Most Mouthwashes Just Don’t Wash

Bad Breath

Dr. James Hallam of Laurentian Dental Centre Kitchener

Dr. James Hallam, Laurentian Dental, Kitchener

Whether it’s to mask bad breath, fight cavities or prevent the buildup of plaque, mouthwashes or rinses serve a variety of purposes. Or so we think!

Though they may leave your mouth with a clean, fresh taste, some rinses can be harmful, concealing bad breath and unpleasant taste that may be signs of serious periodontal diseases which cause inflammation and degeneration of the supporting structures of the teeth, and tooth decay.

Most over-the-counter (OTC) mouthwashes, while they may be effective oral antiseptics that freshen the mouth and curb bad breath for a few hours; have limited success in helping prevent tooth decay, gingivitis and periodontal disease. Many of these OTC mouth rinses aren’t much more effective against plaque and periodontal disease than rinsing with plain water.

Man pouring mouthwash from bottle into glass.
Know your mouthwash.
What’s more, there can be side effects to using mouthwashes. Most OTC mouthwashes contain five standard components: water, a flavouring agent, astringents to provide a pleasant sensation and shrink tissues; a bacteria fighting ingredient, and ethyl alcohol. Because children tend to accidentally swallow mouthwashes, they should only use them under adult supervision. For a child weighing 26 pounds, as little as 5 to 10 ounces of many OTC mouthwashes containing alcohol can be lethal.

Habitual use of antiseptic mouthwashes containing high levels of alcohol (18% to 26%) by adults, may produce a burning sensation in the cheeks, teeth and gums. Such mouthwashes can also cause intoxication if swallowed or used excessively.

“You can prepare several safe and inexpensive alternatives to brand-name mouthwashes at home.”
You can prepare several safe and inexpensive alternatives to brand-name mouthwashes at home: A saline solution rinse containing ½ tsp. of salt mixed with 8 ounces of water, or a stronger solution using ½ tsp. of salt mixed with 4 ounces of water. There’s also a sodium bicarbonate solution that can be mixed using ½ tsp. of baking soda with 8 ounces of water. Using a mouthwash or rinse is not an acceptable substitute for a proper home care regimen which includes brushing with a fluoride toothpaste, followed by flossing, along with routine trips to the dentist for regular check-ups.

Therapeutic mouth rinses (containing more concentrated formulas) prescribed by the dentist for those patients with more severe oral problems such as caries, periodontal disease, gum inflammation and dry mouth differ from commercial (brand-name) OTC products because they are made with specific anti-plaque; anti-gingivitis or anti-cavity fluoride ingredients, and are available by prescription only.

Yours for better dental health,

This article has been updated from it’s original posting in June of 2015.

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