Advertisements for mouthwash brands often have the same message: making a great first impression, keeping a romantic moment going, and ensuring a radiant smile are only possible with regular use of mouthwash. But what’s really in mouthwash, and do its drawbacks outweigh its benefits?
PRO: Mouthwash fights cavities and dental disease
Swishing with a fluoride rinse is a proven way to prevent cavities, while an antibacterial mouthwash will help prevent gum disease, inflammation, and other bacterial complications. Often, antibacterial mouthwashes are made with a small concentration of alcohol, which kills bacteria in the mouth. And fluoride – that magic goop dentists set into your teeth when you’re a kid – can easily be introduced into adulthood to help keep your mouth strong against cavities.
CON: Mouthwash can be irritating and painful
Alcohol content is a perpetual battle for mouthwash companies; too little alcohol will fail to kill the majority of bad bacteria in your mouth, while too much can irritate your gums and cause that stinging pain, especially if you have sensitive gums or are suffering from a canker sore. Additionally, the safety of alcohol in mouthwashes has been debated for several decades, although recently the American Dental Association bestowed its Seal of Acceptance on most mouth rinses containing alcohol. Look for the ADA Seal on your mouthwash to be sure it’s been thoroughly reviewed and deemed safe to use. Some companies produce mouthwashes that have gentler antibacterial chemicals for people with sensitive teeth or gums.
PRO: It’s great for pregnant women
Bet you didn’t know this one! Dental disease – from gingivitis to cavities – actually increases the risk of preterm birth rates. Bacteria from a dental infection can enter the bloodstream and cause premature contractions. The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology recently published study results that found mothers who used mouthwash throughout pregnancy were less likely to go into early labor.
CON: Mouthwash can mask real problems
Sometimes, mouthwash can leave you feeling so fresh and clean that brushing and flossing seem unnecessary. Normally, bad breath and a nasty taste in your mouth are signals of a developing malady. But if your brushing and flossing are unsatisfactory, that minty-fresh aroma will only allow a dental problem to persist unnoticed.
Mouthwash is an important part of your dental routine – but don’t use it as a stand-in for brushing or flossing! Make sure you check your labels carefully to make sure that the alcohol content is ADA-approved before you purchase your mouthwash, and try a non-alcoholic mouth rinse if you have sensitive gums.