The Truth About Mouthwash

Four out of five dentists may recommend you use it, but have you ever wondered how mouthwash affects your mouth?

Many brands tout the bacteria and bad breath (also known as halitosis) eliminating benefits of their products. The secret ingredient? Alcohol. Along with other chemicals and artificial flavorings, alcohol works to kill bacteria in the mouth, ultimately diminishing halitosis. What's more, mouthwash has been found to prevent cavities and gum disease.

But like anything, swishing with your favorite mouthwash has its risks. According to the April 2007 issue of AGD Impact, the monthly newsmagazine of the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), choosing the wrong mouthwash can cause serious side effects, including dry mouth, ulcers, inflammation, altered taste, and tooth staining. The cause: high alcohol content. What's even more unnerving, one study published in the Dental Journal of Australia found sufficient evidence that alcohol-containing mouthwashes can contribute to the increased risk of oral cancer.

How to Choose the Right Mouthwash

For most, your standard brand-name variety is risk-free and will help remove any debris between the teeth as well as confront bad breath. However, if you suffer from dry mouth or have sensitive teeth and gums, you may need a prescription rinse. The AGD recommends that if you suffer from dry mouth, you should opt for a rinse that's alcohol-free. Additionally, if you frequently have cavities, use a rinse that contains fluoride to help protect and strengthen teeth. To truly choose a mouthwash that is best for your individual needs, consult a dentist.

Use Mouthwash Effectively

Utilizing a mouth rinse isn't all about which brand you use-but about how you use it. For optimum results, follow these directions provided by the AGD:

  • Rinse before brushing and flossing.
  • Use the amount recommended by the container or by your dentist.
  • Close lips and swish. Don't gargle.
  • Rinse for 30 seconds and spit.
  • Refrain from smoking, drinking, or eating for thirty minutes after using mouthwash. Otherwise, this will diminish its effects.




The Academy of General Dentistry