Does Mouthwash Actually Work?

If you’ve ever seen a mouthwash commercial, you know that they can supposedly do everything from fight bad breath to prevent cavities. But is it too good to be true that a quick rinse with some neon-colored minty liquid can change the course of your oral health? The answer is a little bit yes and a little bit no. 

Does Mouthwash Actually Work? | Butler PA Dentist

Cleaning Hard-to-Reach Places

There’s no question that mouthwash can be a boon to your oral hygiene routine. Since it’s liquid, mouthwash can reach into all the little nooks and crannies in between your teeth and gums where food particles can get stuck and plaque can build up. It can also be effective at neutralizing the bacteria that cause cavities and gum disease. Plus, mouthwashes with fluoride in them can remineralize damaged enamel, helping your body’s own defenses against cavities.

But don’t throw out your floss just yet — while mouthwash can be a great tool in your arsenal for oral health, it can’t do the job on its own. It’s crucial that you continue brushing your teeth twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush and a fluoride toothpaste, and don’t forget to floss daily to get those tight spots between your teeth good and clean. That then opens up the way for mouthwash to do its job in the places these others can’t clean.

Can Mouthwash Cure Bad Breath?

Many people use mouthwash as a treatment for halitosis, also known as bad breath. (True fact, the term “halitosis” was coined to give bad breath a scientific-sounding name and sell–guess what?–mouthwash.) Bad breath can be embarrassing, and a shocking half the United States population suffers from this odorous problem. But is mouthwash curing the problem, or simply masking it?

The answer isn’t quite so simple. While mouthwashes can both kill off the bacteria that cause bad breath and mask the odor for a more pleasant smell, whether or not it’s a real solution depends more on the source of your bad breath than on the mouthwash itself. If your bad breath is a result of the sulfurous output of the otherwise harmless bacteria that get stuck in the mucus film on your tongue, mouthwash could be all you need to freshen up. (And brushing your tongue when you brush your teeth won’t hurt, either!) But if your mouthwash is a result of a larger problem, like gingivitis, mouthwash will only mask the real problem. Before adding mouthwash to your routine to solve a halitosis problem, it may be a good idea to check in with your dentist and check up on your overall oral health.

Not All Mouthwash Is Created Equal

Of course, not all mouthwash is the same! Many mouthwashes attempt to neutralize smells and bacteria by including alcohol as an active ingredient. Unfortunately, some studies have shown that regular use of alcohol-based mouthwashes can increase your risk of oral cancer. It might also cause problems, too. Alcohol can dry out the mouth, reducing the effectiveness of your body’s natural mouthwash–saliva.

Don’t let that scare you away from mouthwash as a whole, though. There are plenty of great options for alcohol-free mouthwashes. If you’re not sure which type to try, we can make a recommendation for an effective mouthwash.

Want to make sure that your oral hygiene is the best it can be? Call (724) 282-4436 or contact us online to make an appointment for a cleaning and speak to Dr. Bob, who has been serving Butler for nearly 40 years!