Mouthwash Anyone?

Mouthwash is big business.  Just look at all the options in the supermarket or pharmacy.  Ever question which one is right for you?

Here are some guidleines.

NEVER use a mouthwash that contains alcohol.  There are two reasons why not to.   The first is that the tissues lining your mouth and throat are very sensitive and hence are more prone to damage by alcohol.   According to a new literature review published online July 21 in Addiction, alcohol contributes to seven forms of cancer.  The evidence is “particularly strong” for cancer of the mouth, pharynx, and esophagus.  

So, if you want to enjoy your red wine or sip a scotch, brandy or bourbon once in a while, why not limit your mouth’s exposure to alcohol in mouthwash?  After all, you’re not swishing and holding your liquor in your mouth as long as you would mouthwash and the alcohol’s affect is probably cumulative over time.

Second,  alcohol just is not effective at keeping the bacterial levels suppressed.  And, it’s bacteria that usually cause bad breath, gum disease and contribute to decay.   In fact, there’s a rebound effect that can actually cause bad bacteria to actually come back in greater numbers once the alcohol effect has dissipated.

And, alcohol dries up your saliva reducing your body’s natural defense system.

So which mouthwash should YOU use?

Here again is where MDH thinks differently than most.  For us, it’s a matter of individual risk and goal analysis.  What are your problems and what are you trying to accomplish?

If you have a cavity issue, mouthwash is not the most effective way to reduce your  risk unless you use an acid-neutralizing rinse.  But these taste nasty and we recommend them only for severe decay problems.

Better options are to limit carbs, acids in the diet, fluoride supplementation (varnish is the best) and meticulous oral hygiene.

If you’re looking to fight gum disease, then a mouthwash that has antioxidants and that will stimulate and enhance your saliva will help.  There are other bacteria-reducing mouthwashes, but they should be used sparingly and for short periods of time because they contain oxygenating agents like peroxide and chlorine dioxide.  Anything that kills bacteria will probably not be that good for your own cells either.  Boosting your natural defenses is the best option along with probiotics that promote good bacteria.

If you’re looking to get fresher breath, then mouthwash should not be your first avenue of action.  Bad breath is caused by sulfur-producing bacteria.  These bacteria hide out and are best removed with physical methods such as tooth brushing, between the teeth flossing, other methods, and tongue scraping.  And, a probiotic specifically designed to compete with these bad bacteria is also helpful.

So, as usual, the answer isn’t simple.   During your visit with our hygienists you should discuss the issue of mouthwash and can a customized recommendation as to which would be the best for you.

To everyone’s good health and wellness,
Michael