We all know the main reasons most of us use mouthwash…to freshen our breath and prevent the build-up of various bacteria. There are many other reasons to use mouthwash on a regular basis such as preventing gum disease. But did you know that there can be negatives to using mouthwash? In this article, Sninski & Schmitt Family Dentistry, our family dentists in Cary and Holly Springs, are sharing some information about both the pros and the cons of mouthwash.

What is Mouthwash?

Mouthwash, also known as mouth rinse, oral rinse, or mouth bath, is a liquid that you hold in your mouth passively or swill around your mouth, and it may also be gargled in your throat. Usually, mouthwashes are antiseptic solutions that are used to reduce the microbial load in the mouth. Mouthwashes have formulations that generally include chlorhexidine, chlorine dioxide, cetylpyridinium chloride, and essential oils such as eucalyptol, menthol, thymol, and methyl salicylate. For instance, Listerine has these four essential oils: thymol, eucalyptol, menthol, and methyl salicylate for their disinfecting abilities and antimicrobial qualities. Other agents that are used in mouthwashes to inhibit odor-causing compounds include zine salts, ketone, terpene, and ionone.

How Often Should You Use Mouthwash?

How often you should use mouthwash can depend on the specific mouthwash you use and the advice of your dentist. Generally, it is advised to limit using mouthwash to two times a day. Using mouthwash more than twice a day for a long period of time may cause more harm than good. This is especially true if you are using an alcohol-based brand. Alcohol can irritate the soft tissues of the mouth and can also cause dry mouth. Dry mouth may worsen some problems you are trying to avoid, such as bad breath and cavity development. Make sure you talk with your dentists so they can advise you on the frequency of using your mouthwash.

Pros of Using Mouthwash

Mouthwash Is Good for Oral Health and Hygiene

Many types of mouthwash are full of fluoride to help fight cavities and periodontal diseases. Antiseptic mouthwashes contain chlorhexidine gluconate, which prevents bacterial growth in the mouth and deals with halitosis and infections.

Mouthwash Freshens Breath

The most obvious benefit to using mouthwash is the refreshed breath that comes after a dose. Many mouth rinses offer a cool, fresh feeling.

Mouthwash Fights Cavities

A mouthwash that contains fluoride helps to rinse out and neutralize bacteria that cause cavities.

Mouthwash Assists in Post-Surgery Treatment

There are specific mouthwashes prescribed by dentists that assist in curing inflammation and sores after dental surgery. Usually, these are recommended for patients who are advised not to brush their teeth for an extended period of time after surgical procedures.

Mouthwash Can Help Heal Canker Sores

Mouthwash can help heal and soothe canker sores, which are ulcers in the mouth and on the tongue. Mouth rinses neutralize the area to reduce the number of bacteria around the sores that cause irritation.

Mouthwash Can Help Avoid Complications in Pregnancy

Gum disease is common during pregnancy. Sometimes the bacteria from the gum infection can enter the bloodstream, resulting in increased inflammatory markers which can cause early contractions. Mouthwash fights the bacteria that cause gum disease and protects against the infection getting into the bloodstream.

Cons of Using Mouthwash

Mouthwash Can Damage Some Parts of the Mouth

Mouthwashes with high alcohol content can burn the delicate mucus membranes in the mouth. Even though the alcohol disinfects the mouth and kills bacteria, it can be irritating and cause a burning sensation. A high level of alcohol can also irritate canker sores instead of helping to heal them.

Mouthwash Can Stain and Darken Teeth

Some mouthwashes have chlorhexidine gluconate, which has antibacterial qualities and is helpful in fighting gum disease, gum inflammation, and plaque buildup. However, when this ingredient comes into contact with food additives left in the mouth, it can stain and darken teeth. It can also increase the tartar on your teeth. Check the ingredients list on your mouthwash for this item. If you are using a mouthwash with this ingredient, be sure to brush with a toothpaste that is formulated to control tartar and floss daily.

Mouthwash Does Not Cure Bad Breath

Even though mouthwash gives you a fresh feeling, if you have poor oral hygiene you won’t find bad breath alleviated. Talk to your dentist about your bad breath so he/she can treat the underlying issue.

Mouthwash Could Have a Link to Cancer

There has been much discussion about whether there can be a link between alcohol-containing mouthwashes and oral cancer. This is similar to the controversy over deodorant use. Currently, there are studies being carried out about a possible link. However, most research shows that, when no other risk factors are present, these mouthwashes do not increase the risk of developing oral cancer.

Schedule a Dental Appointment with Our Dentists in Cary and Holly Springs Today

Whether you need a dental checkup and cleaning or would like to try one of our other dental services, we can help you attain a beautiful smile. Call us at our Holly Springs dentist office at (919) 600-6262 and our Cary, NC dentist office at (919) 467-2203, or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment.