Dental Blog

Mouthwash – Can it be a substitute for Brushing or Flossing?

When it comes to oral health, following a simple set of do’s and dont’s can make a really positive difference on your teeth and gums. Mouth washes are used as a part of oral hygiene routine. It is not a substitute for brushing and flossing but a definite add on to maintain oral health.

Mouth rinses are antiseptic liquids intended to reduce the microbial activity in the mouth and reduce bad breath to leave the mouth with a pleasant taste. To a certain extent they also act as teeth whiteners.

According to the food and drug administration, mouth rinses are classified into two categories - Therapeutic and Cosmetic.

Therapeutic mouth rinses are antiseptic, anti-cavity and anti-plaque. They kill bacteria and helps in the prevention of cavities, plaque and gum diseases. With fluoride content they help in preventing tooth decay.

Cosmetic mouth rinses fight bad breath by reducing bacteria but do not treat or prevent gum diseases. They contain peroxide and to a certain extent act as teeth whiteners also.

The general indications for the use of mouth rinses are

  1. Bad breath
  2. Prevention of gum diseases
  3. Prevention of cavities
  4. Teeth whitening
  5. In pregnant women – due to hormonal changes bleeding gums is a very common finding. It also helps in ladies with morning sickness to give a pleasant taste in the mouth after vomiting.
  6. In patients who have just undergone a dental procedure such as a tooth extraction.
  7. Teeth sensitivity – desensitizing mouth rinses prevent sensitivity to hot and cold foods to a large extent.
  8. In patients undergoing chemotherapy – during chemotherapy, dry mouth and mouth ulcers is a very common feature. Mouth rinses prevent these to some extent and makes the patient a bit comfortable.

Basic ingredients of a mouth rinse (composition) are

  1. Chlorhexidine gluconate – this is the most basic ingredient which acts as an anti-microbial and anti-plaque.
  2. Fluoride – helps to prevent tooth decay
  3. Betadine – acts as an antiseptic
  4. Astringent salt – acts as a deodizer
  5. Hydrogen peroxide – acts as a whitener
  6. Odour neutralizers.

Some manufacturers may add or remove ingredients to tailor their products for different flavours and colours.

Home Made: Mouth rinses can also be made at home. The most common and simplest homemade mouth rinse consists of ¼ tsp baking soda + 1/8 tsp salt + 1 cup warm water.

Side Effects: There are some side effects to using mouth rinses, some of the common ones are:

  1. Teeth staining
  2. Tongue and mouth irritation
  3. Mouth ulcers
  4. Changes in taste sensation
  5. Dry mouth- due to the presence of alcohol.

In case of side effects, generally dilution of the mouthrinse with warm water helps to a large extent.

Method of usage

First check the label for recommendations and instructions. Close lips and keeping teeth slightly apart, swish the liquid around your mouth. Make sure to swish thoroughly and vigorously. Do not swallow. Gargle by raising your chin and saying aaaah while holding the rinse in your mouth. This is especially good for the back of your tongue where bacteria accumulate. Continue rinsing for 30 secs then spit it out.  After rinsing do not eat or drink anything for 30 mins as it will reduce the effectiveness.

For more info on the different types of mouthwashes available log onto  the one stop solution to all dental product needs.