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Will Mouthwash Really Keep Your Mouth Healthy?

Written by Valley Oak Dental Group on . Posted in Uncategorized

You don’t want to get a cavity, so you brush and floss every day. But what about using mouthwash? You may wonder if it can help prevent tooth decay or bad breath, or you may wonder if it can take the place of brushing your teeth.

Many people are not sure if they should use mouthwash, but answers are available. This blog will cover what types of mouthwash you can buy, how effective they are, and how to use them.

Choose the Right Mouthwash

There are two main types of mouthwash: cosmetic and therapeutic.


Cosmetic mouthwashes do not prevent cavities, but they can help with bad breath for a short amount of time. They also help rinse out debris and get rid of some bacteria. Some cosmetic mouthwashes may have teeth whitening agents in them. However, many people use them simply because they like the tingly, fresh feeling cosmetic mouthwashes provide.

Unfortunately, if you have bad breath, mouthwash is not a lasting solution. Most cosmetic mouthwashes only mask the problem instead of curing it, and the effect only lasts up to three hours. Bad breath may be a symptom of a serious problem like an oral infection. Instead of using mouthwash to hide the scent, visit your dentist to get help.


Therapeutic mouthwashes do the same things as cosmetic mouthwashes, plus more. They also help control plaque and bacteria, and they reduce your risk of gingivitis. Some are specifically made to prevent cavities, and some contain fluoride, which strengthens your teeth. Some washes are anti-tartar, meaning they prevent the hard buildup your dentist scrapes off your teeth when he or she cleans them.

Overall, therapeutic mouthwashes are much more effective for your oral health than cosmetic mouthwashes. However, when choosing either type, look at the ingredient list. If the mouthwash contains alcohol, skip it. Alcohol lowers your saliva production, which gives bacteria more of a chance to thrive. Additionally, washing your mouth out with alcohol can irritate your mouth and lead to oral sores.

When looking for a mouthwash, check for a seal of acceptance from the American Dental Association (ADA). Their testing is objective, scientific, and meant to protect you.

Keep Your Mouth Healthy

If you’re hoping to find out that rinsing with mouthwash is just as effective as brushing your teeth, you’re going to be disappointed. The ADA is firm that rinsing with mouthwash “is not a substitute for brushing or flossing.” Instead, mouthwash is an additional way to keep your oral health intact.

Many people do not need a mouthwash at all-they find that brushing and flossing is enough. However, if you have any oral health issues, your dentist may advise you to use a good therapeutic mouthwash. You may benefit from the extra fluoride or tartar protection.

If you do want to take extra care of your teeth, a reliable mouthwash can help. In fact, the Academy of General Dentistry studied 139 adults with mild or moderate inflamed gums and plaque. All of the study participants brushed their teeth and flossed twice daily and used a mouthwash-either a placebo or an antiseptic mouthwash.

The study lasted six months. At the end, those using real mouthwash had less plaque, gingivitis, and bleeding at the gums than those using a placebo. All in all, if you do want to improve your oral health, a mouthwash may be a helpful addition to your routine.

Use Mouthwash Effectively

When using your mouthwash, make sure to always read the bottle’s directions or your dentist’s instructions. However, here is some general advice:

  • Do not use less than the recommended amount, and do not dilute the mouthwash.
  • Swish the mouthwash for at least 30 seconds.
  • Gargle for 30 seconds before spitting the mouthwash out.

If you struggle to keep the mouthwash in your mouth for an entire minute at a time, you can spit the mouthwash out after swishing, take a break, and then get new mouthwash for gargling.

Many people have questions about if they should brush first or use a mouthwash first. The answer is usually that it doesn’t matter. However, if either your toothpaste or your mouthwash has fluoride, you should use that item last.

For example, if your mouthwash has fluoride, use it last: brushing your teeth after will get rid of the fluoride, which needs to stay in your mouth to do its job. After using a product that contains fluoride, don’t put anything else in your mouth, including food and water, for at least 30 minutes.

Remember that these instructions are for adults and older children. Children under six years should not use mouthwash at all-they may swallow it.


Though it’s no substitute for brushing and flossing, mouthwash can be an effective addition to your oral health care routine. If you have questions about if mouthwash is a good idea for you or about which mouthwash you should get, talk to your dentist. The professionals at Valley Oak Dental Group will be happy to answer any questions you may have. In the meantime, keep brushing and flossing!