Is Mouthwash Necessary?

Discover the truth about mouthwash and its role in oral care with our comprehensive blog post. We debunk common myths, discuss the benefits, and shed light on the different types of mouthwash available. While mouthwash can freshen breath and reduce bacteria and plaque, it should be used as a complement to regular brushing and flossing, not a replacement. We address misconceptions surrounding mouthwash’s ability to cure gum disease or prevent cavities and provide practical tips for its effective use. By understanding the facts, you can make informed decisions to maintain optimal dental health.

A good daily mouth care routine is necessary for your dental health. Brushing your teeth at least twice daily, flossing daily, and using mouthwash is a healthy habit for most people. But is mouthwash necessary? The answer is a qualified yes — and no. The American Dental Association states that “use of mouthwash (also called mouthrinse) may be a helpful addition to the daily oral hygiene routine for some people.”

Let’s start by exploring what mouthwash does for you and when you should use it.

Why Use Mouthwash?

Westend Dental recommends daily use of mouthwash for improved oral health.Mouthwash gives your mouth a clean, fresh feeling and reassures you that your breath is fresh. It also has benefits for your overall oral health. Using mouthwash helps reduce the bacteria in your mouth, which reduces the amount of dental plaque that forms.

Regular use of mouthwash helps prevent periodontal disease and, if the mouthwash contains fluoride, reduces cavities when used correctly. This also gives us that refreshing feeling that we see in some of the best marketing in dental care.

If you brush your teeth well, twice a day, and floss daily, mouthwash is not strictly necessary. However, most dentists highly recommend adding mouthwash to your morning and evening routine. Additionally, people with certain medical conditions such as dry socket, tooth sensitivity, and xerostomia (aka dry mouth) may very well find mouthwash essential. Indeed, general and specialized mouthwashes can become an ongoing part of such individuals’ treatment routines.

Mouthwash and preventative care

Types of Mouthwash 

There are various types of mouthwash available, each designed to address specific oral care needs. Here’s a description of the different types of mouthwash: 

  • Therapeutic Mouthwash: This type of mouthwash contains active ingredients that provide specific oral health benefits. For example: 
  • Fluoride Mouthwash: Contains fluoride to strengthen tooth enamel, prevent tooth decay, and remineralize teeth. 
  • Antimicrobial Mouthwash: Contains ingredients such as chlorhexidine or essential oils to reduce bacteria, fight gum disease, and control plaque. 
  • Desensitizing Mouthwash: Contains ingredients that help alleviate tooth sensitivity by blocking the sensation of pain. 
  • Cosmetic Mouthwash: Cosmetic mouthwashes mainly focus on freshening breath and providing a pleasant taste in the mouth, temporarily. They often mask bad breath but may not offer additional oral health benefits. 
  • Natural or Herbal Mouthwash: These mouthwashes contain natural ingredients such as plant extracts, essential oils, or herbal extracts. They are often alcohol-free and may provide antibacterial properties or a soothing effect. Some natural mouthwashes may also claim to have teeth-whitening benefits. 
  • Prescription Mouthwash: In certain cases, a dentist may prescribe a specialized mouthwash containing specific medications or stronger antimicrobial agents. These mouthwashes are typically used to treat advanced gum disease or other oral conditions requiring professional intervention. 

It’s important to note that not all mouthwashes are suitable for everyone. Some mouthwashes may contain alcohol, which can cause dryness or discomfort for individuals with sensitive gums or dry mouth. It’s always a good idea to consult with your dentist first to determine the most appropriate type of mouthwash for your specific oral care needs. 

Pros and Cons of Alcohol-Based Mouthwash 

Mouthwash contains alcohol for a few reasons. Firstly, alcohol, typically in the form of ethanol, has strong antimicrobial properties, helping to kill bacteria and reduce the risk of gum disease and bad breath. Secondly, alcohol acts as a solvent, aiding in the dissolution and stabilization of other ingredients in the mouthwash formulation. Additionally, it serves as a preservative, extending the product’s shelf life. Lastly, alcohol provides a refreshing sensation, giving a sense of cleanliness and freshness when using mouthwash. However, it’s important to note that alcohol-based mouthwashes may not be suitable for everyone. Below is an overview of the advantages and disadvantages associated with the use of alcohol-based mouthwash: 

Pros of Alcohol-Based Mouthwash: 

  • Strong antimicrobial properties 
  • Effective at reducing bacteria and fighting gum disease 
  • Provides a refreshing sensation and temporarily masks bad breath 
  • Helps control plaque buildup on teeth 

Cons of Alcohol-Based Mouthwash: 

  • Can cause dry mouth and discomfort 
  • May irritate sensitive gums or oral tissues 
  • Strong taste and burning sensation 
  • Prolonged use may contribute to tooth staining 
  • Not suitable for children, individuals with alcohol history, or certain medical conditions 

Understanding the Cause of Bad Breath

Most people turn to mouthwash to counteract bad breath, and understanding what causes halitosis is a good first step toward dealing with it. The food you consume is often the cause of stinky breath, either because of the pungent nature of the grub itself (e.g., garlic, curry, blue cheese, sauerkraut) or improper hygiene. Smoking tobacco will also make your breath stink. Making careful dietary selections, brushing and flossing thoroughly, and using mouthwash can generally solve the issue.

However, underlying medical conditions may also lead to bad breath, and such situations require a little more care. Some may suffer from chronic dry mouth or may find themselves dealing with similar side effects due to medications. In these instances, specialized mouthwashes often help a great deal. Oral surgeries, chronic sinus inflammation, and acid reflux sometimes lead to bad breath, and in these cases, consult with a physician prior to attempting to treat the symptoms on your own.

What Kind of Mouthwash is Best?

There are different kinds of mouthwash available. Some are best for people with dry mouth, sensitive teeth, mouth sores, or recent dental surgery. For most people, a mouthwash with fluoride is best and provides the needed benefits. At Westend Dental, we can help you evaluate your specific needs and recommend the best mouthwash for you.

Which mouthwashes work best for which people? Here is a list of some that you might want to consider:

  • Crest Pro-Health: a good all-around general mouthwash that’s also alcohol free.
  • PerioBrite Nature’s Answer: an all-natural mouthwash that lacks the anti-bacterial properties of more conventional products, but also doesn’t have strong chemicals that some might prefer to avoid
  • ACT Advanced Care: helps control plaque build up
  • Biotene Dry Mouth Oral Rinse: helps treat xerostomia
  • Oasis Moisturizing Mouthwash: another option for those with xerostomia, one that includes glycerin
  • Chlorhexidine Gluconate Mouthwash: a prescription-only mouthwash proven to combat gingivitus, but that also has some potential side effects such as tooth staining and ulceration

No matter which kind of mouthwash you choose, look for a mouthwash that has the American Dental Association’s (ADA) seal of approval. The seal assures you that you are using a mouthwash that will combat cavities and help prevent periodontal disease.

How to Use Mouthwash?

It is important to note that mouthwash alone is not enough. It is best used after the teeth are thoroughly cleaned by brushing and flossing. Use mouthwash on clean teeth, swishing it around in the mouth and gargle with it at the back of the throat. Spit the mouthwash out. It is best to use mouthwash at the end of your brushing routine and allow it to remain on the teeth and gums, without rinsing.

Remember that mouthwash kills bacteria on the surface of the mouth and teeth. It does not address the underlying causes of bad breath or dental problems. Use it as a finishing rinse, but don’t expect it to cure all dental problems.

Alternative Dental Care to Using Mouthwash

Some people prefer using natural remedies to swishing with something sold in a bottle. Fortunately, you can easily find or make a number of natural bad-breath treatments. These include:

  • Salt-water rinses
  • Cinnamon chewing sticks
  • Drinking more water
  • Essential oils such as peppermint, lemongrass, clove, or orange
  • Eating more parsley
  • Chew fennel, dill, or anise seed
  • Swishing with apple-cider vinegar

The nice thing about such treatments is that they rarely cost much. Try one or two and see how they work for you!

Understanding Preventive Care for Your Mouth—How Westend Dental Can Help

Every mouth is different, and you may need a different routine. If you have not already, you should discuss the best way to care for your mouth with your dentist or dental hygienist. At Westend Dental, we welcome the opportunity to help you better understand your mouth. If you use a different Chicago dentist or Lincoln Park dentist, make sure you ask about the best preventative care and any other steps you need to take for best oral health.