Mouthwashes promise minty fresh breath, a clean mouth feel, and a healthy smile. But some ingredients and everyday overuse have raised questions. Is using mouthwash daily actually good for your oral health or potentially harmful?
Based on various studies, using mouthwash 1-2 times a day is highly effective in keeping your mouth bacteria-free, while using it sparingly, like twice a week only helps to reduce the bacteria by a small fraction.
Other studies argue that using mouthwash more than once a day can lead to increased risk of high blood pressure and diabetes, since the antibacterial ingredients in mouthwash don’t distinguish between good and bad bacteria.
As such, while mouthwash can be beneficial for oral hygiene, especially when used once a day, overuse can lead to health issues. Therefore, it’s essential to use it wisely and in moderation as part of your oral care routine to maintain overall health.
How Mouthwash Affects Your Health
In a recent study, researchers looked at how using mouthwash affected the participant’s mouth’s inner lining, known as the epithelial tissue, and the bacteria living there. They divided people into different groups based on how often they used mouthwash.
Group 1 (Basic Hygiene – No mouthwash):
These participants did not use any mouthwash, and as such, their result remained unchanged. This means that the amount of bacteria in the mouth remained the same in the two-week period of the study.
Group 2 (Twice Daily Use):
People who used mouthwash twice a day had clean epithelial tissue without bacteria, and the background of their mouth looked clear. This suggests that the mouthwash was doing its job in fighting off bacteria after two weeks of regular use.
Group 3 (Twice Weekly Use):
In this group, where people used mouthwash only twice a week, the results were different. The epithelial tissue had some bacteria inside, and it was clear outside the tissue. This might mean that using mouthwash less often wasn’t as effective at keeping bacteria away.
Discussion of Results:
Mouthwash with alcohol could be detrimental
The study’s findings support an earlier study from Australia in 2009, which suggested that mouthwashes with alcohol might have the opposite effect. They could potentially make it easier for harmful substances to get into the lining of your mouth, possibly leading to more health issues.
Using mouthwash more than once a day is harmful
Another study from Harvard University found that using mouthwash more than once a day could be linked to diabetes or high blood sugar within three years. Some of the ingredients in mouthwash, called antibacterial ingredients, don’t discriminate between good and bad bacteria. Overusing mouthwash might harm your oral health and affect your overall well-being.
Using mouthwash before physical activity could be detrimental
There’s also research from a lab in Spain that found using antibacterial mouthwash before physical activity could lead to high blood pressure when at rest. This suggests that mouthwash can have a significant impact on our cardiovascular health by disrupting the balance of bacteria in our mouths.
So, what does all this mean?
Using mouthwash can be helpful, but it should be done in moderation. Overusing it might lead to various health issues, from oral problems to diabetes and even heart-related concerns. It’s a reminder that we should use mouthwash wisely, as part of our oral care routine, without going overboard.
Potential Benefits of Daily Mouthwash
Mouthwashes offer several perks that could promote oral wellness when used properly:
- Provides extra antibacterial activity to reduce plaque, gingivitis, and pathogenic bacteria missed by brushing and flossing alone.
- Contains fluoride to support remineralization and strengthen enamel against cavities.
- Improves breath odor by reducing volatile sulfur compounds that cause bad breath. Also leaves a minty taste and feeling.
- Rinses away debris dislodged through brushing and flossing for a deeper clean.
- Reaches areas a toothbrush may miss like between teeth, back molars, and around dental work.
- Some specialized rinses treat specific issues like dry mouth, pH balancing, or bleaching stains.
When paired with brushing and flossing, swishing daily with the right medicated or therapeutic mouthwash has the potential to provide incremental oral health protection.
Potential Downsides of Daily Use
However, daily long-term use does come with some risks and drawbacks according to research:
- Overuse of antimicrobial ingredients like alcohol and chlorhexidine may promote resistant bacteria and even fungal overgrowth.
- Harsh ingredients like alcohol irritate tissues, dry out the mouth, and alter taste sensation with extended use.
- Everyday use beyond 4 weeks can stain teeth brown with ingredients like chlorhexidine.
- Masking bad breath may deter someone from seeking treatment for underlying problems causing odor.
For these reasons, popular consensus maintains that using mouthwash more than twice daily offers limited additional upside but increased potential for adverse effects. Moderation seems key.
Professional Recommendations for Mouthwash Use
Leading dental organizations like the ADA offer these guidelines on daily mouthwash use:
- Mouthwashes should complement brushing and flossing, not act as a replacement. Don’t skip fundamental cleaning.
- Choose an ADA-approved mouthwash appropriate for your needs like cavity protection, fresh breath, or gum health. Avoid DIY concoctions.
- Use as directed, swishing the recommended amount for the suggested length of time. Don’t guess.
- Discontinue use if you notice tooth staining or changes in taste sensation over time.
- See your dentist regularly as they can evaluate if a special mouthwash could benefit your unique oral conditions and needs.
Talk to Your Dentist
Daily mouthwash use should be an individualized decision per your dental status and risk factors. Discuss options with your dentist, but here are some general considerations:
- Patients with gingivitis, periodontal pockets, or poor hygiene may benefit from the antibacterial boost of certain daily rinses.
- Those prone to cavities may gain advantage from daily fluoride mouthwashes.
- Dry mouth sufferers may appreciate pH balancing rinses used moderately throughout the day.
- Healthy patients already diligent with brushing and flossing may only require occasional mouthwash use.
In summary, while some exceptions exist, most people gain full advantage from mouthwash used as an adjunctive rinse 1-2 times per day. This balances potential perks with minimizing drawbacks. Partner with your dentist to determine appropriate mouthwash intensity and frequency for your needs.