Is Mouthwash Effective?

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For the busybody, mouthwash is an important invention that makes dental hygiene easy on-the-go. One quick swish and you’re good. Those with packed schedules might even discard the toothbrush altogether. Why waste time brushing your teeth when you could rinse the way through? But maybe you shouldn’t throw away your toothbrush just yet. After all, some have begun to question how effective mouthwash is.

Indeed, mouthwash does have its own merits. Because it’s a liquid, mouthwash can reach parts of your mouth a toothbrush cannot. Certain mouthwash products are also designed to target oral problems. These problems include halitosis and tooth decay. Despite this, mouthwash shouldn’t be a be-all and end-all solution to your oral woes. How effective mouthwash ultimately depends on a variety of factors:

What do you need mouthwash for?

You might be familiar with the typical store-bought stuff. What you might not know is that there are different types of mouthwash available. These kinds are formulated depending on what ails you.

Typically, mouthwash falls under two categories: cosmetic and therapeutic. Cosmetic mouthwash temporarily sweetens the smell of your breath. They are also usually flavored. However, it merely masks the scent. Unlike therapeutic mouthwash, it doesn’t target the bacteria that cause the malodor.

Therapeutic mouthwash, on the other hand, contains ingredients which mitigate the effects of oral disease. According to the American Dental Association, its active ingredients include the following:

  • Fluoride. Helps fight tooth decay by fortifying the teeth against acid attacks. We talked about its merits at length before.
  • Chlorhexidine and essential oils. Both ingredients aid in containing plaque and gingivitis.
  • Peroxide. An abrasive component that’s used to whiten teeth.
  • Cetylpyridinium chloride. A substance that’s known to help reduce bad breath.

Some therapeutic mouthwashes require a prescription from your dentist. You’ll nonetheless find both varieties down the aisle of your nearest grocery store. Nevertheless, if you’re aware of the state of your oral health, choosing a mouthwash that’s suitable for your current condition helps ensure its effectivity.

How do you use mouthwash?

The way you use your mouthwash can affect its efficacy. Mouthwash isn’t very effective by itself. Plaque can stubbornly cling to your teeth. You still need to take it off physically. Regular brushing and flossing are usually good enough to do all the heavy lifting. Once the plaque is gone, however, that’s where the real magic starts.

As we mentioned earlier, mouthwash can reach places a toothbrush or dental floss cannot. However, consider these before using it.

Some ingredients in your toothpaste may bind to the fluoride in your mouthwash. This binding can reduce its efficacy. You might want to rinse your mouth with water after brushing to prevent this. Once free of toothpaste residue, you can use your mouthwash after.

You’ll also need to rinse your mouth with mouthwash for at least one minute. It takes a while for the active ingredients to work. If you spit it out sooner, you might be wasting your purchase. If you feel a stinging sensation in your mouth while rinsing, change your mouthwash to something alcohol-free.

Ultimately, is mouthwash effective? By itself, no. But used wisely, it can be very potent indeed.

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