Keeping your teeth and gums healthy starts with implementing an oral care plan daily. Regular dental checkups are important too, but make sure you brush and floss each day. Using mouthwash is also an important aspect of taking care of your teeth.
What Is Mouthwash?
Mouthwash is a liquid product used to rinse your teeth, gums, and mouth. Also called an oral rinse, mouthwash typically contains a bacteria-killing antiseptic that targets the bacteria residing between the teeth and on the tongue.
Benefits of Mouthwash
Mouthwash does provide numerous benefits when used correctly. It is an appropriate addition to a dental health regimen for most people, including those with braces and retainers.
Fights Bad Breath
While mouthwash doesn’t cure halitosis, it does fight it. Some bad breath causes emanates from the lungs or stomach instead of the mouth. In those cases, mouthwash simply masks the odor. Consult your dentist if you have chronic bad breath, as the cause could be a sign of a more serious issue.
Combats Gum Disease
Mouthwash rids teeth of bacteria that, if it lingers, can form into tooth decay. Tooth decay that is left untreated can worsen. That leads to infections and, potentially, gum disease.
A mouthwash that contains fluoride can fight cavities in two ways. It strengthens tooth enamel — the hard substance that protects teeth. It also remineralizes teeth from the effects of bacteria and plaque.
Mouthwash prevents plaque buildup; however, it doesn’t remove existing plaque. That’s why using mouthwash as a complement to brushing and flossing is a critical part of your mouth health routine.
Helps Pregnant Women
Pregnant women are susceptible to gingivitis. Gum disease and tooth decay can lead to serious complications with the pending birth. For those reasons, women are advised to use mouthwash during their pregnancy.
How Often Should You Use Mouthwash?
Mouthwash isn’t a substitute for brushing and flossing your teeth. It is a complement to both. You can keep your teeth and tongue clean and healthy by brushing and flossing alone.
The generally accepted advice is to use mouthwash twice a day. You can always check the bottle for the manufacturer’s recommended usage.
Mouthwash Before or After Brushing?
There are a couple of schools of thought regarding whether to use mouthwash before or after brushing your teeth.
The Mayo Clinic recommends rinsing after you brush and floss, while the National Health Service recommends not rinsing immediately after brushing so as not to wash away the concentrated fluoride the toothpaste leaves on your teeth. The ADA says the preference is up to the patient — before or after brushing.
How Much Mouthwash to Use?
For starters, be sure you’re taking the correct mouthwash dosage. Use the cup that comes with the product — it should have measurement demarcation lines. If no cup was provided, a measuring cup of your own would suffice.
Check the bottle’s label — presumably under the “Directions” section — for the proper dosage. Then pour it into the cup.
Swish it around your mouth and gargle for 30 seconds. Remember, mouthwash isn’t to be swallowed. Spit it into the sink once you’re finished.
Are You Supposed to Rinse After Mouthwash?
It is a good idea to not rinse or eat for 30 minutes after using mouthwash. The active ingredients in the mouthwash need time to have a beneficial effect on your teeth. Rinsing with water dilutes the effect while eating pollutes the environment the mouthwash is treating.
Types of Mouthwash
Mouthwashes fall into two categories — cosmetic and therapeutic — based on their ingredients:
- Therapeutic mouthwashes. This type has active ingredients that kill bacteria. They also help reduce plaque, gingivitis, cavities, and bad breath. Mouthwashes with fluoride prevent or reduce tooth decay.
- Cosmetic mouthwashes. This type temporarily controls or reduces bad breath. It also leaves a pleasant taste in your mouth. That said, it doesn’t reduce the risk of cavities or gum disease.
Many brands of mouthwash are acidic. That acidity creates an environment for the same bacteria to grow back despite that using the mouthwash killed off the existing bacteria.
An alkaline mouthwash has a pH level that is not acidic — ranging from 7 to 14 on the pH scale. Alkaline mouthwashes create an environment that prevents cavities from developing.
While alcohol-free mouthwash won’t totally clean your mouth, it does target more bad bacteria than good bacteria. People who suffer from dry mouth, are undergoing radiation therapies, or have health issues such as Sjogren’s syndrome or diabetes might opt for alcohol-free.
Alcohol-free mouthwash also protects composite restorations and is favored by those who don’t like the burning sensation brought about by alkaline mouthwash.
Find a Dentist Near Me
Consult your dentist to discuss any questions about mouthwash and oral health. Or, check out The Smile Generation Find a Dentist tool to find a dentist near you for all your mouth health needs. You can read patient reviews, peruse staff bios, and schedule an appointment online with a click of your mouse.
Watson, Kathryn, “Everything You Need to Know About Using Mouthwash,” Healthline, November 25, 2019, healthline.com/health/how-to-use-mouthwash
How to keep your teeth clean, National Health Service, February 15, 2022, https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-teeth-and-gums/how-to-keep-your-teeth-clean/
Salinas, Thomas J., D.D.S., “When and how often should you brush your teeth?”, The Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/expert-answers/brushing-your-teeth/faq-20058193
8 Things You Should Know About Your Mouthwash, TruBlu Dentistry, January 25, 2018, trubludentistry.com/blog/8-things-know-mouthwash/
Should You Use Mouthwash Before or After Brushing?, Colgate, colgate.com/en-ph/oral-health/adult-orthodontics/should-you-use-mouthwash-before-or-after-brushing
Alcohol Vs. Alcohol Free Mouthwash: What’s The Difference?, Alliance Dental, alliancedental.ca/oral-health-tips/alcohol-vs-alcohol-free-mouthwash-whats-the-difference/
The Benefits of Alcohol-Free Mouthwash, Colgate, https://www.colgate.com/en-us/oral-health/selecting-dental-products/benefits-of-alcohol-free-mouthwash
What is the Best Alkaline Mouthwash?, Central Point Family Dentistry, September 28, 2022, https://www.centralpointfamilydentistry.com/post/what-mouthwashes-are-like-rinsing-with-soda
Mouthwash, Mouth Healthy, https://www.mouthhealthy.org/all-topics-a-z/mouthwash/
How Does Mouthwash Work? Answering your mouthwash questions, Colgate, January 9, 2023, https://www.colgate.com/en-us/oral-health/selecting-dental-products/how-does-mouthwash-work