Mouthwash and Rinsing

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Mouthwash can do much more for you than just freshen your breath. If you brush and floss regularly, mouthwash can reduce bacterial buildup in your mouth, prevent tooth decay, gum disease and bad breath.

Mouthwashes are an additional aid in maintaining oral health. Although they cannot replace brushing and flossing, they give extra benefits that can reduce the risk of tooth decay and various oral diseases.

Types of mouthwashes

There are different types of mouthwash you can buy, each with their own specific purpose.

Fluoride mouthwash prevents cavities.
Antimicrobial mouthwash cleans your mouth and kills the bacteria.
Antiseptic mouthwash contains alcohol and kills bacteria as well as fungi, protozoa and viruses.
Cosmetic mouthwash masks bad breath, but does not kill the bacteria that causes it.

Some mouthwashes contain ingredients that can help prevent plaque buildup on the teeth. Mouthwash does not kill the germs that cause the common cold.

Typical mouthwash ingredients

The usual active ingredients found in most rinses are fluoride, chlorhexidine gluconate and cetylpyridinium chloride.

You should avoid long-term use of rinses that contain chlorhexidine gluconate. Those are usually strong anti-bacterial formulas. Your dentist prescribes them when it is not possible to brush your teeth in the short term, for instance, following dental surgery. Chlorhexidine gluconate can stain your teeth and temporarily alter your sense of taste.
Mouthwashes with high levels of fluoride strengthen your teeth. Fluoride acts as a protective layer on your tooth enamel, making it harder for sugars and acids to break down the enamel molecules. You should avoid swallowing these mouthwashes.

Many types of mouthwash on the market contain alcohol that can lead to dry mouth and increased tooth sensitivity. That is why people with a dry mouth syndrome, especially the elderly and the diabetics, should avoid them. In addition, some studies suggest that alcohol-based mouthwashes might contribute to the onset of oral cancer. Alcohol dissolves the mucous layer and leaves the mouth vulnerable to cancer-causing ingredients.

If you have sensitive gums or a dry mouth, avoid alcohol and other irritants by using natural mouthwashes. They contain ingredients such as aloe vera and chamomile.

Another popular mouthwash is hydrogen peroxide. It has great bleaching and antiseptic properties. Make sure you use 3-4% concentrations. Higher concentrations can penetrate your tooth enamel and dentin and reach inner tooth tissues. Hydrogen peroxide has the potential to kill pulp cells.

How to use mouthwash

You should use mouthwash immediately before or after brushing your teeth. Gargle it at the back of the throat for at least 45 seconds. This amount of time is minimal to let the mouthwash fully coat the teeth and mouth. After gargling spit it out. You should never deliberately drink the mouthwash. Some ingredients might be poisonous.

If you overuse mouthwash, your tongue may turn black. You should use mouthwash only once a day before or after brushing your teeth. Children under the age of six should not use any mouthwash.

Using mouthwash is not an essential part of your daily oral routine. Brushing and flossing without the use of mouthwash is enough for maintaining good oral health. You can remove the food and bacteria buildup between your teeth only by using dental floss. Gargling can help remove any remaining debris after brushing and flossing.

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