B.D.S.(India), PGD.Ortho, PGDAD(Cosmetic)
International Dental Practitioner
DENTAL MAKEOVER, Delhi NCR
When we talk about good oral hygiene, three things come on our mind brushing, flossing and using mouthwash. These are often told by the dentists as well. Today we are going to talk about mouthwash. Mouthwash is a part of a good daily oral hygiene practice. Mouthwashes are beneficial, in removing food particles left in between and on the teeth even after brushing and flossing. Since, it’s a liquid; it can be reach where a tooth brush and floss cannot.
While mouthwash is not a substitute for proper brushing, it can help with a number of oral health issues like cavity protection, bad breath management and in therauptic uses. There are various types of mouthwash available. Broadly, mouthwashes containing fluoride can help in preventing the formation of tooth decay. Alternatively, antiseptic mouthwashes can help reduce the bacteria that cause gum disease and decay. Other mouthwashes may help reduce teeth sensitivity.
There are few myths regarding the use and effects of mouthwash. Let’s discuss it.
Firstly it’s a very common one, mouthwashes cures bad breath. Yes, mouthwash may temporarily cure stinky breath, but it’s not a permanent solution. There can be multiple reasons for bad breath like the food you consume, or if you have any respiratory infection or some systemic disease like diabetes etc or you have lot of plaque and tartar build up all over your mouth. So, freshening your mouth with mouthwash won’t help for long. Better see your dentist to know the exact cause of bad breath and then target the real problem.
Secondly, all mouthwashes are the same. Not really, as discussed before, there are different mouthwashes for different needs. In general, mouthwash can be classified as, regular or therapeutic uses. Rinsing with a regular mouthwash will loosen bits of food from your teeth, lessen bacteria in your mouth, temporarily reduce bad breath and leave a refreshing taste in your mouth. On the other hand, therapeutic rinses contain additional active ingredients such as essential oils, chlorhexidine, fluoride, betadine etc which has been proven to reduce plaque, fight cavities, reduce teeth sensitivity or help in gingival healing by keeping the bacterial count minimum.
You must have heard people saying, anyone can use the mouthwash and mouthwash is harmless. Well that’s not true. Many mouthwashes contain a high amount of alcohol. This can cause dry mouth, which is a cause of bad breath, and irritate oral tissues. In some people, the alcohol can cause sensitivity to the root surfaces of the teeth. There have also been studies suggesting a link between alcohol-containing mouthwash and oral cancer on long term use. Also, Long-term use of alcohol containing mouthwashes can kill ‘good’ bacteria and should never be given to children. Alcohol-free mouthwashes are also available. But other ingredients can cause side effects, too. Many can stain your teeth or cause a burning sensation, and therefore it isn’t recommended for long-term use. Mouthwash is not meant to be ingested, so it may cause problems if accidentally swallowed. It’s not usually recommended for young children before the age of six. This is because most children would swallow the mouthwash instead of spitting it out. Most mouthwashes contain fluoride and few contain alcohol both of these are not advisable to swallow even in trace amounts. Yet there are few mouthwashes available that are specifically made for children because they contain no alcohol and are fluoridated in right amounts. This results in protection against cavities with safety.
Mouthwash cannot replace brushing and flossing. Yes, it cuts back the level of bacteria in your mouth. But not for the whole day if brushing and flossing is not done. Plaque must be removed by a physical action and that’s exactly the role of flossing and brushing. Regular flossing and brushing with a soft-bristled toothbrush will do a much more effective job of removing plaque and debris than mouthwash alone. Research shows that adding a rinse with mouthwash to your oral care routine can in fact improve the overall cleanliness of your mouth and help keep gum inflammation at bay. But mouthwash is usually considered an add-on, not a replacement for brushing and flossing.
The best way to use mouthwash is to gargle or rinse just for a few quick seconds and then spit. Most mouthwashes are at their most effective when in contact with your mouth tissues for 30 seconds per use. Keeping the mouthwash for too long in mouth can cause loss of taste sensation for few days and may irritate the gums and soft tissues all over. If you are using the mouthwash on regular basis you may dilute the mouthwash with water in 1:1 ratio if recommended or needed.
Ask your dentist for advice about the best mouthwash for you. Read and follow the instructions on the label, looking for how much to use and for how long to rinse with the mouthwash. Always remember mouthwash isn’t a short-cut.