February 29

Should You Throw Out Your Mouthwash?

Visit the mouthwash aisle at a local pharmacy and you will be greeted with claims of plaque-fighting, bad-breath- busting, teeth-whitening, almost-magical solutions. These colorful liquids hold no magic, but they do have significant benefits. Dentists swear by them, but some critics are not convinced with these claims. Let’s look at the pros and cons of mouthwashes.

The Pros

Mouthwashes help in:

  • Fighting gum disease and significantly reducing the chances of getting gingivitis (painful gum inflammation)
  • Getting rid of bacteria which causes bad breath
  • Helping prevent cavities by strengthening tooth enamel
  • Soothing canker sores (at least those mouthwashes with no alcohol content)
  • Helping lower the risk of preterm or low-weight births due to periodontal disease in pregnancy

The Cons

Have a High Alcohol Content

Some mouthwashes have high alcohol content. This might irritate your gums and be painful if you happen to suffer from canker sores. It may also actually contribute to cavities and gingivitis because the alcohol will decrease the amount of saliva the mouth produces leaving teeth and gums vulnerable until the drying alcohol effect has worn off.

Mask Bad Odor

The astringent salts in mouthwashes can temporarily mask bad breath. Mint is particularly bad for this. A cinnamon based rinse is actually better at killing bad breath-causing bacteria. You may also be covering up some serious underlying cause. If you find yourself consistently using mouthwash for this purpose only, then visit your dentist and get a proper dental checkup.

Link to Oral Cancer

Heavy use of alcohol has been linked to oral cancer. The concerns over high alcohol content in mouthwashes was first raised in 1970’s. To date, there is still no consensus over this and no additional particular concerns have been raised in the meantime, but the question about the exact link remains.

Harmful for use by children

Children under the age of five years should not use mouthwashes, particularly alcohol-based ones since they haven’t learned to spit yet. Try a natural salt or baking soda and water rinse for younger kids.

However, this doesn’t mean that you need to chuck the mouthwash in the trash. The American Dental Association (ADA) has proclaimed mouthwashes as not just a safe but recommended part of any good oral health routine. It’s just a matter of choosing the right mouthwash. Check out the list of mouthrinses that have been approved for use by the ADA.

The bottom line is the right kind of mouthwash is an essential part of your oral health care. Keep in mind that rinsing is not meant to replace brushing and flossing, but needs to be combined with regular flossing and brushing as part of a complete oral care routine.

What’s the Best Mouthwash?

It depends on what your oral health concerns are. If you don’t have any major issues then a regular over-the-counter mouth rinse is all you need. Check out the link below for a list of mouthwash brands which have earned the ADA (American Dental Association) Seal of Approval. And get in touch with us at Pat Crawford DDS in Kenosha, WI, if you have dental concerns.



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