Mouthwash and oral hygiene

  • Mouthwash that is therapeutic

  • Mouthwash that is cosmetic

  • Prescription mouthwash for dental care

Shopping for a mouthwash can be, well . . . mind-boggling. There are rinses that claim to help with oral hygiene and fight gum disease, those that are antiseptic and anti-plaque, and others which claim to freshen bad breath.

And then we have the anti-cavity mouth rinse that use fluoride to protect against tooth decay. Help! Which way should we turn?

Mouthwash and oral hygiene

Mouthwash and oral hygiene

Spit – don’t rinse

Whether or not you should use a mouth rinse depends upon your needs and our clinicians would be more than happy to advise you.

Many dentists consider the use of fluoride toothpaste alone to be more than adequate protection against cavities, and you may have heard the advice – spit don’t rinse.

Although anti-cavity rinses with fluoride have been clinically proven to fight up to 50 per cent more of the bacteria that cause cavities, and most rinses are effective at curbing bad breath, some studies have shown that over the counter anti-plaque rinses and antiseptics are not that effective.


How should I use a mouthwash?

Before using mouth rinses, dentists suggest that you brush and floss your teeth thoroughly. Then, measure the proper amount of rinse as specified on the container or as instructed by your dentist. With your lips closed and the teeth kept slightly apart, swish the liquid around with as much force as possible. Many rinses suggest swishing for 30 seconds or more.

Finally, thoroughly spit the liquid from your mouth. Teeth should be as clean as possible before applying an anti-cavity rinse to reap the full preventive benefits. You should not rinse, eat, or smoke for 30 minutes after using mouthwashes, as these practices will dilute the fluoride content.

Are there any side effects?

Yes, and they can vary depending on the type of rinse. Habitual use of antiseptic mouthwashes that contain high levels of alcohol (18 to 26 per cent) may produce a burning sensation in the cheeks, teeth, and gums. Many rinses with more concentrated formulas can lead to mouth ulcers, sodium retention, root sensitivity, stains, soreness, numbness, changes in taste sensation, and painful mucosal erosions.

Most anti-cavity rinses contain sodium fluoride, which can lead to fluoride toxicity if taken excessively or swallowed.

pouring mouthwash

Beware mouthwashes with children

Because children tend to swallow mouthwash accidentally, they should only use rinses under adult supervision.

If you experience any irritating or adverse reactions to a mouth rinse, discontinue its use immediately and talk to one of our clinicians.

Note: Rinsing is not a substitute for the mechanical action of cleaning teeth properly.

A great starting point for more information on oral hygiene is on our webpage. There is also a wealth of information here on our dental blog.