You may think mouthwash is a healthy oral product — and just as common as toothpaste and floss. And you’d be right. But, there’s still much to learn about this liquid that’s most often used to eliminate halitosis (i.e. bad breath) and clear the way for positive social interactions.
If you use mouthwash regularly, listen up. We’ve debunked seven common myths of mouth rinse to help you understand what it is — and what you should and shouldn’t do with it.
Mouthwash Myth #1. It’s ok to swallow mouthwash.
No, it’s not— at least not always. What happens if you swallow mouthwash? If you happen to ingest a small amount of mouth rinse accidentally while you’re gargling, it’s not going to kill you. Chances are the most that may happen is that you’ll feel a little nauseous and have a spell of diarrhea that will likely subside within a couple of hours.
The real health concern, however, is if adults or children swallow a moderate to a large amount of oral rinse. This health concern increases with the more mouth rinse you consume.
Why? Some types contain ethanol and fluoride that are both poisonous when consumed in big amounts. And don’t think you’re in the clear with non-alcohol or fluoride-free rinses either. These often contain chlorhexidine gluconate, hydrogen peroxide, and methyl salicylate, which can lead to severe health issues, including serious intestine and stomach problems and changes in your body’s balance of acid.
And if you want to know how much alcohol is in mouthwash? There’s enough that if you drink too much of it, you could get drunk. An overdose of mouthwash can give you a host of symptoms including coma, dizziness, slowed breathing, rapid heart rate, low blood pressure, and more.
Mouthwash Myth #2. All mouthwashes are the same.
False. There are many options you can choose from these days, which makes it difficult to know what is the best mouthwash. For instance, you’ll find quite a few versions of these types on the store shelves:
- Antibacterial Mouthwashes. If you’re trying to fight bad breath, antibacterial mouth rinses may be just what you need. This oral rinse also helps reduce plaque buildup and kills bacteria in your mouth, which helps protect against gum disease.
- Fluoride Rinses. Fluoride mouth rinse is ideal if you don’t drink water that’s fluoridated. It also helps to prevent tooth decay and protect your teeth’s enamel since fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral and strengthens your teeth. Although fluoride rinses are a good choice to help prevent cavities, if you’re prone to developing or have gum disease, it may not be a good option.
You can also get prescription rinses from a dentist. If you have gum disease or gingivitis, a prescription therapeutic swish of mouthwash may be your best option since it has bacteria fighting properties that are stronger than most over-the-counter brands.
Mouthwash Myth #3. Mouthwashes are only for bad breath.
Nope. Mouthwashes do much more than fight bad breath. In fact, according to the American Dental Association (ADA), just like interdental brushes, water flossers, and dental floss, mouth rinses get in between your teeth and reach areas your toothbrush doesn’t, helping reduce your risk of gum disease and cavities.
Besides freshening your breath, did you know that mouthwash could:
- Control or prevent tooth decay.
- Reduce plaque.
- Reduce how fast tartar forms on your teeth.
- Reduce or prevent gingivitis.
Mouthwash can even help reduce the chance of expectant mothers delivering premature babies. How about that? When expectant women have gum disease, it increases their risk of delivering a preemie. However, one study suggests that women who use an alcohol-free oral rinse may be able to reduce their risk of going into labor early.
Mouthwash Myth #4. Mouthwash can replace flossing.
That’s more fake news. Even though using mouthwash can help with maintaining a healthy mouth, it’s not meant to replace flossing. Since it’s a liquid, mouth rinses can reach the bacteria and get rid of it when simple brushing and flossing can’t. But, you need to brush and floss to get rid of the solid forms of bacteria that oral rinses can’t.
Rinsing with mouthwash should never replace good old-fashioned brushing and flossing — and seeing a dentist at least twice per year.
Mouthwash Myth #5. You don’t need to swish mouthwash for a full 30 seconds.
Yes you do, or at least you should. Even the package of many mouthwash brands instructs you to swish for at least 30 seconds. But don’t take their word for it. According to a 2013 January/February issue of General Dentistry, using a germ-killing mouth rinse and swishing for at least 30 seconds contributes to the dental health benefits of flossing and brushing.
And by the way, if you’re asking yourself “how many times should I use mouthwash”, it’s twice daily, once in the morning and once at night.
Mouthwash Myth #6. There’s no other use for mouthwash besides the mouth.
Not true. Although you do use oral rinses in your mouth to fight bad breath and improve your oral health, there are other uses of these rinses. For instance, you can use mouthwash to clean and sanitize dental accessories like retainers, braces, mouth guards and more. There are also rinses for teeth whitening.
Mouthwash Myth #7. Anyone can use mouthwash.
Negative. Because children could inadvertently swallow large amounts of liquid, the ADA advises that children under the age of six should not use mouthwash unless directed to by their pediatric dentist.
In addition, people with a condition known as Xerostomia, or “dry mouth”, should not use mouth rinses that contain high amounts of alcohol because it could exasperate their condition. Instead, people who have a dry mouth should use a mouthwash that’s alcohol-free, since a dry mouth can lead to bad breath. Also, those with chronic canker sores shouldn’t use oral rinses as it can aggravate the condition.
So there you have it, seven misconceptions of mouthwash. Mouth rinses are far more than just a dental aid to get rid of bad breath. These rinses can help to whiten your teeth, prevent cavities, kill plaque-causing germs, prevent tartar buildup and gingivitis, calm sensitive gums and teeth, and yes, freshen your breath.
Just remember this: mouthwash or therapeutic oral rinses are meant to complement flossing, brushing, and seeing your dentist regularly. They’re not supposed to replace proven oral health care. If using mouthwash isn’t helping enough with bad breath or other dental issues, your dentist can help resolve any underlying oral health concerns.
Williams & Daily Dental is a family and cosmetic dentist located in North Raleigh, NC with a team of dedicated dentists enthusiastic in their commitment to their patients. Contact Williams & Daily at (919) 846-9070 for more information and to schedule an appointment today.