Many people think that just flossing and brushing their teeth regularly is enough for their oral health. There are actually several other things that are really important. These include your diet (really, really imporant!), medications you take, overall health, and other types of oral health products. That includes using mouthwash.
So let’s look at whether or not it really helps, and why.
Does it help?
The efficacy of mouthwash largely depends on the type you’re using. One with fluoride will absolutely help prevent cavities, as fluoride is one of the best things you can use to keep your teeth cavity-free. If you do use one with fluoride you want to use it either 30 minutes before or 30 minutes after brushing or flossing. This will give you the greatest benefit. If you use it right after brushing, it’ll just wash away the fluoride that you just got from brushing and not help as much.
Mouthwash also has the ability to soothe and heal canker sores more quickly by ridding the area around them of more bacteria (even though it burns!). The alcohol and other ingredients in mouthwash can be a great cleansing agent. It is also thought that the alcohol kills bacteria and ensures plaque buildup remains minimal. The downside to alcohol related mouthwashes is that they can dry your mouth out and we’re still not sure if there can be some long term risk from the exposure to the alcohol on a routine basis.
In addition there are other mouthwashes that can provide different benefits. These include mouthwash specifically formulated for people with bad breath (such as Oxyfresh) or dry mouth (such as Biotene). If you do get a mouthwash for bad breath make sure it has zinc as part of the formulation. This is the only ingredient that has truly been proven to reduce your bad breath longer than a couple of hours. Most of the other ones just cover over it with strong flavors such as mint.
Can it harm me?
Generally speaking, no, mouthwash can’t cause you any harm unless you swallow A LOT of it. I’m not sure why anyone would drink mouthwash but suffice it to say, we don’t recommend trying it! While there have been numerous studies regarding a potential link between alcohol-heavy mouthwash and oral cancer, any mouthwash with the American Dental Association seal of approval is currently deemed safe.