Choosing your mouthwash wisely | Things to consider


Written by Dr Amrita Jain

Medically reviewed by  Dr. Vidhi Bhanushali Kabade BDS, TCC

Last updated Dec 15, 2023

Written by Dr Amrita Jain

Medically reviewed by  Dr. Vidhi Bhanushali Kabade BDS, TCC

Last updated Dec 15, 2023

Do I need actually need a mouthwash?

Choosing mouthwashUsually brushing, flossing and tongue cleaning suffice you to maintain good oral hygiene. A mouthwash gives some additional benefits to maintain the health of your gums as well as teeth. However, some people may suffer from additional bad breath due to the food they eat. Foodstuffs like onions, garlic, etc. cause bad breath. Workaholics do not get time to maintain their oral hygiene and find using a mouthwash to be convenient mouth freshener. However, mouthwashes used to cure bad breath gives temporary results.

Dentists may even prescribe a mouthwash in cases of gum surgeries, gum infections, and even after cleaning and polishing to reduce the amount of bacteria present in the mouth and avoid further infections.

With so many mouthwashes available in the market it is really difficult to choose the perfect mouthwash as compared to choosing a toothbrush or a toothpaste.

As in the traditional times, saline water is considered the best natural mouthwash till today.

What are the types of mouthwashes?

Mouthwashes for daily use

There are two types of mouthwashes. Mouthwashes with alcoholic content and the other is the non-alcoholic mouthwash. Non-alcoholic mouthwashes should be preferred for daily use. The alcoholic content is added to the mouthwash to kill the bacteria and germs causing mouth infections. But using alcoholic mouthwashes can kill the good as well as the bad bacteria. Hence they should be used for a limited time. Mouthwashes with alcohol can also cause a burning sensation to the mouth. While choosing your mouthwash make sure you read the contents on the pack.

Fluoride mouthwashes

Fluoride mouthwashes contain sodium fluoride which helps to strengthen the teeth and makes it less prone to tooth decay. However, the fluoride present in tap water and toothpaste is more than sufficient to meet our needs. Hence fluoride mouthwashes are prescribed to those who are more prone to tooth cavities and whose tooth quality is soft and porous. Hence always use this mouthwash under the consent of the dentist. be careful of excessive amounts of fluoride as it can be very harmful.

Mouthwash for dry mouth

There are many reasons for a dry mouth. People suffering from dryness of the mouth due to some side effects of the medications, habits like breathing from nose, less salivary flow, chemotherapy, radiation exposure, eating too much spicy food, etc. can cause dryness of the mouth. Mouthwash like Colgate hydris helps to hydrate your mouth and prevent dryness. Its action lasts for about 4-6 hours.

Antiseptic mouthwashes

Antiseptic mouthwashes contain chlorhexidine gluconate which stops the growth of bacteria that causes bacterial gum infections. They are effective in a way that they can prevent the build-up of plaque to a certain degree. Antiseptic mouthwashes should be used along with regular brushing and flossing.

These mouthwashes are prescribed by the dentist in case you are suffering from any gum infections, abscess in the gums, or even if you are experiencing bleeding from gums, etc. Antiseptic mouthwashes reduce the bacterial load in the mouth and reduce the severity of gingivitis and periodontitis.

Most importantly avoid overuse of these as the high levels of chlorhexidine it can cause discoloration of the teeth over a long period of time. But if you do experience this then your dentist shall provide you with options to treat it. There is Chlohex-ADS which is an anti-discoloration medicated mouthwash available in the market which prevents staining of the teeth.

Mouthwashes for sensitivity

Sensitivity mouthwashes work on the same principle as sensitivity toothpastes. They block the nerves carrying the sensitive impulses and help to reduce teeth sensitivity. These mouthwashes are also prescribed by the dentists after he/she gauges the severity of sensitivity.

Natural home remedy mouthwash

Warm saline water used as a mouthwash is considered the best and natural mouthwash. Rinsing your mouth with salt water is an effective at-home oral health routine to keep your teeth, gums and tongue healthy. A saltwater rinses help in fighting gingivitis, bad breath and even a sore throat. Plus, this simple  at-home remedy can even promote quicker healing in your mouth after surgery or a small trauma like a cut.

How to Do a Saltwater Rinse

Add ½ a teaspoon of salt to a cup of warm water to make the rinse. Then swish it around your mouth for 10-12 seconds, then spit it out. Make sure you don’t swallow the saltwater, as all that salt can cause blood pressure to shoot and can be dehydrating.  It also isn’t healthy to ingest saltwater! Use a salt rinse 3 to 4 times a week after brushing and flossing. But don’t use a salt rinse too often as too much sodium could have negative effects on your tooth enamel, like eventual erosion.

Saltwater has an anti-bacterial effect killing the micro-organisms causing infections. Its action helps to fight gingivitis and periodontitis as it makes it difficult for the bacteria to grow in this environment. Along with this swishing saltwater also forcibly removes all the food particles and debris to flush out which are stuck between the teeth.

How to use a mouthwash?

Mouthwash should be the last step in your oral hygiene regime after flossing, brushing, and tongue cleaning.

Make sure you read the instructions on the pack.

Some mouthwashes may need diluting it with water while some mouthwashes can be used directly.

Swish the mouthwash for about 30 seconds.

Spit the swish out and make sure you do not rinse your mouth with water again.

Buying a mouthwash

While buying a Mouthwash always check the expiry date. ADA seal of acceptance and make sure your mouthwash does not contain alcohol if you are going to use it daily.

Also, make sure you are not allergic to any of the contents in the mouthwash. If you are not sure always test a small amount of the mouthwash before using it.

Children below 6 years of age should not use mouthwash. This is because children younger than 6 years of age are not able to spit out the mouthwash and can swallow it unknowingly. Swallowing it may cause fluorosis if it is a fluoridated mouthwash.

Is mouthwash a substitute for brushing and flossing? Definitely not!

Brushing, flossing, tongue cleaning and mouthwash all have different roles to play. Brushing mechanically removes all the plaque and bacteria from all the surfaces of the teeth. Flossing clears out all the food particles and debris stuck between the teeth. Cleaning your tongue further clears the tongue with all that is left behind. A mouthwash alone cannot perform the roles of all these.


  • Mouthwash is necessary to maintain a good oral hygiene, however choosing the right one makes a difference.
  • Mouthwashes and the anti- bacterial contents kill the bacteria causing bad break.
  • Mouthwashes break the micro-colonies and prevent the accumulation of plaque on the teeth surfaces.
  • Out of the various mouthwashes available in the markets choose the one that is stain and alcohol free.
  • Mouthwashes are definitely not a substitute for brushing, flossing or tongue cleaning .
  • Warm salt water mouth rinses make a prefect home remedy mouthwash.
  • Coconut oil pulling every morning also serves a similar effect of breaking through microbial colonies and getting rid of bad bacteria. However oil pulling does not leave you with a fresh minty breath like other mouthwashes do.

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Author Bio: Dr. Amrita Jain is a practicing dental surgeon since 4 years. She completed her B.D.S in 2016 and was has been a rank holder throughout her course. She suggests “Holistic dentistry is the best dentistry”. Her treatment line follows a conservative pattern which means saving a tooth is of utmost priority and preventing your teeth from getting decayed rather than curing it with a root canal treatment. She inculcates the same while consulting her patients. Apart from her interest in clinical practice, she has developed interest in research and writing over a period of time. She states “It is my clinical experience that motivates me to write and spread dental awareness”. Her articles are well researched with a combination of technical knowledge and clinical experience.

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