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How To Use Mouthwash: Your Guide to Better Oral Health

How To Use Mouthwash: Your Guide to Better Oral Health


How To Use Mouthwash: Your Guide to Better Oral Health

Mouthwash, which is also referred to as an “oral rinse,” is a liquid product used to rinse your teeth, gums and mouth. It usually contains an antiseptic that can help kill the harmful bacteria between your teeth and on your tongue. The dental product aisle at your local store displays a kaleidoscope array of bright green, blue, yellow, clear and pink rinses from which to choose. Here’s what you need to know about adding mouthwash to your dental care regimen.

Types of Mouthwash

In the broadest sense, there are two main types of mouthwash: cosmetic and therapeutic.

  1. Cosmetic mouthwash may temporarily control bad breath and provide a fresh, pleasant taste, but it doesn’t do much for your oral health beyond that.
  2. Therapeutic mouthwash has active ingredients that can aid in controlling or reducing conditions such as bad breath, gingivitis, plaque and tooth decay.

The active ingredients often found in therapeutic mouthwashes include:

  • Cetylpyridinium chloride.
  • Chlorhexidine.
  • Fluoride.
  • Peroxide.
  • Alcohol.
  • Essential oils.

The Benefits of Mouthwash

Many people like using mouthwash because of the fresh feeling it leaves behind. Using it regularly is a great way to enhance your oral hygiene in the following ways.

It Can Freshen Breath

Getting fresher breath is the main reason most people use mouthwash. It freshens breath more than just toothpaste — although it does not last for very long. You should buy the flavor that you like the most because mouthwash comes in a variety of flavors.

It Can Help Whiten Teeth

Although nothing will whiten teeth as well as professional teeth whitening, some therapeutic mouthwashes today offer a whitening effect over time. If this is what you are looking for, find a mouthwash that contains carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide as one of its active ingredients. 

One caveat, however, is that some antibacterial mouthwashes can be tooth staining. If you really want to choose a mouthwash for its whitening properties, ask your dentist because they may be able to prescribe a stronger mouthwash than you can find on the store shelves.

It Can Reduce the Number of Bacteria in the Mouth

A therapeutic mouthwash can aid in the prevention of gum disease by reducing plaque and bacteria in your mouth. A therapeutic mouthwash with fluoride can help keep cavities from forming when used regularly.

It Can Help Prevent Plaque Buildup

Plaque is the sticky substance that forms on your teeth and along the gumline that leads to gum disease and dental caries (cavities). There are mouthwashes on the market that can help keep plaque from forming. Keep in mind that mouthwash will not get rid of the plaque that already exists. Brushing is the best way to remove plaque.

It Can Help Fight Cavities

Mouthwash that contains fluoride can help fight cavities. Be sure to read labels, however, because most mouthwashes do not contain fluoride.

How To Use Mouthwash

Product directions may vary from one mouthwash brand to another, and you should follow those whenever possible. However, here are the basic instructions for how to use mouthwash:

  1. Start by brushing and flossing your teeth thoroughly. It’s important to note that you should wait a while before using mouthwash if you use fluoride toothpaste. When you rinse with mouthwash, it can wash away the concentrated fluoride the toothpaste left behind.
  2. Pour the mouthwash into a cup. Don’t use more than the product instructs you to use, usually around 3 to 5 teaspoons.
  3. Empty the contents of the cup into your mouth and swish the liquid around, gargling for about 30 seconds.
  4. Spit out the mouthwash into the sink.

Common Questions About How to Use Mouthwash

Do you have specific questions about using mouthwash? Here are insights into mouthwash uses and other safety information.

What Is the Primary Function of a Mouthwash?

The primary function of mouthwash is to clean and refresh the mouth. Some mouthwashes contain fluoride and other ingredients that can help prevent cavities and kill the bacteria that lead to plaque and bad breath. Other mouthwashes may include essential oils to help freshen your breath and provide a pleasant experience.

How Important Is Using Mouthwash?

Mouthwash is a good supplement to your oral health care routine because it can help prevent gum disease by killing the bacteria that settles into the dental sockets and gums. Since mouthwash can help prevent the buildup of plaque, it can also strengthen tooth enamel.

Does Mouthwash Replace Brushing and Flossing?

Never. Nothing is more effective than brushing and flossing when it comes to removing plaque and food residue from your teeth.

Does Mouthwash Cure Bad Breath?

Mouthwash can reduce bad breath and temporarily freshen breath, but it does not remedy the root cause of halitosis. Bad breath could be a symptom of a greater problem — such as gastroesophageal reflux disease — that mouthwash masks rather than treats, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease. 

When Should You Use Mouthwash?

Most people use mouthwash as part of their daily teeth-cleaning routine each morning and evening. However, if you want to freshen your breath, you can use mouthwash any time. For best results, you should clean your teeth before using mouthwash.

Should You Swallow Mouthwash?

Mouthwashes and mouth rinses are meant to be spit out, not swallowed. If you swallow the product, it will not work. Plus, mouthwash may contain ingredients that can be poisonous if ingested in large amounts.

Keep in mind that mouthwash is not recommended for children younger than age six. Kids this age could accidentally swallow the mouthwash, which can lead to nausea and vomiting.

Book an Appointment at West Coast Dental Today

Do you have questions about how mouthwash can fit into your oral health regimen? Make an appointment with us today, or call us at 888-329-8111 to learn more about staying on top of your oral health.


American Dental Association (ADA) – Oral Health Topics: Mouthrinse

Saudi Dental Journal – “The use of mouthwash containing essential oils (LISTERINE®) to improve oral health: A systematic review

The Pharmaceutical Journal – How to Select the Right Mouthwash

Crest – What to Do if You Swallow MouthwashHealthline – Dental and Oral Health: The Best Mouthwash

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