Mouthwash and canker sores


To Mouthwash or Not to Mouthwash?

Ahhh — who doesn’t love that minty kick that comes from a swig of mouthwash?

And your oral rinse could be doing more than just giving your breath a makeover, according to many mouthwash makers — it could be chockfull of health benefits, too.

Just check out the label on your mouthwash container, and you may find that it’s a plaque zapper, a teeth whitener, perhaps even a gum-disease fighter.

But are the claims true? Is mouthwash really good for your mouth? Turns out, the answer is yes and no.

4 Important Mouthwash Pros

Mouthwash may:

  • Cut down on cavities. “It is absolutely true that rinsing with a fluoride rinse can help reduce cavities,” says Nicholas Toscano, DDS, a diplomate of the American Board of Periodontology, co-editor-in-chief of the Journal of Implant and Advanced Clinical Dentistry. “There are countless studies on the benefits of fluoride in reducing demineralization and cavitations of the teeth.”
  • Fight gum disease. With periodontal disease (such as gingivitis), gums and tooth sockets can get inflamed or infected because of plaque from bacteria and food that lingers on teeth. An antibacterial mouthwash, like one with alcohol or chlorhexidine, may help prevent periodontal disease.
  • Soothe canker sores. “Mouthwash can ease a canker sore by detoxing the area — reducing the amount of bacteria that can irritate the site,” says Dr. Toscano. In many cases, a simple saltwater rinse will do.
  • Safeguard your pregnancy. Periodontal disease is actually a risk factor for giving birth to preterm, low-weight babies — the bacteria from a gum infection can get into a pregnant woman’s bloodstream and increase inflammatory markers, which in turn can stimulate contractions. And a recent study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (which received funding from Proctor and Gamble) found that moms-to-be who used mouthwash throughout their pregnancy were less likely to go into early labor.

Mouthwash clearly offers certain benefits — but it’s important to know that not all mouth rinses are the same. Saltwater rinses can be made at home with warm water and salt, whereas store-bought types contain a variety of ingredients ranging from fluoride (Act) to alcohol (Listerine) to chlorhexidine (Peridex).

3 Mouthwash Cons You Should Know

Mouthwash is by no means a cure-all. In fact, mouthwash gets bad marks because it:

  • Irritates canker sores. If the alcohol content of your mouth rinse is too high, it may actually end up irritating the canker sore more than helping it.
  • Masks bad breath. “Mouthwash can lead to fresher breath, but it may be short-lived,” says Toscano. “If a patient has poor oral hygiene and doesn’t brush effectively, there is no amount of mouthwash that can mask the effects of poor health. Just using mouthwash would be equivalent to not bathing and using cologne to mask the smell.”
  • Has been linked to oral cancer. The debate over whether alcohol-containing mouthwashes are linked to oral cancer continues — it’s an issue that has been discussed since the 1970s with no definitive answers. One stumbling block has been the way the studies have been designed, according to the American Dental Association (ADA). As of now, the ADA has put its Seal of Acceptance on some mouth rinses containing alcohol after it extensively reviewed their effectiveness and safety.

Toscano says to keep this in mind: “Using a rinse is very different than drinking alcohol, and usually there is a synergistic effect with smoking. The ADA only puts its seal of approval on proven research and would not put people in harm’s way by having them use a product that would have such negative side effects.”

The Bottom Line on Your Oral Rinse

“Mouthwashes should not be used as a substitute for toothbrushing,” says John Ictech-Cassis, DDS, DMD, a clinical professor at Boston University’s School of Dental Medicine. Even when they can be helpful in lessening the risk of periodontal disease and cavities, they should always be used in conjunction with good hygiene habits.

Ultimately, what is right for your best friend may not be the best choice for you, so consider your personal situation. For people with periodontal disease, Toscano recommends Listerine because it reduces the bacteria that causes the disease. For those who are cavity-prone, he tends to recommend a high-fluoride rinse like Act. And he always emphasizes the importance of good dental hygiene.

If you have ever had a mouth sore, you will know just how painful it can be. Everything from drinking water to talking seems to cause you persistent irritation, which can be debilitating when it comes to going about your everyday life. A mouth sore is a very common ailment that most people will have to deal with at some point in their lives, so it is important to know what to do to prevent them happening and also to be able to treat them as quickly as possible when they occur. These painful sores can suddenly appear anywhere in your mouth and, in some circumstances, even on your esophagus. As you can imagine, this makes eating virtually impossible—so not only will you be irritable and in pain, you will end up being hungry to boot!

Mouth sores and canker sores are normally the results of minor irritation and they should go away by themselves within a couple of weeks. If you find that you are victim to recurring mouth ulcers, or they never seem to go away entirely, then you should see a doctor or dentist to rule out a more serious condition like mouth cancer or a virus.

What Are Mouth Sores?

Mouth sores are small, shallow lesions that manifest themselves on the soft tissues found in your mouth, including:

  • Gums
  • Cheeks
  • Tongue
  • The roof of your mouth
  • Lips

These unsightly lesions are normally white or yellowish in color and they are often round in shape with a red, inflamed border. A mouth sore is usually no bigger than a pea, but in some cases, they can be larger. There are two categories that mouth sores fall into: Simple and complex. The average person will have around three simple sores per year during young adulthood. Complex sores are less common and tend to occur when you have already had a mouth sore—they also tend to be bigger and more painful. While some mouth sores heal within a few weeks, others can last for up to six weeks—sometimes even longer!

Where Do Mouth Sores Come From?

No one has managed to pinpoint the exact cause of mouth sores, but there are several factors that will make you more susceptible to getting them. Here are just a few of the things you should consider if you are prone to mouth sores:

Acidic/spicy foods: Damages sensitive tissue in your mouth and causes irritation, leading to the formation of a sore. You may also be allergic to some foods, which also contribute to mouth sores.

Trauma and injury: If you have taken a blow to the mouth from sports or falling over then you could end up with a mouth sore. Braces can also cause enough irritation of the surrounding tissues in your mouth to cause a lesion to appear.

Hormones and stress: If you are incredibly stressed out and running yourself into the ground, you could be at risk of canker sores.

Medication: certain medications and aggressive medical treatment like chemotherapy can have an adverse effect on your mouth.

Smoking and drinking: tobacco and alcohol can cause lesions in the mouth and even mouth cancer!

Iron and vitamin deficiencies: if you suffer from anemia or low levels of zinc you will have a greater risk of mouth sores.

Eating disorders: Anorexia and malnutrition are also contributing factors to poor oral health and canker sores.

So, now that we know some of the causes of mouth sores, let’s take a look at how to treat them. There are several over the counter gels and DIY remedies you can use to combat the painful effects of sores in your mouth. One very effective way of speeding up the healing process is to use an antibacterial mouthwash to ensure that you are promoting a healthy environment, which the bacteria cannot feed on. Here are some of the best mouthwashes we have found that will allow you to free yourself from the pain of mouth sores.

Best Mouthwash for Mouth Sores

Salt Water Rinse

Without a doubt, a saline rinse is going to be one of the most affordable, gentle and effective ways that you can treat the symptoms of a mouth sore. You can either purchase a saline mouthwash from your local drugstore or you can simply dissolve a teaspoon of organic rock salt into a glass of tepid water and swish around your mouth for a few minutes. If you opt for the latter of the two methods, then you can use your homemade salt rinse as many times as you like—just be sure not to swallow it accidentally!

Orajel Antiseptic Rinse

Orajel is medically formulated to provide specific relief from mouth sores. It promotes healing by killing bad bacteria and it is also available as an alcohol-free version. It has received very positive reviews during recent years as being one of the most effective remedies for mouth sores and it gets to work almost immediately. So, if you don’t have the time or inclination to make a homemade saline rinse, then this could be the perfect product for you. It is priced affordably and offers excellent value for money.

Colgate Peroxyl

Colgate has formulated a mouth rinse that promotes the healing of mouth sores in a gentle manner. This product is recommended by dental professionals worldwide to safely and effectively provide you with almost instantaneous relief from the irritation you are suffering and it completely alcohol-free. While some rinses do include alcohol for antibacterial purposes, many people find that it actually has an adverse effect on their mouth sores.

Baking Soda Rinse

Baking soda is alkaline, so it works wonders to neutralize the acidic bacteria in your mouth that irritates your mouth sore. It also kills bacteria, meaning it will supercharge the natural healing process. Mix a teaspoon of baking soda in distilled water and swish around your mouth like your life depends on it! The taste can be somewhat funky, so you can follow up with a freshwater rinse afterward if you like.

Final Thoughts

A mouthwash will be even more effective at treating canker sores if you combine it with other products like a medicated gel. You also need to take a look at some of the criteria listed above that are likely to cause mouth sores, so you can inform yourself on any necessary changes to your diet or lifestyle habits that you need to adjust to prevent them returning. If you are concerned about the time it is taking for your sore to heal, or they seem to return no matter what you do, then put your mind at rest by scheduling an appointment with your dental hygienist or dentist.

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Best Mouthwash for Sensitive Teeth and At-Home Remedies

Listerine Total Care Zero Anticavity Mouthwash Fresh Mint, 16.9 OZ

  • Listerine Total Care Zero Alcohol-Free Anticavity Mouthwash in Fresh Mint flavor
  • Provides the same oral care benefits as Listerine Total Care but in an alcohol-free formula
  • Formula helps prevent cavities, restore enamel, and strengthen your teeth to improve oral health
  • Mouthwash freshens breath, kills germs that cause bad breath, and cleans your whole mouth
  • Alcohol-free mouthwash helps make teeth 50% stronger than brushing alone, in laboratory studies
  • This oral rinse is accepted by the American Dental Association’s Seal of Acceptance Program
  • No other mouthwash among OTC fluoride rinses is more complete
  • This mouthwash features Fresh Mint flavor for fresh breath and a clean feeling you can taste
  • Give your mouth complete care with Listerine Total Care Zero Alcohol-Free Anticavity Mouthwash. Listerine Total Care Zero provides the same six benefits in one as Listerine Total Care Anticavity Mouthwash, but in a less intense, alcohol-free mouthwash formula. With up to 2.4x the fluoride uptake than Act mouthwash brand**, this fluoride-rich formula helps prevent cavities, restores enamel, and strengthens your teeth, making them 50 percent stronger than just brushing alone*. It freshens breath, kills germs that cause bad breath, cleans your whole mouth. This oral rinse is accepted by the American Dental Association’s Seal of Acceptance Program and features a Fresh Mint flavor that gives your mouth a clean feeling you can taste, all with a zero alcohol formula.
    *In laboratory studies
    **In laboratory tests compared to Act Anticavity Kids Fluoride Rinse, Act Total Care Anticavity Fluoride Rinse, Act Total Care Anticavity Mouthwash, Act Restoring Mouthwash.

The Best Mouthwashes for Your Smile

There are lots of great mouthwashes out there, and this list is by no means complete. We’ve included therapeutic mouthwashes you can buy over the counter and some that require a dentist’s prescription.

1. Crest Pro-Health Multi-Protection

The active ingredient in this mouthwash is cetylpyridinium chloride (CPC), a broad-spectrum antimicrobial agent that’s effective against bad breath, tooth decay, and conditions such as gingivitis and receding or bleeding gums.

It’s alcohol-free so it won’t burn, making it a good choice if you have dry mouth or areas of irritation. Users say they like the minty aftertaste it leaves.

This product may temporarily stain your teeth, requiring strategic teeth brushing or regular cleanings at the dentist’s office. If you have sensitive gums and can’t stand the burning sensation caused by other mouthwashes, this negative may be worth the trade-off.

For a small number of people, the CPC ingredient may leave a taste in their mouth that they find unpleasant, or it may temporarily affect the way foods taste. In these cases, you may want to look at a different mouthwash.

Cost: $

You can find Crest Pro-Health Multi-Protection mouthwash in grocery stores and retail pharmacies, as well as online.

2. Crest Pro-Health Advanced with Extra Whitening

This product is alcohol-free. It contains fluoride for fighting cavities and hydrogen peroxide for removing surface stains and whitening teeth.

It also strengthens tooth enamel and kills the germs responsible for causing bad breath. Users find that it can take several months to see whitening results.

Cost: $

Crest Pro-Health Advanced with Extra Whitening mouthwash is available at stores and online.

3. ACT Total Care Anticavity Fluoride

ACT Total Care is aluminum-free, paraben-free, sulfate-free, and phthalate-free. Its active ingredient is fluoride, making it an effective choice for reducing dental decay, strengthening tooth enamel, and promoting healthy gums.

This mouthwash comes in two flavors: one formulated with 11 percent alcohol and the other alcohol-free. Check the inactive ingredients list.

Cost: $

Find ACT Total Care Anticavity Fluoride mouthwash in stores and online.

4. ACT Dry Mouth

ACT Dry Mouth mouthwash is alcohol-free and doesn’t burn. It’s highly effective at reducing dry mouth for many hours after use. It also contains fluoride, making it an effective cavity fighter.

This mouthwash lists xylitol as an inactive ingredient. Xylitol increases the amount of saliva in the mouth and reduces S. mutans bacteria, which cause plaque to form on teeth.

You’ll get the best results for dry mouth if you follow package directions exactly, and swish ACT Dry Mouth in your mouth for at least 1 full minute. Many users report that this mouthwash tastes good, making this task fairly easy.

Cost: $

ACT Dry Mouth mouthwash is available in stores and online.

5. Colgate Total Pro-Shield

This mouthwash has a mild, peppermint taste and an alcohol-free formula. Its active ingredient is cetylpyridinium chloride. Colgate Total Advance Pro-Shield is a good choice for reducing plaque buildup and for keeping breath fresh.

It kills germs for up to 12 hours, even after eating meals. This mouthwash is a good choice for eliminating the germs and bacteria that cause gingivitis, which can lead to periodontitis and receding gums.

Cost: $

You can find Colgate Total Pro-Shield mouthwash in stores and online.

6. Peridex prescription mouthwash

Peridex is a brand of medicated mouthwash known generically as chlorhexidine gluconate oral rinse.

Prices vary based on your prescription plan. You may be able to purchase generic chlorhexidine gluconate oral rinse at a lower cost than the name brand.

Other brand names include Perisol, Periogard, PerioChip, and Paroex.

Peridex is a prescription germicidal mouthwash used to treat gingivitis and gum conditions, such as those that cause bleeding, swelling, and redness. It works by killing bacteria in the mouth.

Peridex isn’t right for everyone, and it may cause side effects, such as tooth staining, tartar buildup, mouth irritation, and a decreased ability to taste food and drink. It may also cause allergic reactions that are sometimes serious or life-threatening in some people.

Cost: $$$

Peridex is only available by prescription, from a pharmacy or your dentist’s office.

7. Listerine Cool Mint Antiseptic

The active ingredients in Listerine Antiseptic are menthol, thymol, eucalyptol, and methyl salicylate. Along with its alcohol base, these essential oils provide an intense, minty tingle that’s pleasing for some users, but too strong for others.

The essential oils in Listerine Antiseptic have antimicrobial properties, making them very effective at reducing plaque, gingivitis, receding gums, and bad breath.

Cost: $

Listerine Cool Mint Antiseptic mouthwash can be found in stores and online.

8. TheraBreath Fresh Breath

TheraBreath is alcohol-free and antibacterial. It reduces sulfur-producing bacteria in the mouth, eliminating even severe bad breath for up to 1 day.

Its active ingredients include peppermint oil, citric acid, castor oil, tetrasodium edta, sodium bicarbonate, sodium chlorite, and sodium benzoate. Some people find that TheraBreath alters their taste buds temporarily.

Cost: $$

Find TheraBreath Fresh Breath mouthwash in stores and online.

9. CloSYS Ultra Sensitive

This alcohol-free mouthwash is a good choice if you have sensitive teeth. It’s also excellent for eliminating bad breath. It uses chlorine dioxide, an oxidizing agent, to eradicate sulfur-producing bacteria in the mouth.

Cost: $$

Look for CloSYS Ultra Sensitive mouthwash in stores and online.


What is a mouthwash?

A mouthwash is a solution used to rinse the oral cavity. This may be to maintain oral hygiene, to prevent dental plaque, or for symptomatic relief.

A mouthwash is sometimes called a mouth rinse.

Who needs a mouthwash?

A mouthwash may be used short-term for a variety of conditions. Some examples follow.

  • Halitosis (bad breath)
  • Radiotherapy-induced mucositis
  • Recurrent aphthous ulcers
  • Oral lichen planus
  • Acute mucositis associated with Stevens-Johnson syndrome / toxic epidermal necrolysis, or with erythema multiforme major
  • After oral surgery
  • As an adjuvant to toothbrushing to control bacterial plaque
  • Adjuvant therapy for acute gingivitis and necrotising periodontitis.

A fluoride-containing mouthwash may be used to reduce the risk of cavities / dental caries.

What do mouthwashes contain?

Mouthwashes contain a variety of ingredients. The active ingredients include:

  • Chlorhexidine gluconate – antimicrobial
  • Povidone-iodine – antimicrobial
  • Benzydamine hydrochloride – anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antimicrobial
  • Essential oils, such as eucalyptol, menthol, methyl salicylate and thymol. These are often formulated in an alcohol-based solution – antimicrobial
  • Cetylpyridinium chloride – antimicrobial
  • Triclosan – anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial
  • Sodium hypochlorite (dilute chlorine bleach) – antimicrobial
  • Hydrogen peroxide – antimicrobial, bleach
  • Anti-bacterial peroxidase enzymes, such as lysozyme, lactoferrin, glucose oxidase, lactoperoxidase – antimicrobial
  • Fluoride – remineraliser, antimicrobial
  • Sodium bicarbonate – alkaliniser

How do mouthwashes work?

The active ingredients in mouthwashes act in several ways.

  • Antimicrobials kill bacteria, reducing plaque and halitosis.
  • Anti-inflammatories decrease pro-inflammatory cytokines, reducing pain.
  • Fluoride (fluorapatite, fluoro-hydroxyapatite) re-mineralises tooth enamel, enhancing resistance to acid and preventing cavity/caries formation.
  • Bicarbonate alkalinises salivary pH. It reduces the erosive effect of acid produced by oral bacteria, and promotes enamel mineralisation, especially in people with dental caries.

How to use a mouthwash

Mouthwash is typically used twice-daily, as a short-term adjuvant to toothbrushing.

  • Depending on the type and concentration, mouthwash may require dilution prior to use.
  • Typically, 15–20 mL of solution is used.
  • Empty the mouthwash into the mouth, swill it around vigorously, and gargle for at least 30 seconds.
  • Spit out the mouthwash completely; do not swallow it.

What are the adverse effects of mouthwash?

The adverse effects of mouthwash depend on its ingredients, and include:

  • Local irritation
  • Allergic or hypersensitivity reactions, including contact stomatitis, urticaria and (rarely) anaphylaxis.

Adverse effects of chlorhexidine make it unsuitable for long-term use:

  • Unpleasant or altered taste
  • Burning sensation
  • Desquamation and irritation of the oral mucosa
  • Discolouration of soft tissues, teeth and restorations
  • Supragingival calculus deposition
  • Parotid swelling

Benzydamine has local anaesthetic and analgesic properties. It can cause:

  • Numbness or tingling in the oral cavity
  • Dry mouth

Ethanol associated side-effects may occur with mouthwashes containing essential oils.

  • Mucosal irritation and dryness
  • Oral pain, with intensity proportional to the concentration of ethanol
  • Mouthwashes with > 20% ethanol risk keratosis, epithelial detachment, mucosal ulceration, gingivitis and petechiae.

Other reported adverse effects follow

  • Cetylpyridinium chloride may cause extrinsic tooth stains.
  • Triclosan has been reported to cause desquamation.
  • Sodium hypochlorite has a ‘bleach taste’ and may cause extrinsic brown tooth stains and a burning sensation.
  • Hydrogen peroxide can cause oral dryness, taste disturbance, diffuse mucosal whitening and elongation of the filiform papillae (hair-like structures on the surface of the tongue).
  • Anti-bacterial peroxidases tend to be acidic, with a pH of around 5.15, increasing the potential for dental erosion, especially with long-term use.

Contraindications and precautions

  • Mouthwashes are contraindicated in those who have allergic or hypersensitivity reactions to an ingredient.
  • They are contraindicated in children under six years of age, due the risk of swallowing the mouthwash.
  • Iodine-containing mouthwash is not recommended for people with hyperthyroidism or other thyroid diseases, due to possible systemic absorption of iodine.
  • Long-term use of mouthwash is not recommended.
  • The association between long-term use of alcohol-containing mouthwash and increased risk of oral cancer is controversial.

Worst Foods For Your Teeth: 6 Foods That Cause Cavities

The main cause of cavities, which are basically holes in the teeth, is the acid that sits on the teeth and wears away enamel over time. Foods, from sugary sweets to starchy carbs, dissolve into sugars that turn into corrosive acid in the mouth, attacking teeth and weakening their strong veneer. To keep your teeth strong and your enamel intact, avoid these harmful foods, or, when you absolutely must indulge, be sure to rinse twice daily with a plaque-clearing LISTERINE® mouthwash and/or brush your teeth.

#1 Hard Candies

As you might guess, sugary, rock-hard candies you suck on for a long time, or break down into pieces with your teeth, put a serious dent in enamel and endanger the health of your mouth. Candies are loaded with sugar that sticks to the teeth and takes a long time to dissolve, exposing the gums and teeth to the damaging sugar.

#2 Acidic Drinks

Juice, sports drinks and all sodas (including diet) are packed with sugar and acid, which is bad news for your teeth. If you want to drink something other than water, look for brands that have no added sugars or try adding a bit of fruit or vegetable, such as watermelon or cucumber, to plain old water to get refreshing flavor that’s less damaging. Also consider diluting juice with water to make it less harmful to your teeth.

#3 Cake

This treat, or any other sweet that is made with a lot of sugar, is problematic for your teeth. Sticky sweets are the worst teeth offenders, and even dried fruit, such as dried apricots, can be a nuisance to tooth enamel. Foods that easily adhere to teeth and get jammed between the gum and the tooth allow sugars to attack enamel and are hard to wash away. Limit your sweets, and when you do indulge, try to brush after to minimize the damage. Also remember to rinse twice daily with LISTERINE® mouthwash.

#4 Pasta

Starchy foods, such as pasta, rice and even potatoes, harm the teeth because they metabolize into sugars that produce acid that wears away tooth enamel.

#5 Ice

Chewing on ice and other hard substances can potentially crack your enamel, exposing your teeth. Other harmful habits involving your mouth, like opening bottles and bags of chips with your teeth, should also be avoided.

#6 Hard Nuts

In addition to possibly cracking your enamel, chewing on hard nuts can also damage dental implants, dentures and braces. Try eating smaller nut pieces instead of whole nuts if the nuts are particularly hard, or eat nuts ground up in butters and spreads, such as in cashew butter.

You Asked: Should I Use Mouthwash?

It just feels good to cap your mouth-cleaning routine with a vigorous swish of mouthwash.

“A lot of people really enjoy the sensation of rinsing after they’re brushed,” says Matt Messina, a member of the American College of Dentists and a spokesperson for the American Dental Association. “They feel like the mouthwash is clearing away all that loose debris.”

And those people are right. Messina says mouthwash can help you spit out loosened plaque and other bits of detritus hiding in the cracks and crevices of your mouth. But so can water, he adds.

“I like to say mouthwash is an addition to proper oral hygiene, not a substitute,” he says. It’s not going to take the place of your morning brush or twice-yearly dentist visit, but it may help freshen your breath, and in most cases it’s not harmful, he says.

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That last point may raise eyebrows among those who spotted the recent headlines connecting mouthwash to some forms of cancer and heart disease.

One recent UK study in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine found some mouthwashes could raise your blood pressure by wiping out a kind of helpful mouth bacteria. This bacteria helps your body generate nitric oxide, “which is known to play a critical role in protecting our cardiovascular system, including keeping blood pressure down,” says Dr. Amrita Ahluwalia, a professor of vascular pharmacology at Queen Mary University of London.

MORE: You Asked: Do I Really Need To Floss?

But Ahluwalia says her study focused on mouthwashes containing a strong antibacterial agent called chlorhexidine, which is usually only available by prescription in the United States. Also, hers was a very small study—just 19 people—and requires more research to support its findings.

Since the 1990s, some studies have suggested rinses that contain alcohol could contribute to the development of oral cancers. A 2014 study from Europe reinvigorated the debate. But experts say those studies are not only flawed, but also focus on excessive mouthwash use—three bouts of swishing a day or more.

Even if you’re a zealous mouth-rinser, several review studies that dug into the possible associations between alcohol rinses and cancer have failed to find links.

However, mouthwashes with alcohol can dry out your mouth, Messina adds, so choose an alcohol-free version if dry mouth is an issue.

When it comes to antiseptic or antibacterial mouth rinses, he says, the picture is more complicated. “If you have periodontal disease or some harmful types of mouth bacteria, an antibacterial rinse could help kill the bacteria that cause the disease,” he says, but you need to speak with your dentist about the benefits and potential risks.

But for those with healthy teeth and mouths, a mild mouthwash that doesn’t contain alcohol or strong antibacterial agents is probably your best choice.

“Some rinses promote the idea that tingling or discomfort are signs the rinse is working, but that’s really just marketing,” Messina adds. You don’t need to feel a burn when you rinse for the stuff to do its job.

And in the end, its job is mostly about making your mouth “feel” fresh. “You don’t need mouthwash, but if you enjoy it, or you have bad breath and feel it helps, then there’s no substantiated risks to rinsing once or twice a day,” he says.

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Alcohol vs. Alcohol Free Mouthwash: What’s the Difference?

Most mouthwashes you see in drug stores contain an alcohol (specifically ethanol) which cause that initial burning sensation, and also bring an unpleasant taste and dryness of the mouth. Even if you don’t have lasting medical reasons to make the switch, what is the big difference with alcohol-free mouthwash and are there benefits to using the alternative?

Aside from burning sensations, the alcohol in mouthwash also destroys almost all the bacteria in your mouth – both the bad AND good bacteria. This means that unless you’re consistently using mouthwash each and every day, there are a lot of opportunities for bad breath to actually build up and an imbalance of bacteria to occur. Alcohol-free mouthwash may not completely wipe your mouth clean, but it does target more bad bacteria than good, creating a favourable balance to avoid further complications or bad breath. People who experience xerostomia (dry mouth), an otherwise low saliva flow due to certain medicinal side effects, radiation therapies or systemic diseases such as Sjogren’s syndrome or diabetes, can all benefit from using alcohol free mouthwashes. Alcohol-free mouthwash is particularly beneficial for people who have a history of alcohol abuse as well.

Beyond these conditions, studies by BioMed Research International suggest alcohol free mouthwashes have a better effect on the gloss, colour, hardness and wear of tooth composite restorations compared to mouthwashes that contain alcohol.

There are various alcohol free mouthwashes that can prevent dental diseases and freshen breath. The mouthwash selection rivals toothpaste and toothbrushes in the oral care aisle, but a mouthwash should never replace brushing and flossing. Rather, mouthwashes should compliment your regular dental care routine to improve your oral health. Your dental health professional can recommend options of alcohol free mouthwashes that are most suitable for improving your own oral well-being.

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When you walk down the oral health aisle at any drug store you’ll find no shortage of mouthwashes to choose from, but what are the benefits of mouthwash, and what are the risks?

While mouthwash is not a replacement for daily brushing and flossing, using mouthwash (also known as ‘mouth rinse’) can be a helpful addition to your daily oral hygiene routine. Given the wide range of ingredients in mouthwashes on the market, figuring out if you need one and which one to choose can be perplexing.

Broadly speaking, there are two types of mouthwash: cosmetic and therapeutic.

Cosmetic mouthwash may temporarily control bad breath and provide a fresh, pleasant taste, but that’s about it. Therapeutic mouthwash has active ingredients intended to help control or reduce specific conditions like bad breath, gingivitis, plaque, and tooth decay. Some active ingredients commonly found in therapeutic mouthwash include cetylpyridinium chloride, chlorhexidine, essential oils, fluoride, or peroxide. You may use a cosmetic mouthwash to mask bad breath, but you would need a therapeutic mouthwash to actually kill the bacteria that cause the bad breath.

So what are the benefits of mouthwash?

Mouthwash is a liquid so it offers the benefit of reaching areas that a toothbrush just can’t get to. Adding mouthwash to your brushing routine can clear debris and loosened plaque on your teeth that have been left behind. Rinsing with water would have the same benefit but one of the benefits of mouthwash is that it freshens your breath as well and that is very appealing to some people.

2. It can reduce the number of bacteria in the mouth

A therapeutic mouthwash can help prevent gum diseases such as gingivitis by reducing the amount of plaque and bacteria trapped in your mouth. The bacteria from gum infections can cause certain pregnancy complications when it enters a woman’s bloodstream and you can reduce this risk by rinsing with a mouthwash on a regular basis. A therapeutic mouthwash with fluoride can help reduce cavities and demineralization of your teeth when used on a regular basis as well.

3. It can whiten your teeth

A mouthwash won’t have quite the same impact as a whitening treatment, but one of the benefits of some therapeutic mouthwashes is a whitening effect over time. If that is your goal, look for a mouthwash that contains carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide as one of the active ingredients. You do need to be careful which mouthwash you choose though because one of the most common side effects of antibacterial mouthwashes is tooth staining. If you’re stuck on which mouthwash to choose for whitening properties, ask your dentist because we are able to prescribe stronger mouthwashes than you’d find on store shelves.

On top of those 3 benefits, many people choose to use mouthwash purely because it makes their mouth feel fresh and clean, but there are some risks you should be aware of as well.

Alcohol-based mouthwashes are the kind that you find in most grocery stores but they can have some serious side effects. The alcohol itself can dry out your mouth and lead to bad breath which is likely what you’re trying to avoid by using a mouthwash to begin with. There is an ongoing debate about whether alcohol-based mouthwashes increase your risk for oral cancer. This is still being researched and a recent systematic review and meta-analysis failed to find an association between alcohol-based mouthwash use and oral cancer but the jury is still out on this.

2. It could raise your blood pressure

There are studies that have indicated that regular use of mouthwash could increase your blood pressure because it eliminates some of the beneficial bacteria found in the mouth. Not all bacteria is bad bacteria and mouthwash can eliminate the bacteria responsible for producing nitric oxide that helps in protecting your cardiovascular system.

3. It can eliminate good bacteria

When you wipe out all of the bacteria in your mouth, you wipe out your first line of protection against invading bacteria. For this reason, using mouthwash can increase your risk of getting infections like H Pylori and C-difficile. Antibacterial mouthwash can increase your risk of gut inflammation that can lead to increased intestinal permeability and contribute to food intolerances, food allergies, and even some gut-related autoimmune diseases.

Whether you choose to use a mouthwash or not, you should know that mouthwash of any kind is not recommended for children younger than 6 years of age. The swallowing reflexes of children this young may not be well developed and that can result in them swallowing large amounts of mouthwash which can trigger nausea, vomiting, and intoxication (due to the alcohol content in some mouthwashes).

When shopping for a mouthwash, consider what the most important benefits of mouthwash are for you. Look for alcohol-free options so that you don’t have to worry about the risks associated with an alcohol-based mouthwash. Be sure to look for an ADA approved mouthwash and check to make sure it addresses the issues you’re looking to treat. If you find yourself unsure, don’t hesitate to ask your dentist for help!

Swish, swish, spit! The average mouthwash is only in your mouth for around 30 seconds before you spit it down the plughole, so it makes you wonder – does mouthwash really make a difference to your oral hygiene?

Mouthwash is a popular oral hygiene product, but its had its fair share of controversy – with many believing it has absolutely no affect whatsoever.

Here’s why dental mouthwash can be a useful weapon in your dental health arsenal.

Brush, floss… rinse?
Brushing removes most food, bacteria and plaque from the surface of your teeth. Flossing gets in between your teeth (where your brush can’t reach) and can even scrape your tongue clean.

But what’s the deal with rinsing your mouth?

What is mouthwash?
There are many types and brands of mouthwash on the market, and it’s easy to be confused by the display at the supermarket.

TOP TIP: The Australian Dental Association actually provides readers with a list of approved mouthwash products.

A good starting point when choosing your mouthwash is to check which ingredients are used. While each mouthwash may be slightly different, most will include the following:

  • Alcohol: or other antimicrobial agents to help kill bacteria and other germs that contribute to tooth decay and bad breath.
  • Detergents: to help dislodge and remove food debris and loose plaque
  • Flavours: and colours that improve the look and taste.
  • Preservatives: that prevent growth of bacteria in the mouthwash
  • Water: to dissolve the other ingredients

Some mouthwashes may also contain fluoride to help make teeth more resistant to acid attacks, and so help defend against tooth decay.

DENTAL FACT: Saliva is our mouth’s natural mouthwash. It helps rinse away bacteria that can causes bad breath and gingivitis.

Which is the best mouthwash for me?
Not all mouthwashes are created equal. While it can be as simple as choosing a mouthwash with your favourite flavour, there can be more to mouthwashes than meets the eye.

Some important things to consider include:

  • Smell of success: If a fresh breath of confidence is what you’re after, keep it simple and pick a mouthwash you like the smell of
  • Dry mouth? Go alcohol free: If you suffer from dry mouth, we recommend using an alcohol-free mouthwash. Alcohol is a drying agent, and if your mouth is dry, you can’t produce saliva.
    Mouthwashes that contain alcohol can actually make dry mouth much worse for you
  • Fluoride forever: There are lots of mouthwashes available with extra fluoride to help fight tooth decay. But as with all mouthwashes, it’s important that you don’t accidentally swallow them, as consuming too much fluoride mouth rinse can be toxic
  • Gum disease on notice: If you have a problem with gum disease then chlorhexidine (Savacol or Corsodyl) is worth considering. But always seek professional assessment before proceeding with any over the counter remedies.
  • Refuse to choose: There are even some brands on the market that contain chlorhexidine, fluoride and are alcohol-free too!

But whichever mouthwash you choose, the key to getting the most from your mouthwash is to make it a regular part of your oral health routine.

Simple salt water
If you’re looking for a more natural mouth wash option we also recommend using a simple saltwater mouthwash. Saltwater mouthwashes are an excellent short term treatment, especially if you have wounds in your mouth – for instance, when you’ve had teeth removed.

Salt acts as a natural disinfectant and also removes any swelling from the tissues. Our National Dental Care practitioners often recommend using salt water for two or three weeks after dental surgery, as well as in cases of infection or mouth ulcers.

Long term use of a saltwater mouth rinse is not recommended as it could lead to tooth erosion by eating away and softening the tooth enamel and making your teeth more susceptible to chipping and cavities.

So, does mouthwash work?
Yes. A short 30-second mouthwash investment can result in a clear reduction in dental issues such as plaque and gingivitis.

Other benefits that come from committing to a regular dental regime that includes mouthwash include:

  • Fresher breath: mouthwash can make your mouth feel and smell fresher
  • May provide additional protection against cavities and gum disease: when you use a mouth rinse with fluoride – don’t dilute the fluoride mouthwash with water as this stops the fluoride from coating the teeth
  • ‘Bye bye’ bacteria: mouthwash can reduce the amount of dental plaque and bacteria in your mouth

But remember, mouthwash shouldn’t be used as your only weapon in the fight for good oral health; it should be part of your daily dental routine, along with regular brushing, flossing and professional dental check-ups.

If you think a mouthwash might help with a dental or oral health issue, book an appointment online today to discuss with your National Dental Care practitioner.

The Benefits and Disadvantages of Using Mouthwash

Using mouthwash is known to keep breath fresh and avoid the build-up of various bacteria in between the corners of the teeth. There are different types of mouthwashes available in the market such as everyday-care formulas, alcohol-free variants, and herbal blends, all of which are designed to promote oral health, good hygiene and fresh breath.

But just like most things, using mouthwash can have advantages and drawbacks. Let’s look at each of them.


  • Mouthwash promotes oral health and good hygiene. Some mouthwashes are packed with fluoride to help combat cavities and periodontal diseases. Antiseptic mouthwashes, on the other hand, contains chlorhexidine gluconate, which prevents bacterial growth in the mouth and deals with halitosis and infections.
  • Mouthwash aids in post-surgery treatment. There are certain mouthwashes prescribed by dentists that assist in curing inflammation and sores after dental surgery. This type of mouthwash is usually recommended for patients who were advised not to brush their teeth for an extended period of time after surgical procedures.
  • Mouthwash can help heal canker sores. Canker sores are ulcers in the mouth, and mouthwash can help deal with the infection.
  • Mouthwash can help avoid complications in pregnancy. Mouthwash can prevent periodontal disease, which can lead to premature labors among pregnant women. When bacteria enter the mother’s bloodstream, it would increase inflammatory markers and stimulate contractions. Gargling with mouthwash can help prevent that from happening, because it keeps oral bacteria away.


  • Mouthwash can be dangerous for children when ingested. Children are prone to accidentally ingesting mouthwash, and it can have serious health hazards for them. It can result to convulsions and in more serious cases, it can lead to comatose.Children between the ages of six and 12 should be under adult supervision when mouthwashing. Meanwhile, those who are below five years old should only use mouthwash when prescribed by a dentist.
  • Mouthwash can damage some parts of the mouth. Mouthwashes with high alcohol content can burn the delicate mucus membranes in the mouth.
  • Mouthwash can stain and darken teeth. When chlorhexidine gluconate, an ingredient present in some mouthwashes, comes in contact with food additives left in the mouth, it can result to staining or darkening of the teeth.
  • Mouthwash can irritate canker sores. Mouth washing can help heal canker sores, but when you use a type of mouthwash that has a high alcohol content, it can further aggravate the condition.
  • Mouthwash can simply mask bad breath. And not for a long time. Mouthwashing will never be a substitute for toothbrushing. Using mouthwash is just one of the many areas of proper oral health. While it can conceal problems by giving temporary fresh breath, it will not be able to address oral issues on its own.

Mouthwashes can be helpful or harmful, depending on how you use it. Generally, mouthwashes are geared towards promoting oral health and fresh breath. But oral health and needs varies from person to person. Some people have sensitive gums, others are recovering from surgery, while some simply need a mouthwash for everyday use. In order to make it work to your advantage, consult your consult your chandler dentist and find out which type of mouthwash is suitable for you.

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