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What Are the Pros and Cons of Using Mouthwash?

By Patti Kate
Updated May 21, 2024
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The benefits of using mouthwash generally depend on the type of mouthwash that is used. Many people find that using mouthwash daily gives them fresh breath and a clean feeling in the mouth. Some mouthwash solutions include fluoride, which may help fight cavities. Major drawbacks of using mouthwash that is alcohol based, however, may be irritation or burning, as well as dry mouth. Conversely, there are non-alcoholic mouthwash solutions that are formulated to help dry mouth.

Many types of mouthwash promote good oral hygiene for adults and children. Using mouthwash that contains fluoride may not only prevent cavities, it can also help prevent periodontal disease. Certain types of mouthwash may also help reduce oral plaque. Plaque is a sticky bio-film caused by bacteria that can harden into tartar between teeth and the surrounding gum line. Plaque and tartar are contributing factors of gingivitis and subsequent tooth loss.

Bacteria in the mouth can also cause foul-smelling breath. Many antiseptic mouthwash products claim to kill the germs that cause bad breath. For many people, this is another benefit of using mouthwash.

Some mouthwash products are designed to help heal sores or irritation after oral surgery. These products are typically available by prescription from a dentist or oral surgeon. Using this type of oral rinse is helpful for patients who cannot brush or floss their teeth for a period of time following oral surgery.

Although it is common to use an oral antiseptic or rinse after brushing and flossing the teeth, using mouthwash can be harmful to young children. The major concern for mouthwash use in children under the age of five is the possibility of ingestion. If a child swallows a significant amount of mouthwash, it could pose a serious health risk. According to experts, the potential of poisoning from children using mouthwash is due to the alcohol content. Accidental ingestion of alcoholic mouthwash may cause convulsions, brain damage, or coma in children.

In fact, the risk of using alcohol-based mouthwash is not only a threat to children. Medical researchers have discovered there is a higher incidence of oral cancer in individuals who use alcoholic mouthwash. According to experts, individuals should choose an oral rinse that is alcohol free to minimize or eliminate the risk of cancer from using mouthwash.

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Discussion Comments

By browncoat — On Jun 14, 2014

@Mor - I really hate how mouthwash feels in my mouth when I'm using it, so I don't use it very often. But if I feel like I've got a sore throat coming on I will definitely use it, because it's pretty much the only thing that actually seems like it can really prevent it.

So I guess I use it more as a kind of medicine rather than a daily thing.

By Mor — On Jun 14, 2014

@Fa5t3r - The increased risk is only associated with alcohol based mouthwash and it's not that much of an increase even then. Dentists don't all agree on the best things to do when it comes to teeth. I've heard some of them suggest that you don't even need to brush as long as you floss well, whereas others very strongly advise people to brush, floss and gargle as well as getting professionally cleaned regularly.

I think it's just a personal preference. I just don't like the taste in my mouth when I wake up if I don't use mouthwash and I'm not intending to stop any time soon.

By Fa5t3r — On Jun 13, 2014

According to my dentist, the only two things you really have to do to make sure your teeth will be healthy is floss them regularly and brush them regularly. As long as you don't have bizarre eating habits or strangely shaped teeth, those two things are enough, so it's not really worth using mouthwash when there is a risk of cancer.

It's hardly a surprise, considering that alcoholics are at high risk of getting mouth cancer as well. And the levels of alcohol in mouth wash are quite high. But anything that is going to be effective at killing bacteria just by getting near them, rather than in combination with movement or pressure (like toothpaste) is going to be quite harsh on human cells as well.

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