West 85th Dental
8561 8A Ave SW Calgary AB T3H 0V5 (403) 246-5545

(587) 355-4332

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Is Mouthwash Bad for You?

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Using mouthwash is generally accepted as a complementary step in good oral hygiene. But are there any concerns about using mouthwash every day? Understanding the products that you’re using and following recommended procedures helps make rinsing your mouth with an oral wash a risk-free activity.

Let’s explore how mouthwash freshens your breath and protects your teeth. It’s also important to know how and when to use an oral rinse for maximum effectiveness. If you have any special oral conditions or issues, our dentists can answer questions about using mouthwash safely.

What Exactly is Mouthwash?

Mouthwash, or an oral rinse, is a liquid product designed to be rinsed around the mouth and spat out before swallowing. All mouthwashes aim to kill bacteria in your mouth that can either lead to plaque build-up or bad breath. 

There are a variety of products out there that all have different specific ingredients. Try looking for mouthwash labelled with the Canadian Dental Association (CDA) seal, which means it has been approved and is safe to use.

What Does Mouthwash Do?

There are some specialty mouthwashes designed for people with irregular oral conditions. These products may be suggested or prescribed by your dentist. For most people, using mouthwash accomplishes one or both of the following things:

  • Improves breath by killing bacteria that produce unwanted smells and adding a spearmint-type scent. If you have chronic bad breath (halitosis), it’s unlikely that mouthwash alone will cure the condition and it is best to consult our dentists.
  • Prevents tooth decay with the use of ingredients such as fluoride. Fluoride is a substance shown to help prevent cavities and is approved by the CDA. Some mouthwashes contain plaque-fighting ingredients that also slow cavity growth.

Is Alcohol Okay?

Mouthwash eliminates bacteria with ingredients such as alcohol, menthol, and eucalyptol, which are all anti-septic. The small percentage of alcohol has zero side effects for most adults. But those who are alcohol-adverse may seek alternative products. Because of the increased risk of ingestion, mouthwash without fluoride or alcohol is recommended for children under the age of 6.

Debunking Mouthwash Myths

Some studies claim that mouthwash causes oral cancers or creates other health problems. This research is unfounded and has been rejected by experts. The dental community agrees that the benefits of mouthwash outweigh any negatives. If you enjoy using mouthwash once or twice a day, there are no substantiated risks in doing so.

Man swishing with green mouthwash to improve oral hygiene

How to Use Mouthwash Effectively

Using mouthwash the right way will drastically improve its effectiveness. Dentist’s generally agree on the way that oral rinse should be used to help keep your teeth clean and your breath fresh. Remember that using mouthwash isn’t a substitute for other steps in oral care. Seeing your dentist for regular cleanings is always a part of keeping your teeth and mouth clean. 

Follow these steps for best results.

Brush & Floss First

Before using mouthwash, brush and floss your teeth thoroughly. An oral rinse has more impact when it is used immediately after brushing. And know that mouthwash is not a substitute for either brushing or flossing your teeth. All 3 are components of successful oral hygiene.

Use the Right Amount

Make sure to follow the product guidelines to determine how much mouthwash to use each time you clean your mouth. Most manufacturers recommend about 20ml of mouthwash for each rinse. Using more than suggested has no added benefit and will make it difficult to gargle effectively.

Swish it Around

You want to make sure you’re getting coverage in all parts of your mouth. So swish the oral rinse back and forth to each side and to the front and back of your palate. You can try gargling (without swallowing) to rinse the very back of your mouth. The rinsing process should last about 30-45 seconds.

It’s a good idea to wait about 30 minutes after rinsing before eating or drinking. This helps make sure fluoride and other ingredients can provide their full benefit.

Do Not Ingest

It’s important to note that mouthwash is not intended to be swallowed. After following the product guidelines and rinsing for an appropriate amount of time, spit the mouthwash into the sink. Most adults will not usually have any symptoms from ingestion aside from stomach discomfort. Children or people with digestion conditions may experience a nauseous sensation after swallowing mouthwash.

Good Oral Practice

Making mouthwash a part of your daily oral hygiene routine does much more good than harm. If you follow product guidelines regarding amounts to use and rinse times, there is very little risk in using an oral rinse. Understanding your primary need for mouthwash, be it more refreshing breath or cavity prevention, is the first step in selecting the right product. Consulting your dentist is always a good idea to find a mouthwash product that helps you smile with confidence and is good for your overall oral health.


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  • Written by Dr. Raman Minhas

    Dr. Minhas was born and raised in Calgary, and after completing his dental training at the University of Alberta in 2008, returned home to practice. He opened West 85th Dental with Dr. Kaloti in 2013 and has now been practicing dentistry for over ten years.

    Dr. Minhas enjoys all aspects of general dentistry, from pediatric dentistry to surgical dentistry. When he is not working Dr. Minhas enjoys spending time with his wife Laurie and four children.

    More Articles by Dr. Raman Minhas

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    • Calgary, AB T3H 0V5

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