How to Properly Use Mouthwash
Unlike your toothbrush, mouthwash has no limits. It can easily go between your teeth, around your gums, and over your tongue. A few swishes can add another layer of freshness and protection for your mouth, too. If you’ve ever wondered how to properly use mouthwash and get the most benefit from it, here are answers to some commonly asked questions.
Which Mouthwash Should You Choose?
You can choose between two basic types of mouthwash: cosmetic and therapeutic.
- Cosmetic mouthwashes Many of these rinses contain high levels of alcohol. This makes you feel as though its helping. Rinsing with alcohol dries the mouth. Dry mouth causes bad breath, which means these alcoholic mouthwashes may make your breath worse than before after a short period.
- Therapeutic mouthwashes help combat bad breath, plus have active ingredients that can kill bacteria. They may contain fluoride to help prevent or reduce tooth decay. Many are available over the counter, but some need to be prescribed by a dentist for specific oral health issues.
What’s inside that bottle?
Mouthwash includes a wide range of ingredients. Cosmetic mouthwashes don’t contain the active ingredients found in many therapeutic options.
Common active ingredients in therapeutic mouthwashes can include:
- Cetylpyridinium chloride: an antiseptic that kills germs and bacteria
- Chlorhexidine: a prescription-only agent that combats plaque and gingivitis, but contains alcohol and will discolor teeth with extended use.
- Fluoride: a mineral that helps prevent tooth decay
- Peroxide – a chemical compound that whitens teeth
These ingredients are combined with others, which may include alcohol, saccharin, and chemical preservatives, such as parabens.
When should you use mouthwash?
Mouthwash does not replace brushing and flossing. Keep your normal dental care routine and use mouthwash either before or after you brush and floss.
Here are some brushing and flossing tips:
- Brush your teeth for at least two minutes twice per day using a soft-bristle toothbrush and your favorite toothpaste.
- Gently floss between your teeth daily before or after you brush.
- Replace your toothbrush every three to four months and sooner if you’ve had a recent illness.
- Always use a new piece of floss.
How do you use mouthwash?
To properly use mouthwash, follow the directions on the bottle and follow these steps.
- Check to see if you need to dilute your mouthwash with water.
- Pour the recommended amount into a cup or the mouthwash cap, which may include a fill line for measuring. Don’t drink directly from the bottle, which is not sanitary.
- Rinse your mouth for 30 seconds to a full minute based on the label directions.
- Spit it out when you’re done. Never drink or swallow mouthwash.
- Don’t rinse after mouthwash unless instructed on the label. If you’re using a fluoride mouthwash, avoid eating, drinking, or smoking for at least 30 minutes.
Precautions When Using Mouthwash
Take the following measures into consideration when using mouthwash.
- Don’t swallow mouthwash. It may contain alcohol or fluoride, which should not be ingested.
- Check with your doctor before using mouthwash if you have mouth sores. Mouth sores can be a sign of underlying conditions.
- Supervise children who are using mouthwash.
- Remember that mouthwash is not a replacement for brushing.
Choose the type of mouthwash that works best for you and your lifestyle. If you suffer from bad breath, consider a zinc-activated mouthwash that targets the problem. No matter the mouthwash you choose, be sure to follow the instructions carefully and speak with your doctor if irritation or adverse reactions occur.
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At SmartMouth, we love saving you from bad breath, but we also love saving you money.
Dr. Elizabeth Clary, D.M.D. is a member of the American Dental Association, Missouri Dental Association, Missouri Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, Chicago Dental Society, Greater St. Louis Dental Society, and Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine Alumni Association.