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Why Should I Use Mouthwash?

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Andrew Slavin, DMD, FACS

Andrew Slavin, DMD, FACS

March 9, 2022

Your oral hygiene routine is essential for your health. Many people have different practices, but the one activity that has the most noticeable gap between the number of users and non-users is mouthwash. Adding that third step to your routine doesn’t seem like it’s worth it to many people. Are you unsure of whether or not you need to use mouthwash? Most people are, so here is a list of four things you should know to help you decide. 

#1: Not A Substitute

The first thing that you should be mindful of is that mouthwash is not a substitute for brushing and flossing. Instead, it is a helpful addition to your daily oral hygiene routine. In addition, mouthwash reduces the risk of some conditions and can even be prescribed by a dentist to remedy those conditions. Also, note that children under six years old are not recommended to use mouthwash unless directed by a dentist.

#2: What Are The Benefits?

Rinsing with mouthwash improves upon the benefits of brushing and flossing. In addition, using mouthwash can strengthen your teeth, prevent gingivitis, and kill bacteria in your mouth. This bacteria leads to plaque buildup and gum disease, so mouthwash helps reduce the risk of those issues. You also will notice that rinsing with mouthwash is a great way to tackle bad breath and will leave you with a fresh feeling. There are different types of mouthwash, and ones that contain fluoride reduce the risk of cavities when used correctly. If you have oral sores, then properly rinsing can reduce mouth pain as well. However, you should speak with a professional beforehand to avoid possible irritation.

#3: Types of Mouthwash

It is important to consider which kind of mouthwash is right for you and accomplishes what you want it to. There are cosmetic and therapeutic options, but we can classify it based on its purpose with three main categories:

  • Antiseptic
  • Plaque-inhibiting
  • Preventive


“Antiseptic” is a classifying name for anything that prevents the growth of disease causing-microorganisms. Mouthwashes containing Chlorhexidine are commonly seen as the best option and are often prescribed because they fight off harmful particles like fungi, bacteria, and spores. Antiseptic mouthwashes can be a remedy for oral ulcers and prevention against infections. These are also commonly used to treat severe cases of bad breath. Antiseptic mouthwashes are great for oral healthcare but can also have some unsavory side effects. They might leave stains on teeth and dentures, cause oral dryness, or leave a slight burning sensation in your mouth. Always consult a dental healthcare professional before using antiseptic mouthwashes.


Plaque is formed by bacteria that coat your teeth. Plaque-inhibiting mouthwashes do just that: they prevent plaque buildup! These mouthwashes are commonly used for cosmetic purposes and to treat severe plaque buildup. Their use is a bit more limited independently and won’t have as much impact without regularly brushing and flossing. Unlike antiseptic mouthwashes, plaque inhibitors are meant for long-term and frequent use. One drawback is that these are not as effective for treating bad breath.


Preventive mouthwash is the most commonly used type, and is probably what is sitting in your bathroom right now while you try to find out if you should use it. These Preventive mouthwashes contain fluoride and are used regularly to prevent tooth decay. There are daily and weekly options, with the weekly mouthwash having a higher fluoride concentration. Preventive mouthwashes are an excellent option for people who are undergoing orthodontic treatments like braces, as well as individuals with a high sugar intake. When appropriately used, preventive mouthwashes are a helpful addition to your usual routine.

#4: What’s The “Right Way” To Use Mouthwash?

All of the mouthwashes we have discussed only have a significant impact if they are used properly. But what does “properly” mean for mouthwash? It depends on when and how you use it and what type you use. First, I’ll go over the best way to utilize the most common type, Preventive. 

When to Use

The timing of use may not be at all what you are expecting. While it is best to brush and floss with mouthwash, adding to your oral hygiene, you don’t want to rinse with mouthwash too close to when you brush your teeth. To increase effectiveness, wait a while after brushing so that the fluoride from the toothpaste has time to affect your teeth. If you rinse too early, you lessen the effectiveness of the tooth brushing, but if your teeth haven’t been brushed at least somewhat recently, then the mouthwash might not reach every surface properly. Waiting about 30 minutes after brushing will give you enough time to ensure both efforts are as effective as possible. 

How to Use

Always check the bottle to ensure there aren’t any special instructions for use. In most cases, as a general rule for Preventive mouthwashes, you should:

  • Measure out the amount of mouthwash specified on the bottle
  • Swish the mouthwash around in your mouth for one minute, making sure to reach every surface
  • Spit out the mouthwash; it is not intended to be swallowed.
  • Wait at least 30 minutes before eating or drinking anything so that the fluoride can take effect.

Do You Need To Use Mouthwash?

The quick answer: no, you don’t need to. Using mouthwash is a way to expand on and improve the efforts you are already putting towards improving your oral hygiene. It is not mandatory but can be extremely helpful for some people and, in some cases, is prescribed for specific uses. To recap what we just discussed: Using mouthwash is not a substitute for brushing and flossing but should be used in addition to those efforts. Mouthwash has a number of benefits with regards to oral healthcare; and can also improve bad breath, reduce plaque buildup, and whiten teeth. Choose the right mouthwash for your needs. More often than not, it will be a Preventive fluoride mouthwash, but if you are unsure, have an injured mouth, or have an oral condition, consult a dentist or doctor. Wait about 30 minutes after brushing before using mouthwash, rinse for one minute, then wait about 30 more minutes before eating or drinking anything. Hopefully, your questions were answered, and you have a better idea of whether using mouthwash is something you want to incorporate into your routine!


Andrew Slavin, DMD, FACS

Andrew Slavin, DMD, FACS

Hello there, great choice moving towards the personal dental health care you desire!

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