Mouthwash is a regular part of dental hygiene for many people, but others are concerned that the rinses with a higher alcohol content may have some detrimental effects, too. There are people who couldn’t imagine leaving the house without having properly rinsed (for that minty-fresh feeling) and others who are worried that they might be short-changing their dental hygiene by rushing out the door each morning using a mouthwash.

So, should you be using a mouthwash with your daily routine? Are there any drawbacks that you should know about? Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons.

The Pros for Using Mouthwashes

  • Reduce cavities – The fluoride in most mouth washes contributes to reducing cavities and the demineralization of the enamel.
  • Fight gum disease – The plaque and bacteria that build up on your teeth and gums lead to gum disease, but you can get rid of more of it with an antibacterial mouth wash.
  • Freshen breath – This is probably the top reason for using mouthwashes. They kill can bacteria that cause bad breath.
  • Sooth canker sores – The right mouthwash can detox the area around a canker sore, easing the discomfort. However, it must be said, that a saltwater rinse can have the same effect.
  • Reach difficult or often forgotten areas – A rinse can get to the areas between the teeth, at the back of the throat, and inside the cheeks.
  • Be safer during pregnancy – The hormonal changes during pregnancy increase the risk of gum disease, and if the infections get into the blood stream it can lead to a greater chance of low birth weight. A mouthwash can help kill the bacteria before they cause problems.

Reasons to Skip the Mouthwash

  • Can irritate canker sores – Even though we just said these products can soothe canker sores, the alcohol content of some mouth rinses can be too high for sores in your mouth, causing irritation.
  • Tooth sensitivity – The alcohol content can also gradually dissolve the mucus layer, leaving teeth feeling more sensitive.
  • Becomes a crutch – Mouthwash without effective oral health habits is like just spraying yourself with cologne and hoping it lasts long enough to mask questionable smells. It may temporarily cover a problem (bad breath), so people sometimes believe that’s enough, but the underlying issues still remain.

The Best Way to Use Mouthwash

First, always follow the instructions on the bottle so you’re using the correct amount of mouthwash. After that, the procedure is simple:

  1. Rinse and swish vigorously for 30 to 60 seconds.
  2. Gargle for another 30 to 60 seconds. You can use the same mouthwash to gargle, or spit it out and use a fresh dose. This will help get at the bacteria at the back of the throat – the ones that are causing most of your bad breath.
  3. Spit it out in the sink.

Some people choose to rinse with water at this point, others leave the residual mouthwash in so that it can keep working a little longer. if you go this route, try not to eat or drink anything else for another 10 or 15 minutes so you don’t end up ingesting any of it.

However, if you are using a particularly strong mouthwash (with high levels of alcohol or hydrogen peroxide), we recommend rinsing your mouth. That kind of residual mouthwash can irritate or dry out your mouth.

Should You Rinse Before or After You Brush?

As long as you brush, we’ll let you choose.

So, What’s the Answer?

The simple answer to whether or not you should use mouthwash is: go ahead and use it. Just remember that it should be done in conjunction with all your other good oral health habits, not in place of them.

It isn’t detrimental to your oral health if you choose not to use a mouth rinse, but it can help reduce the risk of periodontal disease and cavities, remove particles you may have missed with the brush, and even reduce the bacteria that lead to these problems.

It isn’t going to cure dental disease or eliminate bad breath forever or clear out tooth decay, but it can be used effectively to augment your overall dental hygiene plan and may help treat dental issues like periodontal disease or other types of harmful bacteria.