Is Mouthwash Good for your Teeth?
Who would not want to use a good mouthwash before meeting that special someone for a kiss? Or just to feel minty fresh as you go about your day? For years there has been a discussion regarding mouthwash use. This is because people are worried about the health risks associated with the alcohol based mouthwashes.
Mouthwash manufacturers have been touting extra benefits of mouthwash besides minty fresh breath. Many tout themselves as washing plaque away, teeth whitening, as well as bacteria killers and as cavity fighters. Are all these extra benefits possible? Is mouthwash use good for you?………
Advantages of using a Mouthwash
-Fluoride Mouthwashes. Fluoride mouthwashes do have the ability to possibly help reduce cavities. There have been many studies over the years to prove that fluoride can strengthen and reduce the breakdown of enamel thereby reducing the possibility of tooth cavities. This will not work for all but has been proven to be a benefit. Some fluorides are good antibacterials as well and help fight periodontal disease (stannous fluoride).
-Fight Periodontal Disease. Periodontal disease is caused by plaque from bacteria and food that sticks to teeth. As the bacteria feed on the food particles they release acid that will break down the bone and irritate the gum tissue. Our body responds by producing more acids to kill the bacteria. This causes bone loss and inflamed, infected gums. An antibacterial mouthwash may help prevent periodontal disease by lowering the amount of bad bacteria in the mouth.
-Help during pregnancy or during a systemic disease process. It is important to maintain good oral hygiene at all times but for certain members of our population it is even more important. For pregnant women it can be critical. During pregnancy, a woman’s hormones are elevated which makes them more susceptible to developing periodontal disease if their oral hygiene is not maintained. Periodontal disease in pregnant women has been linked to pre term and low weight babies. For others it is a matter of survival. Patients with systemic diseases that make them more susceptible to infection like diabetics need to reduce the bacteria they are ingesting. It is even more critical to maintain good oral hygiene and mouthwashes are definitely recommended for those patients.
Disadvantages of using a Mouthwash
–Canker Sore Irritant. This is caused when the alcohol content in your mouthwash is too high. It will irritate the canker sore and make it quite uncomfortable to use.
-Masks bad breath but does not remove the cause. Use of a mouthwash can definitely lead to fresher breath but it is usually quite short lived. Only some mouthwashes are formulated to actually neutralize odor causing chemicals, such as Closys. Not maintaining proper oral hygiene, or chemicals from your diet are usually the underlying factor in most people’s bad breath but the mouthwash will just mask it for a short time.
–Alcohol based mouthwash. Studies (Listerine) have shown that rinses with alcohol, if used as directed can actually cause saliva production to be stimulated in a semi dry mouth. The alcohol in mouth rinses has historically been used as a way to cause the essential oils (the bacteria killing aspect) in the rinse to keep from separating out in the liquid, and staying mixed. No one wants to rinse with something oily feeling. There are now quite a few alternatives to alcohol to do the job, so alcohol free rinses have become more prevalent. Many people do not like the burning sensation of alcohol, and in people with little to no saliva flow, alcohol based rinses can be quite uncomfortable. The choice is based on personal preferences.
-Tartar dissolving rinse.There is a type of rinse (Periogen) that has been found to dissolve tartar, stains, and plaque. This rinse is a great way to keep your teeth from rebuilding tartar between cleanings. This is a powder that can be diluted with water in a waterpik and tends to be even more effective if a capful of your fluoride rinse is added to it.
Bottom Line on Mouthwash Use
Bottom line is mouthwashes are an aide and not a substitute for maintaining good oral hygiene. This should include proper brushing, flossing, and visiting your dentist regularly. Mouthwash clearly offers certain advantages. But it’s important to know that not all mouthwash is the same. Saltwater rinses can be made at home with warm water and salt, whereas store-bought types contain a variety of ingredients ranging from fluoride (Act) to alcohol (Listerine) to highly specific antibacterial (Peridex).
In the end, each individual must choose the one that is right for them. For patients with periodontal disease, an antibacterial rinse like Listerine would be recommended to reduce the amount of bacteria in the mouth. For those patients who are cavity prone, a high fluoride mouthwash would be the choice. These mouthwashes only work effectively if paired with a good oral hygiene regimen. Talk to your dentist about which rinse would work best for you.
Marielaina Perrone DDS