If you'd like to add a mouthwash or a mouth rinse to your oral care routine, or if your dentist has recommended a mouthwash for you or someone in your family, you'll get the most benefit from the product if you use it correctly.
What is mouthwash?
A mouthwash or rinse does not replace a regular oral hygiene routine of twice-daily tooth brushing and daily flossing. The main function of most mouthwashes is to freshen breath, although if you suffer from severe chronic bad breath (halitosis), talk to your dentist about other ways to address the causes of the problem and manage your bad breath condition.
That said, some types of mouthwash, such as fluoride rinses, can help protect teeth against acids produced by plaque bacteria if you use them after you have thoroughly brushed and floss your teeth. And your dentist may prescribe a specific mouth rinse or mouthwash if you are recovering from a fungal infection or a bout of gum problems.
Points to keep in mind
Keep these points in mind to get the most from your mouthwash or mouth rinse:
- Dilute If Necessary - Be sure to read the label on any brand of mouthwash that you choose. Different brands have different concentrations, and some may recommend that you dilute them with water. Remember, if the label does not tell you to dilute, then you may not get the full benefit of the mouth wash if the germ killing ingredients are at a lower level.
- Mouthwash is not a replacement - It is essential to remember that no mouthwash is a replacement for the regular oral care routine of twice-daily brushing and daily flossing. So, even if your dentist recommends or prescribes a mouthwash, you still need to follow your complete oral care routine to maintain good dental health.
- Watch The Clock - One of the keys to using mouthwash correctly is to swish it in your mouth for the correct amount of time. Read the product label. Most mouthwashes recommend that you swish the product around in your mouth for 30 seconds to one minute then spit it out.
How to use fluoride mouthwash and rinses
Many dentists believe that twice-daily brushing with a fluoride toothpaste provides enough fluoride for cavity protection. But if you're prone to cavities, you can use a fluoride mouth rinse in addition to brushing and flossing your teeth.
Some studies have shown that mouth rinses with fluoride can supplement daily brushing with fluoride toothpastes, especially in areas where drinking water is not supplemented with fluoride. These rinses are effective in strengthening the enamel of your teeth and protecting your teeth from acid damage;
Steps to follow when using fluoride rinse
- Use the right amount - Use the amount of rinse indicated on the label or as directed by your dentist.
- Swish like you mean it - Keep your mouth closed and swish the rinse vigorously as directed on the label.
- Spit - Don't swallow mouth rinse. The fluoride in most fluoride rinses can be toxic if you swallow large enough amounts. If you allow your child to use mouthwash, supervise to be sure that he or she spits it out and doesn't swallow it
- Wait - To get the most benefit from a fluoride mouthwash, avoid eating, drinking, or smoking for at least 30 minutes so you don't wash away the fluoride
Oral rinses as part of dental hygiene
A complete plan for daily dental hygiene is centred around twice-daily tooth brushing and flossing, but you may also want to consider oral rinses.
Oral rinses may contain a variety of ingredients to battle bacteria in the mouth, including cetylpyridinium chloride (CPC), a germ-fighting ingredient which has been shown to be safe and effective, although a small number of people have reported a temporary unpleasant aftertaste.
Other oral rinse ingredients include povidone iodine and essential oils. But any oral rinse can help enhance your daily dental hygiene routine.
Overall, using a mouthwash with povidone iodine, essential oil or chlorhexidine significantly reduced plaque and reduces bacterial indicators of gingivitis. A fourth mouthwash that contained an herbal extract did contribute to plaque control but the improvement was not significant.
Studies have shown that oral rinses can reduce more plaque and more signs of gingivitis when used in addition to tooth brushing compared with tooth brushing alone.
How does mouthwash work?
The answer to the question on what mouthwash does varies depending on the type of mouthwash. Some freshen breath, others provide an anti-cavity benefit from fluoride, while others contain germ-killing ingredients to help prevent plaque buildup on teeth.
You have many options, and the right mouthwash or rinse for you is the one that meets your dental hygiene needs for the health of your teeth and gums, and taste preference.
To help choose the right mouthwash or rinse, remember what mouthwash does and keep these points in mind:
- Alcohol: yes or no? - Alcohol is a component of many mouthwashes and rinses, which can problematic if a large quantity is deliberately swallowed. If you want to buy one type of mouthwash or rinse for the whole family, and your household includes school-aged children or teens, you may want to choose from among the alcohol-free mouthwash products that are available. Also, some recovering alcoholics avoid using mouthwash with alcohol in daily oral care because of the potential for abuse.
- Sensitivity - Some people find the ingredients in mouthwash irritating, especially people who have sensitive gums. Also, people who don’t usually complain of sensitive gums may find that their mouths are more sensitive for a short time if they are recovering from a dental procedure.
If you have a sensitive mouth, consider an alcohol-free or natural mouthwash in your oral care routine. Natural mouthwashes often contain ingredients such as aloe vera and chamomile for a soothing effect.
- Plaque control - If you want a mouthwash that not only helps control bad breath but also helps to prevent plaque build-up on the teeth, look for a dental rinse that contains anti-plaque ingredients.
If you’re uncertain about which mouthwash or rinse would best meet your oral health needs, ask your dentist or dental hygienist for suggestions regarding the use of mouthwash in daily oral care.