Mouthwash can help rinse away food debris and bacteria after brushing, but it's important to remember that it's not an essential part of a good oral hygiene routine. That said, it doesn’t do any harm either, and might help fight bad breath.
Often people enjoy rinsing with mouthwash after they’ve brushed their teeth. Many say that it's because they feel that the mouthwash is clearing away all that loose debris left over after brushing.
Even though this is true, rinsing with water after brushing will have the same effect.
Mouthwash can be a nice addition to a proper oral hygiene routine, but it's definitely not a substitute. Mouthwash will never take the place of brushing, flossing, and visiting the dentist, but it can help freshen your breath, and it’s mostly harmless.
If you’ve heard about studies over the years that connect mouthwash use to things like cancer and heart disease it might surprise you to find out that it's mostly harmless.
One study that many people have heard about, in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine, found that some mouthwashes could raise blood pressure by wiping out a type of mouth bacteria that helps the body generate nitric oxide. Nitric oxide plays a critical role in protecting the cardiovascular system, including keeping blood pressure down.
This study, however, focused specifically on mouthwashes that contain a strong antibacterial agent called chlorhexidine. Chlorhexidine is usually only available by prescription. Also important to note is that this study was very small, just 19 participants, therefore requires more research to support its findings.
Studies since the 90s have suggested that mouthwashes which contain alcohol can contribute to the development of oral cancers. But many experts say that these studies are also flawed, and focus on excessive mouthwash use of three or more rinses a day. Since this study was released, several review studies have failed to find links between alcohol rinses and cancer.
Note that mouthwashes with alcohol in them can dry out your mouth, so if you have issues with dry mouth, choose an alcohol-free variety.
A more complicated issue is presented by the use of antiseptic or antibacterial mouth rinses. Only people who have periodontal disease or other harmful types of oral bacteria should use these types of rinses. If you want to use one, be sure to consult with your dentist first.
People who already have healthy teeth and mouths, but who want to use mouthwash, should select a mild variety without alcohol or strong antibacterial agents.
Mouthwash may feel nice and refreshing to use, but ultimately it doesn’t do much other than (possibly) help reduce bad breath. If you like mouthwash, there’s no medical reason not to rinse with it once or twice a day, but if you want to save some money, rinsing with water will give you the same result.