When it comes to keeping your oral health in good shape, gargling is great — but not essential, say health officials.
So what are mouthwashes good for?
Dentists like to divide them into two categories: cosmetic and therapeutic. Cosmetic mouthwashes reduce and help control bad breath, leaving a nice minty taste in the mouth. However, the mouthwash itself doesn’t really deal with the actual cause of the bad breath. It just masks it. Mouthwash does not kill the bacteria that causes bad breath.
Therapeutic rinses have more targeted functions and come both over-the-counter and by prescription. They can help reduce tooth plaque or gingivitis, inflammation of the gum which can lead to gum disease. They can also help neutralize the acidity of the mouth to lessen the decay process. They can also hydrate people who suffer from dry mouth, and help soothe canker sores.
According to the American Dental Association, which tests and evaluates products to determine if they are safe and effective, only two products satisfy claims they eliminate bad breath — and they are toothpastes, not mouthwashes.
I warn patients who use mouthwash excessively for bad breath that they may have an underlying problem that needs to be addressed. Deep cavities, untreated periodontal or gum disease, and infections can all cause bad breath. And, unfortunately, using mouthwash before or after you brush and floss will not make a difference.
It’s also important to remember that mouthwash isn’t a substitute for brushing and flossing. It may simply add additional protection against cavities in those who need it.
If bad breath is a chronic problem for you, please contact us for a convenient appointment. Sometimes a quick hygiene cleaning is all it takes to clear up a bout of bad breath.