Soothe & Swish: Salt Water Rinse

Salt Water Rinse

Medically reviewed by  Dr. Vidhi Bhanushali Kabade BDS, TCC

Last updated Feb 17, 2024

Medically reviewed by  Dr. Vidhi Bhanushali Kabade BDS, TCC

Last updated Feb 17, 2024

One of the most common advice your dentist gives is to do a  warm salt water rinse, be it for gum issues, toothache relief, mouth sores, or after your tooth has been pulled out. But have you ever wondered why! A saltwater rinse is a simple and efficient oral hygiene practice that consists of swishing a salt and water solution in the mouth.
It is often used to treat a variety of dental problems and to maintain overall oral health. It’s the certain properties of salt water oral rinse that make it a natural and effective alternative to mouthwashes.

So let’s understand what these properties are and how it helps with many oral issues.

Saltwater oral rinse: What is it and when was it first used?

Saltwater oral rinse is a simple mixture of salt and water. The origin of salt water rinse can be traced back to early civilization.

In different ancient sciences like Ayurveda, Chinese medicine mentions the use of salt water rinses for oral hygiene.

Even Hippocrates suggested rinsing with salt and water for oral problems.

Why salt water oral rinse?

The magic of salt water oral rinse lies in how it works with the mouth tissues. Lots of important processes happen, which makes it helpful for some of the oral problems.

Here are the special properties of salt water rinse:


The salt solution creates a hypertonic environment, meaning it creates a space with more salt than the cells in our mouth. This is called osmosis,  where water from the tissues around our mouth flows towards the higher salt concentration to balance things out. As a result, excess fluid is drawn out from swollen tissue,  reducing swelling and inflammation.

Fight Germs:

Salt has antimicrobial properties, which means it can help combat harmful microbes present in the mouth,  thereby preventing plaque and cavities.

Cleans the mouth:

 Swishing and gargling salt water can help get rid of food particles, and bacteria from hard-to-reach areas in the mouth, such as between teeth and the gumline. Thus removing the source of infection.

Maintains the pH:

Saltwater rinsing washes off the acid in the mouth formed due to our modern diet habits and thus balances the mouth pH. Thereby creating an environment where bacteria can’t grow easily, which  lowers the risk of cavities and infections

Wound Healing:

Salt when combined with warm water helps increase the blood flow and speeds up the healing process in case of mouth sores and minor injuries inside the mouth. It also removes harmful bacteria that can disturb the wound-healing process.

Soothing Sensation:

The saltwater rinse gives a soothing and calming feeling when we have mouth ulcers or swollen gums.

These are the main scientific reasons why people have used salt water rinse as a home remedy for a long time.

Pros and Cons of Saltwater oral rinse


Swollen gums:

Like mentioned before the antibacterial and soothing effect of salt water can help relieve gum pain.

Because salt water rinse is anti-inflammatory it can also help with bleeding gums.

And if you have undergone professional cleaning for your gum issues, then it may be a little painful as your gums need time to heal, this is where salt water rinse can help with healing and help soothe the gums.

Pro tip:

Warm salt water is not going to solve your gum issues it can only help relieve the symptoms for a short time period.

Professional cleaning is a must when it comes to gum disease.

Mouth Sores/ulcers:

Do mouth sores bother you? Then salt water rinse can help them heal faster and reduce the discomfort.


Most toothaches are due to some sort of inflammation or irritation in your mouth. Salt water rinse can give temporary relief from the pain while you wait to reach your dentist’s clinic.

Tonsil stones and sore throat:

It is possible to remove tonsil stones by gargling with warm salt water as tonsil stones are nothing but food debris in the back of your throat.

Also, throat rinses can reduce the irritation caused by sore throat.


Have you heard of nasal saline sprays or drops? The same mechanism applies when you have seasonal allergies and use salt water rinse because it can help loosen the mucus down the throat and prevent any further side effects.

After a tooth is pulled out:

A warm salt water oral wash is advised to speed up wound healing.

But do not rinse harshly using cheeks, as it can remove the blood clot which plays an important role in tissue formation.

Instead, tilt your head and allow water to flow gently from one end of your mouth to the other end, and then open your mouth to let the water flow out.

Avoid spitting as it can also disturb the blood clot.


Things that could go wrong if salt water rinse is overused:

Enamel erosion:

Regular and harsh use of salt water rinse may erode the enamel.

Dry mouth:

Only using salt water to rinse can dry out your mouth which can increase the risk of cavities.


Constantly swallowing salt water after rinsing can leave your body dehydrated.

Increase the risk of blood pressure:

If you have high blood pressure or other health condition which makes it harder to tolerate high levels of salt, it’s best to avoid salt water rinse altogether.

What are the dos and don’ts while rinsing with salt water?

Here are some precautions to take care of while rinsing with warm  salt water:

  • Don’t overdo it, and don’t rinse with salt water every single day as you now know what could go wrong.
  • Use it only when needed or when recommended by your dentist.
  • Don’t use it as a substitute for brushing and flossing.
  • Use it as an add-on when needed.
  • Don’t rinse soon after brushing as it can cancel out the effect of flouride in toothpaste.
  • Either use it before brushing or one hour after brushing.
  • You can use it between meals.
  • Don’t swallow after rinsing as chances are that you taking in harmful bacteria.
  • Also constantly taking in salt water can lead to dehydration.
  • Always spit the water out.

How to make and use salt water oral rinse effectively?

  • Take lukewarm water and add in any type of salt and mix until some salt is left at the bottom of the glass used to mix.
  • Now take a mouthful of the solution and swish it around your mouth for about 30 seconds to one minute.
  • Spit out the water, don’t swallow.
  • You may rinse 2 to 3 times a day for a few days in a row.
  • In case of any swelling or infections always consult with your dentist before using a salt water rinse.

Saltwater v/s mouthwash!

Saltwater sure is a natural and effective alternative to mouthwashes.

But there are mouthwashes that are specific for gum disease or mouth sore etc.

So it depends on what your dentist has advised you to use.

Anyways saltwater is a safer in-home remedy for oral problems compared to mouthwash.

So you can rinse with salt water when needed and if mouthwash is not available.

Final Note

Now you know WHY warm salt water rinse is a natural, simple, and effective remedy for some oral problems.

But it also comes with ill effects as mentioned before. Rinse when needed and in moderation.

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Stay Informed, Smile On!

Author Bio: I am Dr. Meera a passionate dentist dedicated to promoting oral health awareness. With more than two years of clinical experience, my aim is to empower individuals with knowledge and inspire them to achieve healthy and confident smiles.

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