left on the teeth from foods and beverages such as coffee and tea.

Detergents – to dislodge food debris and loosen plaque.

Fluoride – There are lots of mouthwashes available with extra fluoride to make teeth more resistant to acid attacks, and prevent tooth decay. But as with all mouth rinses, it’s important that you don’t accidentally swallow them, as consuming too much fluoride can be toxic.

What about Salt water mouth rinse?

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, as well as in cases of infection or mouth ulcers. Salt acts as a natural disinfectant and also removes any swelling from the tissues.

However, 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.

If in doubt which mouthwash to use, ask us to recommend a mouthwash for you. Keep in mind that some mouthwashes can stain your teeth, so best to check the ingredients before dropping it into your shopping cart. If you’re using a mouthwash to hide bad breath, it’s best to schedule an appointment to deal with the underlying cause, as mouthwashes may exacerbate the problem over time.

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