Posted by Dr. Julie Boudreault On 5-07-2019
It seems like common sense to use mouthwash as part of your daily dental hygiene regime. It rinses your mouth and provides fresher breath. However, although mouthwash offers many benefits, it also has its fair share of issues. There are many factors to consider when it comes to mouthwash, as there are many types of mouthwashes available at your local drugstore. Here are the pros and cons of using mouthwash so you can decide whether it is right for you.
What is the purpose of mouthwash?
There is more to mouthwash than providing minty fresh breath. Today, there are dozens or even hundreds of mouthwash products available, all offering various benefits. The most common reason people use mouthwash includes:
- Fresh breath
- Reducing tooth decay using sodium fluoride
- Reducing gum inflammation by killing bacteria
- Whitening teeth using a bleaching agent
- Preventing gum disease using an antiseptic or anti-plaque ingredient
What are the types of mouthwash?
Looking at the list above, it is clear that there are many different mouthwash formulas available. The types of mouthwashes include:
- Fluoride: Mouthwashes containing sodium fluoride help prevent cavities and fight tooth decay. However, because you are hopefully using a fluoride toothpaste, using a mouthwash containing fluoride as well can provide you with more than the recommended daily amount.
- Antiseptic: This type of mouthwash contains alcohol and is used to stop bacterial growth. It is ideal for those with mouth infections, but can also assist in fighting halitosis (bad breath). Although it can be effective in killing bacteria and providing fresher breath, it can also discolour your teeth with overuse.
- Cosmetic: Much like you might use makeup to cover up flaws, cosmetic mouthwash is used to mask bad breath. It doesn’t do much more than that and really doesn’t last long either.
- Natural: This is a holistic approach to mouthwash. These products are alcohol-free and contain safer ingredients than those found in other mouthwashes.
- Dry mouth: Because dry mouth is bad for your oral health, if you suffer from dry mouth, you can find special mouthwashes that keep your mouth moist and protect against tooth decay.
- Breath spray: These handy little sprays can be carried in your purse or pocket for a fresh squirt of breath-freshening mouthwash. However, they do nothing more than mask bad breath in most cases. In fact, most also contain ingredients that are harmful to your teeth.
Pros of Mouthwash
There are many benefits to using mouthwash as part of your daily oral health regime including:
- Additional cleaning: Mouthwash can help get to the remaining debris left behind after brushing and flossing. The liquid flows around and between your teeth, helping to flush out your mouth more thoroughly.
- Healthy gums: Bacteria in your mouth can cause harm. Brushing does not remove bacteria, which can then be left to build up and cause irritation and inflammation of your gums. This can develop into serious periodontal disease. Mouthwash can help kill harmful bacteria for healthier gums.
- Healthier teeth: Oral bacteria exposes your teeth to decay. Antibacterial mouthwash can kill bacteria to help prevent tooth decay.
- Fresh breath: A quick rinse after eating strong foods like onions or garlic can help keep your breath fresh.
- Strengthen enamel: Some mouthwashes contain enamel-strengthening ingredients which will help keep your teeth more resistant to decay.
Cons of Mouthwash
Despite the benefits of mouthwash, there are also some cons to consider including:
- Oral cancer: Some studies have shown that mouthwashes containing alcohol can have a negative effect on soft tissue in the mouth. This has been tied to oral cancer.
- Irritation: For some people, alcohol produces an unpleasant burning effect, which can slow the healing of ulcers and canker sores.
- Cosmetic solution for bad breath: Bad breath is masked by mouthwash, which does not assist in fighting the cause. If you suffer from halitosis, a medical condition causing severe bad breath, it is best to speak to us to find a more permanent solution.
- Tooth staining: Certain mouthwashes contain heavy dyes that can actually stain your teeth.
- Salt: Mouthwashes containing sodium lauryl sulphate actually are a source of sodium. For those on a low sodium diet, this can be problematic if the mouthwash is swallowed.
- Killing good bacteria: Good bacteria? Yes, there is such a thing as good bacteria. It exists in places such as your digestive system, but also in your mouth. This good bacteria acts as a natural defense to fight pathogens. When you use mouthwashes that are considered “antiseptic” or “antibacterial”, they kill bacteria indiscriminately. This means they are killing both the good and bad bacteria in your mouth. This could reduce the effectiveness of your natural ability to fight pathogens and lessen your immunity.
As you might have noticed, alcohol has popped up often when discussing mouthwash. This is because most mouthwashes contain alcohol, as it can help kill germs and bacteria that cause gum disease and tooth decay.
Despite its effectiveness, alcohol can have many negative effects. First, it can actually be quite painful when you rinse for too long. This pain can be worse if you have sensitive gums and, for some, the harshness of the mouthwash can actually cause ulcers in your mouth. Alcohol also causes dryness, which is not only uncomfortable but also unhealthy. You require saliva to help keep bacteria from building in your mouth, and it also plays an important role in eating and digestion.
For these reasons, it might be best to consider an “alcohol-free” or “less intense” mouthwash if you decide to use mouthwash as part of your oral hygiene regime.
Generally speaking, most people do not require mouthwash as long as they are faithfully brushing and flossing daily. In hand with a fluoride treatment and regular dental checkups and cleanings, your teeth and gums will remain healthy.
If you still aren’t sure where you stand when it comes to mouthwash, Milltown Dental can help you decide. Click here to contact our office today.