mouthwas benefitsMouthwash has become a topic of much debate in recent years – does it help or hurt your oral health? What kind should you use and how should you use it? What are the benefits? Mouthwash can be a beneficial part of your oral health routine, but it’s important to understand what it does and how you should incorporate it into your daily habits.

What Are The Benefits Of Mouthwash?

Mouthwash can be an effective part of your oral health regime. Benefits include:

  • Better Cleaning: By flushing your mouth with mouthwash, you can remove the leftover particles left behind after brushing and flossing.
  • Kills Bacteria: Brushing does not remove bacteria in your mouth, which can be left to build up. Too much bacteria causes irritation and inflammation in the gums and eventually leads to periodontal disease. Mouthwash aids in the killing of harmful bacteria and promotes healthier gums.
  • Healthier Teeth: The use of antibacterial mouthwash eliminates oral bacteria and reduces tooth decay, while fluoride mouthwash can help to strengthen the enamel of your teeth and keep them resistant to decay.
  • Fresher Breath: Mouthwash can mask odors from strongly flavored foods such as garlic and help you keep your breath fresh and minty.

When Can Mouthwash Be Bad For You?

While mouthwash is generally beneficial, there are some concerns to keep in mind:

  • Mouth Irritation: Mouthwashes that contain alcohol can produce an unpleasant burning effect for some patients, and can slow the healing of canker sores and ulcers.
  • Oral Cancer: Some studies have shown a link between mouthwashes that contain alcohol and negative effects in the soft tissues in the mouth that have been tied to oral cancer.
  • Staining: Some mouthwashes include dyes that can actually stain your teeth.
  • Masking Oral Health Problems: Mouthwash can mask bad breath, but it doesn't address the underlying cause of the odors in your mouth. Many serious health problems create bad breath. If you have severe bad breath that doesn’t go away, you need to see a professional rather than simply covering it with minty mouthwash.
  • Destroys Good Bacteria: A delicate mix of beneficial and bad bacteria exists in your mouth. This beneficial bacteria aids in the defense of your body against diseases. Mouthwash destroys both good and bad bacteria in your mouth, which might disrupt your natural balance and reduce your immunity.
  • Promotes Bad Habits: The "clean" feeling that mouthwash gives your mouth can make many people skip brushing and flossing in favor of mouthwash as a dental hygiene shortcut. Not only do you lose the benefits of brushing and flossing, but over using mouthwash can exasperate the negative effects we've already mentioned.

What Type Of Mouthwash Is Right For You?

  • Fluoride: Many mouthwashes contain sodium fluoride to strengthen teeth, prevent cavities, and fight tooth decay. You should be using a toothpaste that contains fluoride, and for many patients, this is sufficient. Those with sensitive teeth or clinical conditions may need more fluoride and may need to use a fluoride mouthwash as well.
  • Antiseptic: Antiseptic mouthwash usually contains alcohol and is intended to stop bacterial growth. It can be effective as a way to fight bad breath and kill bacteria in your mouth, but it can also irritate your mouth and some types can stain your teeth.
  • Cosmetic: Cosmetic mouthwash has no clinical benefit and is used just to make your breath smell better. It can mask oral health problems, but does nothing to treat them.
  • Natural: Natural mouthwashes are intended to have the same benefits as traditional mouthwashes, but are made with natural ingredients instead of artificially produced chemicals.
  • Dry Mouth: Mouth dryness is actually bad for your oral health, and special mouthwashes are made to keep your mouth moist and protect against tooth decay.
  • Prescription:

    Patients with serious gum disease may require a prescription mouthwash containing chlorhexidine to fight gingivitis and heal inflamed gums. It is not intended to be used to prevent gum disease, but can be useful temporarily to help destroy harmful bacteria in the initial stages of treatment.

A Note About Alcohol
Most mouthwashes contain alcohol, and you may have noticed that alcohol is at the root of many of the "cons" of using mouthwash. While alcohol can be useful for killing germs and bacteria that cause gum disease and tooth decay, it also has a number of drawback. For certain people, it can be uncomfortable and irritating, create dryness that can lead to tooth decay, and worsen or even create ulcers in the mouth.  If you use mouthwash on a daily basis, you may want to choose with one that is alcohol-free.

Brushing and flossing are often enough to keep a patient's mouth healthy. Mouthwash is not a replacement for these good habits, but it can be used in conjunction with them. If you have any questions regarding whether or not you should use mouthwash, bring them up at your next dental appointment. At Greene Comprehensive Family Dentistry in Ruckersville, we are ready to help create the oral health regiment that works best for you!

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