Rinsing with salt water before bed

You already diligently brush and floss before bed. But could one last rinse with salt water provide extra overnight oral health benefits? Or might swishing right before sleep actually cause problems?

Saltwater rinses, when used correctly, can contribute to oral health in several ways: it has natural antimicrobial properties that aid in the fight against infections; helps to reduce swelling in the oral tissues; promotes increased blood flow to aid in healing; and helps in loosening debris and biofilm from oral surfaces.

However, the timing of this rinse is essential. Swishing with saltwater right before bedtime can raise concerns. While it can potentially offer overnight benefits, it might also disturb your oral microbiome and expose your teeth to corrosive factors.

To strike a balance, consider rinsing with salt water at an earlier time in the evening, allowing it to work its magic without the risk of disrupting your oral health during sleep.

Let’s analyze the potential pros and cons of using a saline mouthwash as part of your p.m. oral hygiene routine in greater detail:

Rinsing with salt water before bed

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Possible Benefits of Bedtime Salt Water Rinsing

A pre-bed saltwater rinse can indeed offer several advantages for your oral health. Here’s a closer look at why it can be beneficial:

Bacterial Control

Before sleep, your mouth’s natural defense mechanism, saliva, decreases its flow. This reduction in saliva can create an environment where harmful bacteria can thrive. A saltwater rinse just before bed helps reduce these bacteria, curbing their proliferation overnight and potentially preventing issues like plaque buildup and bad breath.

Complementing Brushing

If you’ve missed any food debris during your brushing routine, a saltwater rinse can help dislodge these particles. This additional step ensures that your mouth is as clean as possible before you sleep, reducing the risk of dental issues.

Fresh Feeling

Saltwater rinses often leave your oral tissues feeling clean and refreshed. This can be particularly pleasant before bedtime, helping you go to sleep with a fresh and comfortable mouth.

Continuous Protection

The antimicrobial properties of salt continue working even after you’ve rinsed. This means that while you sleep, the residual effects of the saltwater rinse can help protect your teeth and gums from harmful microbes, contributing to better overall oral health.

Potential Drawbacks to Consider

However, some possible disadvantages of a pre-bed saltwater rinse include:

Dryness of Oral Tissues

Salt has a natural drying effect, and if not rinsed thoroughly, it may leave your oral tissues feeling dry. This could be uncomfortable, especially during the night when saliva flow naturally decreases.


To mitigate this, ensure you rinse your mouth with plain water after the saltwater rinse to remove any remaining salt residue.

Lingering Taste

The taste of salt can linger in your mouth, which may be unpleasant and disrupt your sleep.


To prevent this, follow up your saltwater rinse with a rinse of plain water to clear away any residual saltiness.

Gum Sensitivity

Swishing saltwater vigorously in your mouth could potentially lead to gum irritation or damage, especially if done too aggressively.


It’s best to swish gently to avoid any harm to your gum tissues, particularly before extended sleep hours.

Dry Mouth

If you already suffer from dry mouth (xerostomia), a saltwater rinse may exacerbate this issue, leading to increased thirst or discomfort during the night.


If you have a dry mouth condition, you might want to consult with a dentist or healthcare provider before incorporating saltwater rinses into your routine.

Recommended Salt Water Regimen

ADA suggests:

  • Warm salt rinses no more than 2-3 times daily for a week unless advised otherwise by your dentist.
  • Swish very gently for 20-30 seconds before bed, just to circulate through the mouth.
  • Only use approximately 1/2 teaspoon salt per cup of warm water. This modest concentration prevents tissue irritation.
  • Always finish with a plain water rinse to eliminate salty residue.

Following this balanced regimen allows you to safely gain the advantages of a nightly salt rinse without going overboard.

Should You Use Indefinitely?

The general consensus is to limit pre-bed salt water rinses to temporary or occasional use, with a few exceptions:

  • Those highly prone to oral infections may rinse more consistently for preventive effects.
  • Patients with dry mouth or gum issues may rinse as-needed for relief.

Discuss your specific oral health considerations with your dentist. They can best advise if a regular bedtime salt water rinse could be beneficial or not.

Final Note

In summary, a brief final saltwater rinse can provide a small but helpful cleansing boost before sleep when practiced prudently. But take care not to overdo it. If done properly, say hello to extra overnight oral benefits!


  • Editorial team

    A team comprising oral health care professionals, researchers, and professional Writers, striving to impart you with the knowledge to improve your oral health, and that of your loved ones. 

  • Lilly

    Lilly, aka, Liza Lee, is a passionate community oral health officer and our lead writer. She's not only well-versed in performing a multitude of dental procedures, including preventive, restorative, and cosmetic, but also an avid writer. Driven by the significant oral health burden all around her, Lilly strives to build capacity and promote oral health. She envisions making a lasting impact by advancing research, prevention, and promotion efforts to alleviate oral health disparities. Please share your views and opinions on my posts.

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