Four Myths about Mouthwash

If you have shopped for mouthwash recently, you may have found yourself standing in the oral care aisle, amazed at the vast selection available.  When you see so many seemingly similar products, it can be difficult to choose the best one for your specific needs.  One thing that may help is debunking a few mouthwash myths.

  1. Mouthwash can take the place of flossing.

No matter what ingredient the mouthwash contains, it cannot take the place of flossing.  Some mouthwash may function to loosen large food particles from between the teeth, but it does not pull sticky plaque off.  Plaque’s job is to stick to the teeth, and your job is to remove it.

Plaque removal requires the physical contact between the plaque and toothbrush bristles or floss.  Because our toothbrush bristles cannot reach the area where two teeth touch, floss is necessary.  Mouthwash is an additional oral hygiene tool, not a replacement for any others.

  1. If it burns, it’s working!

This is one of the most common myths we hear from our patients.  Some people like the burning, tingling sensation of very strong mouthwash, but most do not.  The harsh chemicals that cause the burning feeling are typically essential oils like eucalyptol, menthol and thymol.  These contain antiseptic properties to reduce bacterial counts in the mouth.

However, they are not necessary to accomplish the goal of loosening plaque and helping you keep your mouth clean.  In fact, these formulations usually use alcohol as the carrier liquid, so the overall effect is drying out the inside of the mouth.  This is not good and can lead to further problems.

Stick with alcohol-free mouthwash to prevent irritating the sensitive lining of your mouth with these harsh chemicals.

  1. Mouthwash is the best quick fix for bad breath.

Unfortunately, mouthwash only offers a very brief “masking” effect for bad breath.  It just gives a slight minty overlay on top of the bad breath.  As the minty scent quickly wears off, the bad breath is still there and just as potent as ever.

In some situations, using mouthwash will actually worsen bad breath by drying the mouth out.  As we said earlier, those containing alcohol lead to dry mouth.  A dry mouth is a smelly mouth.  Instead, try these tips for improving bad breath:

  • Chew sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva and moisten the mouth.
  • Stay well-hydrated, avoiding alcohol and caffeine.
  • Practice consistent, great oral hygiene. Plaque smells bad!  Don’t miss a single day of brushing and flossing.
  1. Whitening mouthwash will whiten my teeth.

Whitening mouthwash contains hydrogen peroxide, which is an effective teeth whitener.  Peroxide chemicals, when they remain in contact with the teeth for an extended period of time, penetrate enamel to break down dark colored compounds within the teeth.  The key is that they have to stay on the tooth surface for a minimum of 20-30 minutes.

The problem with mouthwash is that even if you could hold the mouthwash in your mouth for that long, then you would cause damage to the cheeks, lips and gum tissues lining the inside of the mouth.  Peroxide is NOT safe for those tissues.

Want to Know which Mouthwash is Right for You?

Call 940-382-1750 today to schedule a consultation with Dr. Chowning or one of our wonderful dental hygienists.  After we assess your current oral health status and any particular risk factors, we can recommend the safest and most effective mouthwash for your needs.

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