Should You Be Using Mouthwash?

Unlike toothpaste and floss, mouthwash is rarely used as regularly. In fact, some people avoid using mouthwash simply because they don’t really understand the point of mouthwash in addition to regular brushing and flossing. While it is true that mouthwash use is not an essential oral hygiene practice, there are still benefits to regular mouthwash use. To help you determine whether you should be using mouthwash, here is some more information: 

What is mouthwash?

For starters, it is essential to have a firm understanding of what mouthwash is and the types of ingredients it contains. Chances are, you’ve seen the brightly-colored bottles of mouthwash stacked down the dental aisle. If you have ever used mouthwash before, then you also probably know that it is meant to be swished around your mouth to loosen debris and then spit out. However, there is a little more that you should know about mouthwash. 

For starters, there are two different types of mouthwash: cosmetic and therapeutic. Cosmetic mouthwashes are designed simply to remove debris and mask odors. Therapeutic mouthwashes, on the other hand, are formulated to actually kill bacteria responsible for bad breath, tooth decay, and gum disease. Therapeutic mouthwashes can contain the following ingredients: 

bottles of mouthwash
  • Cetylpyridinium chloride: reduces bad breath
  • Chlorhexidine: controls plaque and gingivitis (prescription only)
  • Essential oils (eucalyptol, menthol, thymol, methyl salicylate): controls plaque and gingivitis
  • Fluoride: strengthens tooth enamel to prevent decay
  • Peroxide: used as a whitening agent in whitening mouthwashes

There are different variations of therapeutic mouthwash that may contain more or less of a specific ingredient in order to address a specific oral health problem. Generally speaking, mouthwashes with higher concentrations of fluoride are better for protecting against tooth decay or enamel erosion, while those with higher concentrations of essential oils may be better for treating or preventing gum disease. Peroxide is also another common ingredient used to maintain teeth bleaching results, however it can be detrimental to dental restorations. Because there is such a large variety of mouthwash options, it is advisable to speak with your dentist about which mouthwash would work best for you

Should YOU be using mouthwash?

For most people over the age of 6, regular mouthwash use is beneficial as long as the mouthwash is being used as directed. Children under the age of 6 are not recommended to use mouthwash since they are more likely to accidentally swallow it. Even though mouthwash is considered beneficial overall, there are certain people who may benefit more from regular mouthwash use than others, such as people with the following oral health concerns: 

woman smiling and pouring a cup of mouthwash
  • Tooth Decay: since tooth decay is one of the most common oral health problems, regular mouthwash use may be able to help you if you are looking to prevent tooth decay. This is because fluoride is an ingredient found in many mouthwashes that is used to strengthen your tooth enamel in order to prevent decay. 
  • Stained Teeth: Another benefit of regular mouthwash is that you can remove stains from your teeth easily. This is because whitening mouthwash contains whitening agents such as carbamide peroxide and hydrogen peroxide. However, it is important to realize that both of these ingredients are mainly effective at preventing new stains from forming rather than eliminating existing stains. 
  • Gum Disease: gum disease occurs when excess plaque and bacteria accumulate along the gum line. Brushing and flossing are imperative to prevent and treat gum disease, however regular mouthwash use can also be beneficial since mouthwash kills excess bacteria and makes it harder for plaque to accumulate. In some cases, a chlorhexidine mouthwash may be prescribed. 
  • Dry Mouth: the mouth uses saliva to stay clean, however people with dry mouth produce less than the normal amount of saliva. Since less saliva can lead to bad breath, tooth decay, and gum disease, many dentists recommend using a mouthwash formulated for dry mouth. These mouthwashes generally contain animal mucins, cellulose derivatives, and enzymes in order to replicate natural saliva. People with dry mouths should also look for alcohol-free mouthwash because alcohol can make dry mouth worse. 

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Dr. Sanket Upadhyay


Dr. Sanket completed his Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) degree in India in 2011 and obtained his Canadian dental license in 2016. He is a member in good standing with the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario, the Ontario Dental Association, and the Academy of General Dentistry. Dr. Sanket regularly pursues continuing education through dental conferences and courses to enhance his knowledge and be at the forefront of advances in dentistry.

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