How important is mouthwash? Are there any benefits to rinsing with mouthwash?
Before we answer that question lets go over the common types of mouth rinses that are available today and their purpose.
Mouth rinse or mouthwash, as they are commonly known are widely used today. Since in this discussion we will concentrate mainly on over the counter products we will separate them into two categories: antiseptic and fluoride.
Antiseptic Oral Rinse (antibacterial):
The function of an antiseptic mouthwash is to decrease plaque and oral bacteria. Some of the most common ones on the market today are Listerine, Scope, and Chlorhexidine, which is dispensed by prescription only. These mouth rinse products are widely used today mainly for the benefit of refreshing ones breath. Do we benefit from using the product on the regular basis?
Most healthy individuals who posses good dexterity can maintain excellent oral hygiene by brushing and flossing alone without the use of an oral rinse. Mechanical plaque removal is superior to any oral rinse. However, individuals who are unable to remove plaque adequately because of a disease or disability may benefit from anti-plaque agents. This is mainly due to the inability to remove plaque completely.
Many of the over the counter mouthwashes contain alcohol. In some cases the alcohol content can be as high as 25 percent. While the alcohol is a great antiseptic it also tends to dry the mouth just minutes after rinsing. A dry mouth provides a great environment for more bacteria growth. Eventually we end up with more bacteria after we rinsed then before. Most of the major brands recently came out with alcohol free products. It is a great alternative if mouthwash is to be used.
Fluoride is the most effective caries-preventive agent currently available. Fluoride strengthens enamel, can stop progression of small cavities, and it can also be used as an antiseptic. Topical fluoride application can be a great adjunct for individuals with poor oral hygiene practices. It also works well for individuals with a high caries rate. Someone who has many cavities even with average brushing an occasional flossing usually will have increased numbers of cavity causing bacteria. Fluoride has the potential to slow down or even stop the progression of cavities and reduce the number of all bacteria in the oral cavity. One of the most common fluoride rinses is ACT.
After this brief introduction to the different kinds of mouthwash products, let’s briefly discuss the importance of mouthwash in everyday oral hygiene practices.
Because most mouthwash is used to decrease the bacteria numbers in the mouth it can be beneficial for some. Individuals who are unable to remove plaque adequately due to disease, disability or poor dexterity due to age, may benefit from these anti-plaque agents. These anti-plaque agents are also beneficial in older population who are on phenytoin, calcium channel blockers or cyclosporines. These medications will cause gingival hyperplasia (gum tissue overgrowth) in the presence of plaque.
Use of mouthwash in individuals who are able to remove plaque efficiently through flossing and brushing regularly is not indicated. However, the use of mouthwash is very common today mainly for odor control, to eliminate bad breath.