Everything You Need to Know About Using Mouthwash
Mouthwash, also called oral rinse, is a liquid product used to rinse your teeth, gums, and mouth. It usually contains an antiseptic to kill harmful bacteria that can live between your teeth and on your tongue.
Some people use mouthwash to fight against bad breath, while others use it to try to prevent tooth decay.
Mouthwash doesn’t replace brushing your teeth or flossing in terms of oral hygiene, and it’s only effective when used correctly. It’s also important to understand that different product formulas contain different ingredients, and not all mouthwashes can strengthen your teeth.
Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about using mouthwash.
Product directions may vary according to which mouthwash brand you use. Always follow package instructions over what you read in an article.
Here are the basic instructions for most kinds of mouthwash.
1. Brush your teeth first
Start by thoroughly brushing and flossing your teeth.
If you’re brushing with fluoride toothpaste, wait a while before using mouthwash. The mouthwash can wash away the concentrated fluoride in the toothpaste.
2. How much mouthwash to use
Pour your oral rinse of choice into the cup provided with the product or a plastic measuring cup. Use only as much mouthwash as the product instructs you to use. It’s typically between 3 and 5 teaspoons.
3. Ready, set, rinse
Empty the cup into your mouth and swish it around. Don’t swallow it. Mouthwash isn’t meant for ingesting, and it won’t work if you drink it.
While you’re rinsing, gargle for 30 seconds. You may want to set a watch or try to count to 30 in your head.
4. Spit it out
Spit the mouthwash out into the sink.
Some people use mouthwash as part of their daily teeth-cleaning routine. But you can also use mouthwash in a pinch to banish bad breath.
There’s really no hard and fast guideline for when to use mouthwash for bad breath. But it isn’t going to work to strengthen tooth enamel or fight gum disease unless you use it right after brushing and flossing.
For best results, teeth should be freshly cleaned before using use mouthwash.
It bears repeating that mouthwash isn’t a replacement for brushing and flossing. It’s also not necessary to use mouthwash in order to keep your mouth clean. Most mouthwash products recommend that you use them twice per day, after brushing and flossing.
The ingredients in each mouthwash formula vary slightly — different products work for different purposes.
ResearchTrusted Source shows that mouthwash does help prevent plaque and gingivitis. But since formulas differ greatly and using mouthwash is tied closely to a good oral hygiene routine in general, it’s hard to definitively say how much it helps or which formula is best.
A 2010 studyTrusted Source in Scotland found that a high percentage of people who use mouthwash daily reported using it to treat symptoms of gum disease, mouth ulcers, or swollen gums.
Mouthwash kills bacteria by using antiseptic ingredients like alcohol, menthol, and eucalyptol. These ingredients get into the crevices between your teeth and hard-to-reach places like the very back of your mouth, killing the filmy bacteria that can collect there.
They can feel slightly harsh and sting a bit when you taste them. That’s why mouthwash sometimes stings when you use it.
Certain oral rinses also claim to make your tooth enamel stronger by including fluoride. In a 2007 studyTrusted Source of school-aged children, oral rinses with added fluoride brought down the number of cavities by more than 50 percent compared with children who didn’t use mouthwash.
Fluoride additives in mouthwash are similar to oral rinses you might get at the end of a dental cleaning (although it should be noted that fluoride products found at the dentist’s office contain a much higher level of fluoride than the amount found in mouthwash).
These ingredients coat your teeth and absorb into your tooth enamel, helping to make your teeth more durable and plaque-resistant.
Mouthwash usually contains a high volume of alcohol and fluoride. Both of these ingredients shouldn’t be ingested in high amounts, especially by children. For this reason, the American Dental Association doesn’t recommend mouthwash for children under the age of 6.
Adults shouldn’t make it a habit of swallowing mouthwash, either.
If you have open sores or oral lesions in your mouth, you might want to try using mouthwash to kill bacteria and speed healing. But you should speak to a dentist before using an oral rinse in your mouth if you have recurring oral lesions.
Sores in your mouth can be caused by underlying health issues, and dousing those sores with fluoride and antiseptic could be doing more harm than good.
Mouthwash is not enough!
Mouthwash can be used to prevent or stop bad breath, as well as to rinse out plaque and fight gum disease. Mouthwash can’t be used as a substitute for regular brushing and flossing. In order for mouthwash to do your mouth any good, it should be used properly.
If you have recurrent bad breath or suspect that you have gum disease, mouthwash alone can’t cure the underlying causes. Speak to a dentist about any concerns you have about chronic or ongoing oral health conditions.