Should you use mouthwash daily? A dentist weighs in

Most mouthwash solutions contain active compounds that work together to limit the growth of bacteria that cause plaque.

Myupchar September 19, 2019 15:32:10 IST
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Should you use mouthwash daily? A dentist weighs in
  • Most mouthwash solutions contain active compounds such as fluoride, chlorhexidine, peroxide, cetylpyridinium chloride, menthol and essential oils

  • They work together to limit the growth of bacteria that cause plaque - a sticky, thin biofilm of bacteria that grows on the surface of our teeth

  • Mouthwash is also a buffer for the oral cavity and maintains the pH balance in our mouth

Dentists across the world swear by the efficacy of brushing and flossing to keep cavities and gingivitis at bay. But should you use mouthwash as well? A dentist weighs the pros and cons.

What does mouthwash contain?

Most mouthwash solutions contain active compounds such as fluoride, chlorhexidine, peroxide, cetylpyridinium chloride, menthol and essential oils. They work together to limit the growth of bacteria that cause plaque - a sticky, thin biofilm of bacteria that grows on the surface of our teeth.

Should you use mouthwash daily A dentist weighs in

Representational image. Getty Images

Mouthwash is also a buffer for the oral cavity and maintains the pH balance in our mouth.

There are also traditional remedies like alum that have antimicrobial action, which may be used in place of store-bought mouthwashes.

To swish, or not to swish

The answer is yes, and no. Yes, use it occasionally but keep in mind that it isn’t a substitute for brushing or flossing.

  • It reduces bad breath: Most mouthwashes contain cetylpyridinium chloride which paralyses and kills odour-causing bacteria. Mouthwash is a fix for bad breath but only if it originates in the oral cavity. Bad breath because of an underlying cause like gastroesophageal reflux disease (a digestive disorder) can’t be limited by using mouthwash - for that you need to consult a doctor
  • It finishes the job of brushing: The point of brushing is to remove the food particles that get stuck in our teeth. Often, the brush fails to get into all the areas of the mouth - leaving several hiding spots for germs. Liquid mouthwash, on the other hand, can reach all those places
  • It can make teeth stronger: Most mouthwashes have antibacterial potential - they kill germs that can cause decay. Think of your toothbrush like a mechanical aid for removing bacteria. By comparison, mouthwash is much more powerful to keep a tight check on bacterial growth. Mouth-washing makes up for some of the flaws in our brushing technique
  • Clean gums are healthier gums: Most of us don’t brush our gums. Germs can settle on them and cause inflammation (gingivitis), and in some cases, lead to gum bleeding. Our gums are among the most important supporting structures for our teeth, and they deserve a bit of care. We should either brush them gently with ultra-soft bristles or use mouthwash periodically to remove bacteria from the gum tissues
  • It can make teeth whiter: Many mouthwashes contain hydrogen-peroxide solution - a bleaching agent that can also help in whitening teeth. It works by removing discolouration as a result of drinking tea, coffee, red wine, as well as eating foods that contain turmeric or food colouring

On the downside, some mouthwashes contain sodium that can be harmful if you have a medical condition like hypertension and you end up swallowing your mouthwash often. Consult your dentist to pick a mouthwash that’s right for you, and be sure to ask them how often you should supplement your brushing-and-flossing routine with a swish-gargle-spit.

Pregnant women should also check with their obstetrician if they can continue to use their mouthwash, or if they need to switch to an alcohol-free variant.

Plus, as much as you may like the minty taste of some mouthwashes, they can kill the good bacteria in your mouth too. It is a good idea to improve your brushing technique (brush for longer, but more gently; and remember to clean your gums) and limit your use of mouthwash.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health. For more information on the uses of alum for oral care, please read Alum: Benefits and Side-Effects.

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