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Should I be using a mouthwash?

One of the questions most commonly asked  by dental patients is ‘should I use mouthwash every day?’

Simple answer: No – not unless your dental care professional has advised you to use one.

There’s a great deal of confusion and misunderstanding about mouthwashes. The biggest difficulty is that they are not “standard” products and there are many types available. Some are medicinal, some are meant to reduce germs, and others simply aim to freshen your breath or whiten your teeth.

Simple mouthrinses can be a useful addition to your daily oral health routine if you chose the most appropriate type – but they are not essential. The only things that are “musts” for your daily oral health are flossing and brushing properly.

How to use mouthwash

So, if you do decide to add mouthwash to your daily routine, make sure that it’s actually going to be of some benefit. And use it in a way that gives the best results. This means

  • Use it before you brush and floss – follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for how much to use, but do the rinsing BEFORE brushing to gain the most benefits.
  • Use a fluoride-containing rinse – reading the ingredients labels on mouthwash may seem tedious, but unless you are getting a good coating of fluoride on your teeth it’s essentially a wasted effort.
  • Gargle for at least 45 seconds – This is a lot longer than most people think. Swish it around, and gargle it at the back of the throat. This is the minimum amount of time and effort needed to fully coat the teeth and mouth.
  • Never rinse out. Even when you feel you need to rinse it away (and some mouthwashes have a very strong taste and make you wish you could!), if you want to gain the benefits you must skip the follow-on mouthful of water and just let it do its work.
  • Avoid mouthwashes containing alcohol – you need to read the ingredients label carefully. There is evidence that exposure to alcohol increases your risks of developing mouth cancer.

Are mouthwashes safe to use?

A recent article in the Daily Mail  reports the findings of a study showing that  blood pressure increases slightly soon after rinsing with chlorhexidine mouthwash (the best known brand is ‘Corsodyl’)

The report suggests that this could increase your risk of a heart attack or stroke.

Bear in mind, however, that chlorhexedine mouthwashes are clinically proven to help in the treatment of gum disease. Gum disease has now been shown to have clear links with forms of heart and cardiovascular disease (find out more about this on our website  )

So not using chlorhexidine mouthwash may also be bad for you!

Also of concern is a recent finding that some people may be allergic to chlorhexidine. In the worst cases this reaction may even result in anaphylaxis – a potentially fatal condition.

The Verdict

Overall, our advice is – don’t bother to use a mouthwash unless specifically advised by your dentist or hygienist!

Categories Dental Care, Family, Health, News
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