Should You Use Mouthwash?

The Internet is filled with a lot of disinformation when it comes to mouthwash.

Some stories are relatively benign, such as:
• Bacteria return so quickly after using mouthwash, that using it is relatively pointless.
• Mouthwash can make you more prone to dry mouth.

Others sound a little scarier:
• Antibacterial mouthwash can disrupt the normal bacteria in your mouth.
• Mouth rinse containing alcohol may have links to oral cancer.

To cut through some of the confusion, we decided to ask some dentists we know about their thoughts on mouthwash.

What are the real benefits and drawbacks? Are some types better than others? Ultimately, are they worth using? Here’s what they had to say:

All of the statements about mouthwash are correct to a certain degree. From what I have read, and 37 years of practice, this is what I do. I do not recommend mouthwash for just everyone. Mouthwash kills bacteria, but, within 20 minutes, they have started to return. I look for the source of mouth odor. Do they need to brush their tongue? Most people neglect this. They need to use a tongue scraper to be effective. Do they have decay or areas where bacteria or food is accumulating? They need to clean these better or have work done. Many people need to use proxy brushes or end tuft brushes to get to an area. Some need electric brushes, and some just need to pay attention because their brush does not touch the gingiva when they use it. I think there may be a link to cancer in drinkers and/or smokers but I have not seen anything recently about that. Heavy use can disrupt normal flora and cause black hairy tongue usually seen with hydrogen peroxide use. I am not sure if it contributes to xerostomia.

I recommend Fluoride ACT mouthwash in patients that have decay, braces or xerostomia. I recommend Listerine in those that have chronic gingivitis that also have good homecare. I have seen improvement when they use it when nothing else has helped. I recommend Biotene and Spry products for those with xerostomia. I have patients rinse right before I work on them to reduce the bacteria that gets aerosolized. I do not tell everyone to use mouthwash.

Cynthia M. Sachs DDS | Dentist in Rockford, IL

For me, over the counter mouthwash is largely useless. While it can destroy free floating bacteria in your mouth, it CANNOT get to the bacteria embedded in your gums and around your teeth. Bad breath and dental problems come from this area.

Sorbitol containing chewing gums work much better than mouthwash to freshen your breath AND decrease some of the bad bacteria, as do toothbrushes and dental floss. Prescription mouthwashes can help in isolated circumstances to keep your mouth clean, so ask your dentist if they are indicated for you.

Throw away the Listerine and pick up sugarless gum, dental floss and a toothbrush. Your teeth will thank you!

Jerome L. Faist, DDS | Dentist in Beachwood, OH

Fluoride is the greatest benefit, primarily in drinking water, but also mouthwashes. Antibacterial mouthwashes aid in bacterial disruption, but flossing and proper brushing technique two times a day does 90% of the job. In 33 years I have never seen an oral cancer associated with either alcohol or hydrogen peroxide based mouthwashes.

Timothy P. Sulken, DDS | Dentist in Fostoria, OH

If you’ve ever wondered if mouthwashes are worth your while, you now have a bit more knowledge to help you make your decision.

Once again, we’d like to thank our dentist for providing this great information! Not only did they provide valuable feedback on mouth rinses, but we got some great tips about tongue scrapers, proxy brushes, sugarless gum and the overall advantages of a good oral hygiene routine that includes proper brushing and flossing.

If you are in need of dental care and live near one of the cities they practice in, click their name to view their complete profile and learn a bit more about the doctor and their practice.

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