Mouthwash is important for oral hygiene. But do you need to use this liquid product everyday? Know if it is safe to use mouthwash everyday.

Mouthwash is a liquid product that helps in the maintenance of oral health. All you have to do is pour it in the cap of the mouthwash, empty it in your mouth, swish for a few seconds, and spit it out. If you use it in the right way, it can effectively reach the inaccessible areas of your mouth that are difficult to clean with a toothbrush. It can also help fight bad breath and reduce bacteria in your mouth. But like brushing your teeth, do you need to use mouthwash every single day? Read on to know if it is safe to use mouthwash everyday, and which type of this oral hygiene product can be used on a daily basis.

What is mouthwash?

Mouthwash is a bright coloured-liquid product used for good oral hygiene. It is designed to be swished around in the mouth or gargled to help clean the mouth, freshen breath, and provide other oral health benefits, says dental surgeon Dr Sacheev Nanda.

Is using mouthwash daily safe: Benefits and side effects
Mouthwash has ingredients that serve different purposes. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Mouthwash can contain various active ingredients that serve different purposes, such as:

  • Antiseptics kill bacteria and reduce oral infections.
  • Fluoride strengthens tooth enamel and prevents cavities.
  • Astringents provide a tightening effect on the tissues in the mouth.
  • Odour neutralisers eliminate bad breath.

How does mouthwash help to maintain oral health?

Mouthwash helps maintain oral health through several ways:

1. Reduces bacteria

Antiseptic mouthwashes contain ingredients like chlorhexidine, cetylpyridinium chloride, or essential oils that kill or inhibit the growth of bacteria. They help in reducing plaque and preventing infections like gingivitis.

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2. Prevents cavities

Fluoride mouthwashes help strengthen the enamel, which is the thin outer covering of a person’s tooth. If it is healthy then your teeth can be more resistant to decay and cavities, says the expert.

3. Freshens breath

Mouthwashes with odour neutralisers or antibacterial properties can help eliminate bad breath or halitosis. They kill bacteria that produce foul-smelling compounds in the mouth.

4. Reduces plaque

Regular use of mouthwash may help reduce the buildup of plaque, which is a sticky film of bacteria that forms on teeth and gums. It can lead to tooth decay and gum disease if it is not properly managed.

5. Soothes mouth irritations

Some mouthwashes contain refreshing ingredients like aloe vera or menthol. They can also soothe minor irritations or inflammation in the mouth, says Dr Nanda.

Is it safe to use mouthwash everyday?

Using mouthwash every single day can be safe and beneficial for most people, but the frequency and type of mouthwash used depend on individual needs and specific oral health conditions. Here are some general guidelines:

1. Safety and daily use

  • Antiseptic mouthwashes: Daily use is generally safe, but overuse can lead to issues like altered taste, staining of teeth, and irritation of oral tissues. Follow the instructions on the label or your dentist’s advice.
  • Fluoride mouthwashes: Safe for daily use and beneficial for preventing cavities, especially in areas where fluoride levels in drinking water are low.
  • Cosmetic mouthwashes: These can be used daily for freshening breath, but do not provide significant health benefits beyond that.
  • Therapeutic mouthwashes: These are often prescribed for specific conditions (for example, gingivitis, and dry mouth) and should be used as directed by a dentist.

2. Frequency of use

Most over-the-counter mouthwashes are designed to be used once or twice daily, says the expert. After swishing it for about half a minute, spit it out. For therapeutic purposes or as part of a treatment plan for specific conditions, follow the guidance of your doctor.

3. Tips for safe use

  • Follow the instructions on the mouthwash bottle for proper use and dosage.
  • If you have any specific oral health concerns or conditions, consult your dentist for personalised advice.
  • Mouthwash is meant to be swished and spit out, not swallowed. Ingesting mouthwash can lead to side effects or toxicity, particularly in children.
  • Use mouthwash as part of a balanced oral hygiene routine that includes brushing twice a day with toothpaste and flossing daily.
  • Don’t eat or drink for half an hour after using a mouthwash, according to the UK’s National Health Service.

Should you avoid using alcohol-based mouthwash?

Alcohol is commonly included in mouthwash formulations for several reasons –

  • Alcohol has strong antibacterial properties, helping to kill bacteria and reduce oral infections.
  • Alcohol acts as a solvent, helping to dissolve other ingredients in the mouthwash and ensuring they are evenly distributed.
  • It helps preserve the mouthwash by preventing the growth of microorganisms within the product.
  • Alcohol can help carry and enhance the flavour of the mouthwash, providing a refreshing taste.

The decision to avoid alcohol-based mouthwash depends on individual preferences and specific oral health needs. Here are some considerations:

  • Alcohol-based mouthwashes are effective in killing bacteria and reducing plaque and gingivitis.
  • They are commonly available.
  • But alcohol can cause a drying effect in the mouth, which may be uncomfortable for people with dry mouth (xerostomia) or those prone to dehydration.
  • Some individuals, especially those with sensitive gums or mouth tissues, may find alcohol-based mouthwashes irritating.
  • People with a history of alcohol abuse, children, and those who prefer to avoid alcohol for personal or health reasons might want to steer clear of these products.
Woman holding mouthwash
Dry mouth is one of the side effects of mouthwash. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

What are the side effects of mouthwash?

Here are some of the common side effects of mouthwash –

1. Dry mouth

Alcohol-based mouthwashes can cause dryness by dehydrating the oral tissues. So, use alcohol-free mouthwashes, especially if you have xerostomia, suggests the expert.

2. Oral irritation and burning sensation

Strong antiseptics, and alcohol can irritate the mucous membranes. So, always choose gentle, alcohol-free mouthwashes or those designed for sensitive mouths to avoid irritation.

3. Altered taste sensation

Ingredients like chlorhexidine can cause a temporary alteration in taste. If this occurs, consider switching to a different mouthwash or consulting a dentist for alternatives.

4. Staining of teeth and tongue

Long-term use of certain antiseptic mouthwashes, particularly those containing chlorhexidine, can lead to brownish stains on the teeth and tongue. Use these mouthwashes only as prescribed and maintain regular dental cleanings to manage staining.

5. Increased sensitivity

Ingredients like alcohol can exacerbate sensitivity in individuals with delicate oral tissues. Opt for alcohol-free formulations and those labeled for sensitive mouths.

6. Nausea

Ingesting mouthwash, either accidentally or intentionally, can lead to nausea, vomiting, and gastrointestinal problems. That’s why you should always spit out mouthwash.

Mouthwash is a product that is important for oral hygiene, but make sure to use it properly to avoid any side effects.

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