Mouthwash is a common component of many oral hygiene routines at home. For many patients, we recommend certain mouthwashes for their ability to kill oral bacteria, add fluoride, and treat particular mouth sores. Too, some mouthwashes are advised following extraction of teeth to curtail bacteria in areas where brushing must be postponed.
While many people assume mouthwash is a beneficial conclusion to proper brushing and flossing, not all are recommended by our office. Some mouthwashes contain alcohol, which dries out oral tissues. Even though alcohol kills oral bacteria, it also serves as a drying agent. This actually increases your potential for cavities and bad breath since alcohol decreases saliva flow.
Saliva is your mouth’s natural cleanser, keeping oral tissues moist and moving bacteria (and food particles that cause bacterial growth) out of the mouth. Some medications, smoking and drinking alcoholic beverages can also lead to dry mouth.
Additionally, it is suspected that regular use of mouthwash containing alcohol can lead to dental erosion.
Mouthwashes that contain alcohol have also come under fire for increasing one’s risk for oral cancer. Although there is no scientific consensus on these findings, it is suspected that the alcohol becomes a carcinogen in the mouth, which is a cancer causing agent. Researchers have found that oral cancer risk is five times higher for those using alcohol-containing mouthwashes, even if they are non-smokers.
Like any product, read the label of mouthwash before purchasing. Look for alcohol-free types and those with fluoride additives. Use after brushing and flossing and practice a gargling action to get the mouthwash to the back of your mouth. Since the back of your tongue harbors more oral bacteria than the front, consider using a tongue scraper prior to mouthwash. This loosens oral bacteria that are embedded in the tongue’s surface. You can also brush your tongue with your toothbrush following teeth brushing.
Remember, any mouthwash use is an addition to brushing and flossing. It should never be used as a replacement. However, certain mouthwashes can help keep your breath fresher, decrease your risk for cavities and support your oral health overall. Swish away!
If you have questions about which mouthwashes are recommended, call us toll free 1-866-9-Smiles.