Mouth rinses: To use or not to use

Mouthrinses are used for many reasons, to freshen breath, to help prevent cavities, to help with gingivitis, to reduce tartar and plaque buildup, or a combination of all of these reasons. Mouth rinses are not a substitute for brushing and flossing. Rinsing is additional step to help with oral issues.

Mouth rinses’ ingredients differ based on what they want to work on. Some mouth rinses include multiple ingredients for multiple issues. Usually they include one or more of these: Fluoride to prevent cavities, antimicrobials to kill bacteria, astringent salt to temporarily cover up bad breath, odor neutralizers to attack the cause of bad breath, and whiteners to help remove stains on teeth.

Whether or not you should use a mouth rinse depends on your needs. Your hygienist will assess you at your checkup appointment and advise you if you need to use a rinse. There are prescription mouth rinses we use when we are doing surgery, after a periodontal therapy appointment, or to help with specific oral problems like dry mouth.

There are some side effects with mouth rinses. Many mouth rinses contain alcohol and this can dry your mouth out making you more prone to cavities. Mouth rinses that contain anti tartar or anti plaque ingredients can cause a burning sensation, root sensitivity, stains, changes in taste, and mouth ulcers. Overuse of any mouth rinse can have side effects.

How to use a mouth rinse:
1. Read the label for instructions in use.
2. Brush and floss.
3. Swish for 30 to 60 seconds. Less than 30 seconds won’t do much good and more than a minute won’t do more.
4. Be patient. Using a mouth rinse doesn’t mean instant success. It usually takes a month of regular use to see if it helps.

Rinsing alone can’t solve oral problems but in addition to brushing and flossing they can help.