Mouthwash is incredibly popular, but there is controversy about its ability to do much that a breath mint cannot. For many people, brushing and flossing are routine, but mouthwash only enters the picture before a hot date or a big job interview—whenever sparkling fresh breath is essential. In reality, though, mouthwash can be a highly useful tool in your quest for better dental health. Here is what you should know.

Mouthwash and Dental Health

What Is Mouthwash?

As the name implies, mouthwash is a liquid product designed to be swished around in the mouth and then spit out. Not all mouthwashes are the same, though. Look for a mouthwash that carries a seal of approval from the American Dental Association (ADA).

Different mouthwashes have different formulations. Here are some things to look for:

  • Alcohol content: Alcohol is a natural antiseptic, improving the ability of the mouthwash to fight bacteria. If your household has small kids, recovering alcoholics, or anyone with sensitive teeth, though, it may be better to choose an alcohol-free formulation.
  • Fluoride: Long known to strengthen tooth enamel, fluoride is a common mouthwash ingredient. Those with dry mouth, those who are prone to cavities, and those who drink bottled water rather than tap water can often benefit from the extra fluoride. Children under age 8 who already consume a good bit of fluoride may be better off with fluoride-free mouthwash due to the risk of benign tooth discoloration known as dental fluorosis. Ask your dentist for guidance.
  • Therapeutic formulations: Mouthwash comes in two types: cosmetic and therapeutic. While cosmetic formulations have little effect on dental bacteria and plaque, therapeutic formulations are specifically designed to combat them. If you want to improve your dental health, choose a therapeutic mouthwash.


If you prefer a natural option, consider using a simple saltwater rinse instead. Salt is a natural disinfectant and reduces swelling. Saltwater does not impart a chemical “fresh breath” scent, but it is excellent at battling infection and healing sores in the mouth. Saltwater rinses are especially recommended in the weeks following oral surgery.

Long term regular use of a saltwater mouth rinse is not recommended, as it could soften the tooth enamel and put you at risk for cavities and decay. As a short term solution, though, saltwater is an excellent mouthwash alternative.

Does Mouthwash Really Work?

In a word, yes. Research shows that just 30 seconds per day of therapeutic mouthwash use can dramatically reduce dental problems such as plaque, tartar, and gingivitis. It will also make your mouth smell and taste better. Depending on the formulation, mouthwash can even provide extra fluoride to help strengthen your tooth enamel.

Just remember that no oral hygiene tool is enough on its own. Brushing, flossing, and regular professional cleanings are vital to preserving your oral health, no matter how much mouthwash you use.

Ready to Get Started?

If you are ready to take the first steps toward improving your dental health, we invite you to contact Family Dental Care of Bellevue today at 425-643-5778 to make an appointment for your initial consultation.

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