The standard oral health routine (as recommended by dental professionals) involves brushing your teeth twice daily and flossing once daily.
But mouthwash is an important third step in your daily oral hygiene routine that works to reduce plaque and freshen breath.
When incorporated into the regular oral health routine, mouthwash can kill bacteria, reduce tooth decay, prevent gum disease, and loosen up plaque and food particles between teeth.
When it comes to using mouthwash, timing is everything. To get the optimal effect from mouthwash, you need to ensure you're using it correctly.
This article shows you when and how to properly use mouthwash to maximize its benefits.
When To Use Mouthwash: Complete Overview
As you introduce mouthwash into your dental hygiene, the question of whether to use it before or after brushing will probably come up. Unfortunately, the research on this is limited and varied and all reliable sources have varied stances on the topic. There is no one-size-fits-all response when it comes to deciding how to incorporate a swish of mouthwash into your routine.
The Mayo Clinic advises using mouthwash at the end of your normal oral hygiene routine (i.e., after brushing and flossing).
The National Health Service (NHS) says to avoid using mouthwash directly after brushing, stating it will wash away the fluoride left in your mouth from toothpaste. According to its resources, people should use mouth rinse at a different time of day altogether.
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), it is up to you whether you prefer to use mouthwash before or after brushing.
Mouthwash labels will have their own specific instructions as well. To give you a better understanding of what works best, let's compare the two approaches.
Using Mouthwash Before Brushing
If you choose to use mouthwash before brushing your teeth, the plaque on your teeth will start to break up, helping the fluoride in toothpaste to reach deeper into hard-to-reach areas. For this same reason, it also helps you spend less time brushing your teeth.
However, if you are using a mouthwash with alcohol in it, this can dry out the inside of your mouth and make it easier for bacteria to stick around, even after brushing. That means that when you finish brushing your teeth, the natural film of saliva around your teeth will begin to grow more quickly.
Using Mouthwash After Brushing
Using a mouth rinse after brushing means you can release all the debris that was left loosened or untouched by brushing, and the mouthwash will rinse away any remaining bacteria in your mouth.
It also removes the film around your teeth that brushing typically lease behind and freshens your breath. Mintier breath is the main reason many people choose to use mouthwash at this time.
To maximize the benefits of using mouthwash, it is recommended that you wait at least 30 minutes after rinsing before consuming food or drinks. This time allows the antiseptic to seep through your teeth and reach all areas where plaque has accumulated, providing maximum protection against bacteria buildup.
Using Mouthwash Both Ways (Before And After Brushing)
Using mouthwash before and after your daily oral care routine might be a good way to enjoy all its benefits. This approach allows you to take advantage of the loosening effect of using mouthwash before brushing and the additional bacteria-killing action when using it after brushing.
However, a growing body of research also links the overuse of mouthwash to oral cancers, diabetes, and many other health issues. Using mouthwash after brushing your teeth should be enough, and it often doesn't make sense to overdo it.
Why Is Mouthwash Important For Oral Care?
Mouthwash is a less-recommended but equally important part of your oral care. For several reasons, it can be beneficial in your dental hygiene routine.
- Helps to reduce the amount of plaque and bacteria in the mouth, preventing cavities and gum disease.
- Reaches excess debris in hard-to-reach places in the mouth that brushing and flossing can't reach.
- Can help freshen your breath and provide a more pleasant oral environment.
- Eliminates bad odors caused by bacteria in the mouth, such as garlic and onion breath.
- Can reduce the risk of developing infections and other oral health problems, such as gingivitis, periodontal disease, and halitosis (bad breath).
- Reduces tooth sensitivity and whitens teeth while providing additional protection against tartar buildup.
Mouthwash is also an excellent midday pick-me-up to freshen your breath and help you feel more confident when talking to others. Some people prefer to use mouthwash after meals to reduce the risk of food particles becoming stuck in their teeth after eating.
How Often Should I Use Mouthwash?
Mouthwash affects the oral microbiome, according to a recent study. Frequent use over the course of just a week can impact the balance of bacteria in the mouth, encouraging the growth of unhealthy bacteria and potentially leading to oral health problems.
Because of its potential to disrupt the balance of bacteria in the mouth, it is generally recommended that you use mouthwash no more than as directed on the bottle.
Additionally, most brands recommend not swallowing their product because it can contain high levels of alcohol and other chemicals that are not good for your health when consumed.
Mouthwash Alternatives To Try For A Cleaner Mouth
If you're someone who can't use mouthwash due to a medical condition, or based on personal preference, there are alternatives that can still provide the same cleaning benefits.
Hydrogen peroxide is best known as a natural teeth whitening solution (hence why it's in some toothpastes and whitening products), but it can also be used as an effective mouthwash. You may even find some hydrogen peroxide rinses at the store.
Hydrogen peroxide mouthwash has several potential benefits for users:
- Antibacterial properties that help keep your mouth free of bacteria and plaque
- Helps to reduce bad breath
- Can help prevent cavities by killing off the bacteria that cause them
- Soothes oral illnesses like sore throats and gingivitis
It's a natural alternative to conventional mouthwashes, which can contain artificial colors, flavorings, alcohol, and other ingredients.
Still, it isn't a good idea to use hydrogen-peroxide-based mouthwash every day because hydrogen peroxide itself isn't good for your internal organs. Over-ingestion of the substance can result in vomiting, internal bleeding, and other discomforts.
Salt Water Rinse
Salt water can be used as a great alternative to mouthwash, especially for those with sensitive teeth or gums, who have allergies to ingredients found in many store-bought mouthwashes, or simply don't like the taste of it.
Salt water rinses promote healing and detoxify the mouth, making it a great option for those suffering from gum disease or mouth infections. Salt water is also known to reduce plaque buildup, which can help prevent cavities and other oral health issues.
If you can't use mouthwash after a tooth extraction, a salt water rinse is one of the only options that can help keep the area clean without causing any discomfort or risk.
To use salt water for mouth care, simply mix one teaspoon of table salt with 8 ounces of warm water and rinse your mouth for 30 seconds up to four times each day.
Like hydrogen peroxide, baking soda has several benefits for oral health—thanks to its antibacterial and antimicrobial properties.
Baking soda is also a great alternative to mouthwash because it's an antiseptic and can help remove bacteria from the mouth. It also neutralizes acids, which helps reduce bad breath and stop cavities from forming.
To create your own baking soda rinse, mix 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda and 1/8 teaspoon of salt with 1 cup of warm water. Swish the mixture around your mouth for 30 seconds and rinse with plain water afterward.
Diluting peppermint oil in water can quickly eliminate bad breath and leave your mouth feeling refreshed. Diluting peppermint oil and rinsing with it is also common home remedy for minor toothaches, particularly to alleviate the pangs of teething in infants.
One of the best things about peppermint oil is that it is completely safe. It has not shown any side effects or the ability to exacerbate any existing issues.
The Bottom Line
Whether you decide to use a regular mouthwash or a home remedy for bad breath and oral care, the key is to use it correctly.
Reliable sources of dental information can't seem to agree on when to use mouthwash, but most decide to after brushing and flossing their teeth, as this helps remove plaque and bacteria that could otherwise linger in their mouths.
Mouthwash should never be used for swallowing due to its high levels of alcohol and/or other chemicals that can be bad for your stomach. And expired mouthwash (older than 2-3 years) should be thrown away and replaced with a new bottle.
No matter what type of mouthwash or solution you choose, make sure to use it as directed on the label for the best possible results. Doing so will help keep your teeth and gums healthy and looking great.
Want to learn more? Here are the questions our customers frequently ask us.
Should I Use Mouthwash Morning Or Night?
Among the dental community, there is some disagreement regarding the best time to use mouthwash. However, the majority of people rinse with mouthwash after brushing and flossing in the morning and night is best for optimal oral hygiene. However, it is best to wait 30 minutes or longer after brushing and flossing before using mouthwash, as this helps ensure that the enzymes in the toothpaste are able to do their job.
How Do You Use Mouthwash Properly?
Mouthwash should be used in addition brushing and flossing your teeth, never as a substitute. To use mouthwash properly, first tilt your head back so the mouthwash can reach all areas of your mouth. Then, take a sip and swish it around for at least 30 seconds before spitting it out into the sink.
Do Dentists Advise Using Mouthwash?
Dentists advise using anticavity mouthwashes, as these have been proven to reduce plaque buildup and help prevent cavities. They also administer them in their offices to help reduce any bacteria or infection in a patient's mouth after certain procedures, such as tooth extractions or root canals.
How Long Should You Wait To Use Mouthwash After Brushing?
You should wait at least 30 minutes after brushing your teeth before using mouthwash. This allows time for the fluoride in your toothpaste to be absorbed into your teeth. If you don't wait long enough, you run the risk of the mouthwash's antiseptic ingredients canceling out the fluoride and other beneficial properties of the toothpaste.