While it must never be seen as a replacement for daily brushing and flossing, the use of a dentist-approved mouthwashcan make a major contribution to improved oral hygiene. Even so, research suggests that many people are still unfamiliar with the purpose and benefits of mouthwash, along with how to use it properly.
What follows is a brief FAQ covering a selection of commonly asked questions on how to get the most out of mouthwash:
- What Does Mouthwash Actually Do?
There are many different types of mouthwash available, which in each instance serves a slightly different purpose. There are cosmetic mouthwashes that are designed to help prevent/remove surface stains from teeth and there are those that are more ‘therapeutic’ in nature. But in all instances, mouthwash is designed to get to work on the areas of the mouth that cannot be reached with a conventional toothbrush. Irrespective of how carefully or intensively you brush, you cannot achieve a comprehensive clean without both toothpaste and mouthwash. Mouthwash is particularly great for dealing with germs, bacteria and debris between the teeth, which could otherwise lead to tooth decay, gum disease and bad breath.
- Does Mouthwash Kill Bacteria?
It depends entirely on the type of mouthwash you choose. There are so many different types of mouthwash available, which in many cases are antibacterial. As far as dentists are concerned, the only genuinely effective mouthwashes that aren’t worth using our those that contain anti-bacterial ingredients. Mouthwash that simply removes debris from the mouth but leaves bacteria unaddressed only does half the job. But at the same time, this does not necessarily mean that you need a super strong or harsh mouthwash to get the job done right.
- Is the Stronger Mouthwash Always Better?
As you will probably know, some mouthwash products are significantly stronger than others. On one side of the market, you have cool and fresh-tasting minty mouthwashes that feel kind and gentle in the mouth. On the other, you have those that are so incredibly strong that they are almost painful to use. Contrary to popular belief, the strength of a mouthwash alone is not a reliable indicator of its quality or effectiveness. Just as some super-gentle mouthwash products can be enormously effective, some of the strongest products on the market are not nearly as capable as they claim to be. If in doubt, ask your dentist or pharmacist for their recommendations on the best mouthwash available for your requirements.
- Mouthwash Before or After Brushing?
The issue of whether you should use mouthwash before or after brushing remains divisive. There are even dentists who disagree on when the best time is to use mouthwash. Some state that the best time to rinse out your mouth is after you have brushed and flossed, at which point the mouthwash finishes the job by getting rid of any residual debris. Elsewhere, others say that to use mouthwash after brushing it to flush the mouth of all the beneficial compounds (including fluoride) left behind from the toothpaste. It’s therefore something of a judgment call, but you can always ask your dentist for their own take on the subject.
- For How Long and How Often Should I Use Mouthwash?
Most mouthwash products are designed to be used twice a day, but gentle mouthwash is safe to use as often as you feel necessary. For example, using a small amount of gentle mouthwash following a meal or after consuming something with a high sugar content could help keep your teeth and gums in pristine condition. But where some of the super-strong mouthwash products are concerned, their manufacturers recommend using them twice a day, and no more. Most manufacturers recommend rinsing the mouth for approximately 30 seconds, before spitting.
- Can I Dilute My Mouthwash?
You can, but doing so may adversely affect the effectiveness of the product. The vast majority of mouthwash products are designed to be used in the form in which they are supplied. Unless it specifically states in the manufacturer’s guidelines that you can (or should) dilute it, doing so will compromise its capabilities. Even so, using a diluted mouthwash product on a regular basis is still better than using no mouthwash at all. If you find mainstream mouthwash products too strong, ask your dentist or pharmacist to recommend something milder.
- Is it Dangerous to Swallow Mouthwash?
Commercial mouthwash products are put through rigorous tests and must be proven as comprehensively safe, in order to be put on sale in the UK. Consequently, there are comparatively few mouthwashes currently available that will do you any real harm if you accidentally swallow a small amount. You, therefore, do not need to be too worried if a little goes down your throat, but it is still important to avoid swallowing where possible. This is particularly true with stronger mouthwash products with a high alcohol content, which if swallowed could lead to minor intoxication or sickness. If you or a member of your household accidentally swallows a large quantity of mouthwash, seek medical advice as a matter of urgency.
- Does Mouthwash Actually Work?
It does, but only when used as part of a broader oral health and hygiene regime. Think of mouthwash as the ‘finishing touch’ on your daily oral health routine – not a substitute for brushing and flossing.
- Does Whitening Mouthwash Really Work?
Not in the way you have been led to believe. There is not a single commercially available mouthwash that can radically transform the whiteness of teeth. Instead, whitening mouthwash (and toothpaste) is designed simply to get to work on residual surface stains. Manufacturers like to give the idea that toothpaste and mouthwash alone can transform discoloured teeth to a pearly white when this simply is not the case.
- At What Age Should Kids Begin Using Mouthwash?
All kids develop at different speeds, and this includes the development of their oral health regime. But as it is important to prevent swallowing, mouthwash should be introduced at a later stage than brushing. Most dentists recommend leaving it until around six years before your kids start using mouthwash, at which point is it important to supervise them carefully and used an approved product for kids.