Ideal time to use a mouthwash

Written by Dr. Apurva Chavan

Medically reviewed by  Dr. Vidhi Bhanushali Kabade BDS, TCC

Last updated May 3, 2024

Written by Dr. Apurva Chavan

Medically reviewed by  Dr. Vidhi Bhanushali Kabade BDS, TCC

Last updated May 3, 2024

How long should you be using a mouthwash? Mouthwash before brushing or after brushing? Which time of the day is best to use a mouthwash? Why are you not able to get rid of your bad breath despite using a mouthwash daily? These are some common questions that you think are dumb enough to ask your dentist or you simply don’t bother. Here is why it’s so important to use a mouthwash at the right time.

Brushing your teeth only cleans about 25% of your teeth’ surfaces. A mouthwash is a great addition to your oral hygiene routine. It not only keeps your breath smelling fresh but also helps to clean those hard-to-reach spaces in your mouth. For maximum benefit, you need to use a mouthwash at the right time in the correct manner.

Morning or night, is it still a debate?

People use a mouthwash mostly to get rid of their bad breath. So naturally you want to use it before stepping out of the house. The main reason of using mouthwash is to get rid of the bacteria causing the bad breath. However if you practice oil pulling, flossing, brushing and tongue cleaning every day, mouthwash should be used at night. Since you keep eating throughout the day, nighttime is the best time for the antibacterial properties in the mouthwash to kill the bad bacteria. This gives enough time for the mouthwash to act as there is no eating activity through out the night.

Squishing a mouthwash just before bed will break the bacterial colonies in the mouth , reduce the overall bacterial load in the mouth and give you better results for fresh breath when you wake up the next day. However mouthwashes can be used both at night as well as in the morning, but make sure you choose a non alcoholic mouthwash if you are a frequent user. You can also use warm salt water as a natural home remedy mouthwash.

Before or after breakfast?

If you do not practice oil pulling in the morning, a mouthwash can be used instead. Mouthwash should be used as the last step in your hygiene regime. Brushing before your breakfast has already taken care of your oral hygiene to some extent. Using a mouthwash 5-10 minutes after your breakfast makes sense as you want to make sure your breath smells fresh before stepping out. This also ensures the oral hygiene is taken care of after your breakfast too.

When to use a mouthwash

  • Mouthwashes should be used 10-15minutes after you brush and floss your teeth. If you use it immediately after brushing, you are not allowing your teeth to get the full benefit of your fluoride toothpaste.
  • Post meals are the best time to use a mouthwash. It will take care of the germs, bad breath, and flush out the stuck pieces of food in between your teeth.
  • Just before going to sleep is also an excellent time to use a mouthwash. It allows the mouthwash to work on your teeth the whole night.
  • Another excellent time to use a mouthwash is post-breakfast while leaving your home for work. This allows the mouthwash to work on your teeth during your commuting time and leaves you with fresh breath to start your workday.
  • You can also use a mouthwash before a big meeting or social events to give you a clean feeling and fresh breath.
  • Another good time to use a mouthwash is just before visiting your dentist.

Is tongue cleaning important to use a mouthwash?

Scraping your tongue gets rid of all the bacteria and food particles that reside on your tongue. This just makes the life of a mouthwash much easier. In fact, cleaning your tongue is more important than using a mouthwash. if you are including both these aids in your oral hygiene regime, make sure you use a mouthwash after tongue cleaning.

How to use a mouthwash

  • Read the manufactures instructions carefully and follow them.
  • Usually, it is 20ml or 3-5 teaspoon of mouthwash to be swished around in the mouth for about 30 – 45 seconds at least before spitting out. Never swallow your mouthwash.
  • If it is too strong for you try diluting it initially till you get used to the taste.
  • A mouthwash needs some time to work effectively so do not rinse for 30 mins after using it.
  • Children under 6 should not be given a mouthwash and children 12 should be strictly supervised while using a mouthwash. Alcohol-free versions like Colgate Plax gentle care or fluoride mouth rinse like Colgate Phos Flur should be used for kids.

A lot of medicated and drug store mouthwashes are now available to address every need be it cavities or bleeding gums. Ask your dentist for a mouthwash best suited for you. Brushing and flossing remain the primary line of defense in your fight against oral problems. A mouthwash is a great addition to your routine but it cannot replace your toothbrush or your floss. So brush and floss your teeth and use a mouthwash regularly to keep your teeth healthy.


  • If you are looking for the perfect mouthwash, you should definitely into consideration its alcoholic and non alcoholic contents.
  • Presence or absence of alcohol in your mouthwash plays a very important role.
  • Night time is the best time to use a mouthwash.
  • 10-15 mins post breakfast is the ideal time to use a mouthwash if you are using it in the morning.
  • Mouthwash is a temporary way to kill your bad breath.
  • Using a mouthwash helps getting rid of any remnant bacteria left behind even after brushing and flossing your teeth.
  • Ideal time to use a mouthwash is 10-15 minutes after brushing and flossing.
  • Remember to clean your tongue with a tongue cleaner and brush before bed to permanently get rid of your bad breath.
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Author Bio: Dr. Apurva Chavan is a dentist by the day and a voracious reader and writer by the night. She loves to fix smiles and tries to keep all her procedures as pain free as possible. Equipped with over 5 years of experience she loves to not just treat her patients but also educate them about dental hygiene and appropriate maintanence routines. After a long day of preserving smiles she loves to curl up with a good book or pen down some of life’s musings. She strongly belives that learning never stops and likes to keep her self updates with all the latest dental news and research.

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