Four Proven Benefits and Five Myths of Oral Rinse
Who doesn’t love that minty kick that comes from a swig of mouthwash? Your oral rinse could be doing more than just giving your breath a makeover, according to many mouthwash makers it could be chockfull of health benefits, too. Just check out the label on your mouthwash container, and you may find that it’s a plaque zapper, a teeth whitener, perhaps even a gum-disease fighter.
But are the claims true? Is mouthwash really good for your mouth? Turns out, the answer is yes and no.
Four True Mouthwash Benefits
Cut Down On Cavities. Rinsing with a fluoride rinse can help reduce cavities and studies have shown the benefits of fluoride in reducing demineralization of the teeth.
Fight Gum Disease. With periodontal disease (such as gingivitis), gums and tooth sockets can get inflamed or infected because of plaque from bacteria and food that lingers on teeth. An antibacterial mouthwash, like one with alcohol or chlorhexidine, may help prevent periodontal disease.
Soothe Canker Sores. Mouthwash can ease a canker sore by detoxing the area and reducing the amount of bacteria that can irritate the site.
Safeguard Your Pregnancy. Periodontal disease is actually a risk factor for giving birth to preterm, low-weight babies. The bacteria from a gum infection can get into a pregnant woman’s bloodstream and increase inflammatory markers, which in turn can stimulate contractions. And a recent study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that moms-to-be who used mouthwash throughout their pregnancy were less likely to go into early labor.
Five Mouthwash Myths
Mouthwash can help keep your gums and teeth healthybut only if you use them properly. We’ve got expert tips on boosting the benefits of mouth rinses.
All Mouthwashes Are Made Equal
Rinsing with a cosmetic 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. But these products can’t make any greater claim than that.
Therapeutic rinses contain additional active ingredients such as essential oils, chlorhexidine, cetylpyridinium chloride and fluoride, which have been proven to reduce plaque or fight cavities.
Mouthwash is Harmless
Many mouthwashes contain a high amount of alcohol. This can cause a dry mouth, which ironically 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, but the research is limited and many experts says there’s not enough evidence to draw this conclusion. It’s an issue that has been discussed since the 1970s with no definitive answers. One stumbling block has been the way the studies have been designed, according to the American Dental Association (ADA). As of now, the ADA has put its Seal of Acceptance on some mouth rinses containing alcohol after it extensively reviewed their effectiveness and safety.
Alcohol-free mouthwashes are available. But other ingredients can cause side effects, too. Many can stain your teeth or cause a burning sensation. Essential oils may have an uncomfortably sharp taste. Chlorhexidine can temporarily alter your sense of taste, and 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.
Mouthwash Cures Bad Breath
Mouthwash may temporarily curtail bad breath, but it’s not a permanent fix. Some people may be masking the symptoms of an oral health disease or condition. With some conditions such as periodontal (gum) disease, bad breath, and an unpleasant taste in your mouth are indicators that something is wrong. There is no amount of mouthwash that can mask the effects of poor health.
Also, smelly compounds from your garlicky lunch, for example, are actually coming from your lungs as you exhale, so freshening your mouth won’t help for long. Your saliva can work against you too. Saliva dilutes mouthwash. In some cases, the proteins in saliva can reduce the effectiveness of mouthwash ingredients.
Mouthwash Can Replace Brushing
Mouthwash can cut back the level of bacteria in your mouth. Regular brushing and flossing 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. In special situations, like after oral surgery, your healthcare provider might direct you to use a mouth rinse instead of brushing. This will be temporary, and soon you’ll be back to your usual mouth care.
A Little Swish Is All You Need
Do you gargle or rinse for a few quick seconds, then spit? Most mouthwashes are at their most effective when in contact with your mouth tissues for 30 seconds per use. But despite best intentions, some people say mouthwash is so strong or stings so much that it’s difficult to use for that long. Still, it’s worth sticking it out if you want the best results. Mouthwash should be used as directed by the manufacturer.
The Bottom Line On Your Oral Rinse
Ultimately, what is right for your best friend may not be the best choice for you, so consider your personal situation. Talk to your dentist on the effects of mouthwash and which one may be best for your mouth.
Sources: EverydayHealth.com, KnowYourTeeth.com, Best Health Magazine