The proper use of mouthwash is fraught with disagreement and myth, so in this article we’re going to answer all the most commonly-asked questions about how to use mouthwash.
Why Should I Use Mouthwash?
While some people still see a proper dental hygiene routine as simply brushing twice a day, numerous studies have demonstrated that mouthwash can form an important part of keeping your teeth healthy and your breath smelling fresh.
Mouthwashes can offer a significant number of benefits, including:
Additional Fluoride – Many mouth washes contain fluoride, which helps to strengthen and protect your teeth. Think of it as a supplement to the fluoride found in your toothpaste.
Breath Deodorization – It has been estimated that at least half of the adult population suffer from questionable breath, at least on occasion(1). The regular use of mouth wash can help to deodorize the breath and keep your smelling fresh all day long.
Bacterial Load Reduction – The harmful bacteria which can cause bad breath or tooth decay can also be affected by the right mouthwash. While not all mouth rinses offer antibacterial benefits, better-quality mouth washes are clinically proven to reduce bacterial loads in the oral cavity.
What Type of Mouthwash Should I Use?
It’s tempting to assume that all mouth washes are essentially the same. However, this is far from the truth.
As an example, many mouthwashes contain alcohol. A number of studies have suggested that alcohol-based mouthwashes may pose problems for some individuals. For example, many users find that alcohol-containing mouthwashes can dry out their mouth (which, in itself, can worsen problems associated with halitosis). Australian-based NPS reports “increasing evidence” that there may be a link between the level of alcohol in your mouthwash and the development of some oral cancers(2).
Additionally, it is worth taking note of whether or not your chosen mouthwash brand offers antibacterial properties (not all do). This is especially so if you are concerned about your breath. A study found that most mouthwashes are effective for the first half hour or so after use, but the effects of many popular brands tend to drop away over time. The scientists found that after a period of 1-3 hours the ability of a mouthwash to control halitosis was “due solely to its anti-microbial action” (3).
As a result, antibacterial, alcohol-free mouthwashes can offer significant benefits over more popular brands.
How to Use Mouthwash
Each commercial mouthwash has its own instructions on the bottle, so if in doubt you should always aim to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines. In the absence of such instructions take the following steps:
- Start by pouring the right amount out of the bottle. Advice from manufacturers varies, but to give you an example we recommend that you use 15ml of our oral rinse.
- Rinse vigorously for 30 seconds, making sure that the mouth wash comes into contact with all areas of your teeth.
- Gargle for 30-60 seconds, in order to ensure that your mouthwash can deal with bacteria at the back of the tongue.
- Spit out the mouth wash.
Should You Rinse with Water After Using Mouthwash?
Generally speaking it is advisable not to rinse your mouth with water after using mouthwash. The reason is that many mouthwashes include fluoride which can be washed away during rinsing.
Instead, simply spit out the excess mouthwash and leave the fluoride to do its work.
Should You Use Mouthwash Before or After Brushing?
Experts currently disagree about whether you should use mouthwash before or after brushing (or flossing, for that matter).
The American Dental Association(4), for example, claim that the exact order is far less important than selecting high quality oral care products in the first place.
Equally, there are practical aspects to consider. Flossing, for example, can be beneficial for removing detritus from between the teeth, after which point your toothpaste and mouthwash will find it easier to reach every surface of your teeth.
Some authorities claim that using mouthwash before brushing can help to lift plaque away from the surface of the teeth, giving a more thorough clean. On the other hand, many toothpastes contain active ingredients such as fluoride which is best not washed away.
Taking these factors into account, while the differences are likely to only be minor, the following order can be used:
- Start by flossing your teeth to remove food debris.
- Rinse thoroughly with water to remove dislodged particles.
- Rinse and gargle with mouthwash for 30-60 seconds, before spitting it out.
- Without rinsing again, brush your teeth for 2-3 minutes with a toothbrush, being sure to follow a correct brushing procedure.
- Lastly spit out the toothpaste. Do not rinse again as this allows the active ingredients in both your toothpaste and mouthwash to do their duty.
- (1) Lee, SS, Zhang, W & Li, Y. 2007. Halitosis update: a review of causes, diagnoses, and treatments. Journal of the California Dental Association 35(4), pp 258-268. Available at: http://europepmc.org/
- (2) Farah, C et al. 2009. Mouthwashes. Australian Prescriber 32, pp 162 – 164. Available at: https://www.nps.org.au/
- (3) Pitts, G et al. 1983. Mechanism of action of an antiseptic, anti-odor mouthwash. Journal of Dental Research 62(6), pp 738 – 742. Available at: http://jdr.sagepub.com/
- (4) Learn More About Mouthrinses. Amercian Dental Association. Available at: http://www.ada.org/