Is Mouthwash Necessary?


For most of us, brushing and flossing is part of our daily oral hygiene routine as we know this is how we remove food, bacteria and plaque, but what about mouthwash? Does rinsing your mouth really make a significant difference to your oral health? And which mouthwash is the best?

Not all mouthwashes are created equal, with a seemingly growing number of flavours, colours and features on your supermarket shelves, it can be hard to decide which one is right for you. We’ve put together a summary below of why you should use mouthwash, what’s inside them and which mouthwash will be most effective for you.

Article Summary:

  • How does mouthwash work?
  • Cosmetic VS therapeutic mouthwash
  • What are the benefits of using mouthwash?
  • Which mouthwash is the best?
  • How to use mouthwash properly

How does mouthwash work?

When you’re given so many options, sometimes choosing a mouthwash can be as hard as deciding on what to watch on Netflix. It’s easier to make a choice if you understand which ingredients are included and for what purpose. Although there can be small differences between them, most mouthwashes will include:

  • Alcohol (or another antimicrobial ingredient): To destroy the germs and bacteria inside the mouth, which can cause tooth decay and bad breath
  • Detergents: To assist in washing away food debris and loose plaque
  • Preservatives: To stop bacteria from growing inside the bottle
  • Flavours and colours: To enhance the appearance and taste of the mouthwash
  • Water: To help dissolve the rest of the ingredients

Many mouthwashes also contain fluoride, which helps prevent acid from the food and drinks we consume from causing tooth decay. If you’re unsure whether you want fluoride in your oral care product, it’s helpful to have an understanding of fluoride vs non-fluoride toothpaste.

HANDY HINT: The Australian Dental Association offers a useful list of approved mouthwash products.

Cosmetic VS therapeutic mouthwash

The two main categories of mouthwash are cosmetic and therapeutic. Cosmetic mouthwashes only mask bad breath, but they don’t actually kill or deactivate the bacteria that cause it. They also don’t prevent the formation of plaque, cavities or gum disease.

On the other hand, therapeutic mouthwashes can assist in reducing the bacteria that causes bad breath, as well as plaque, gingivitis and cavities. They do this by either destroying the bacteria itself, or by chemically deactivating the compounds that cause the odour, as well as reducing tooth decay when they include fluoride. 

What are the benefits of using mouthwash?

We frequently have our patients asking us, “Do I need to use mouthwash?”. Using mouthwash offers a number of benefits, including that it:

  • Quickly freshens the breath and makes the mouth feel healthier
  • Reduces plaque and debris buildup
  • Reduces amount of bacteria in the mouth
  • Prevents tooth decay, cavities and gingivitis/gum disease when rinsing with a fluoride mouthwash
  • Decreases calculus buildup


Keep in mind that using mouthwash by itself won’t be effective for keeping overall oral health in check, and although it will freshen your breath, it won’t cure it if there are other underlying conditions causing it. In this case, its best to visit your dentist for a regular check-up and clean in addition to brushing with fluoride toothpaste twice a day and flossing daily.


Which mouthwash is the best?

Choosing the most effective mouthwash will depend on your goals and if you’re trying to address any specific concerns.

Here’s a guide based on the main reasons you may be using a mouthwash:

For fresh breath

If you simply want to freshen your breath, choose a mouthwash in a flavour or scent that appeals to you the most.

For dry mouth

If you suffer from persistent dry mouth (also known as xerostomia), opt for an alcohol-free mouthwash or one that is specifically designed for dry mouth to help replace your lack of saliva. Alcohol has a drying effect and can make the condition worse.To prevent tooth decay

If you want to help fight off cavities and tooth decay to keep your teeth in their best condition in the long-term and avoid the pain, dental visits and costs of getting treatment such as fillings, crowns or your tooth removed down the track, choosing a mouthwash with added fluoride is your best bet!

For gum disease

If you suffer from gum disease, you should speak with your dentist to find out which treatment they recommend, which may include a chlorhexidine rinse such as Savacol.

For a natural mouthwash

As a more simple option, you can use a saltwater mouthwash, which is also a good choice if you have ulcers, infections or other open wounds in the mouth, such as for the first few weeks after wisdom tooth removal. Salt is used as a natural disinfectant and can help reduce swelling. It’s not recommended for long-term use as it can eventually deteriorate the tooth enamel which can cause tooth erosion, cavities and an increased risk of being damaged.

Believe it or not, the most natural mouthwash of all is actually our saliva! One of its functions is actually to wash away the bacteria that can cause bad breath, gum disease and tooth decay, which is why it’s so important to prevent dry mouth.


How to use mouthwash properly

There are opposing opinions on how to correctly use mouthwash. Some say it’s best to brush and floss beforehand to remove plaque and debris build-up so the mouthwash can actually do its job. Others argue that using mouthwash after brushing can wash away some of the fluoride from the toothpaste, and even suggest using mouthwash at a separate time completely.

It’s best to follow the instructions on the specific mouthwash you’ve chosen or get some advice from your dentist, but here are a few general tips on how to use mouthwash:

  1. Brush and floss teeth thoroughly, and wait for a little while before using mouthwash to preserve the amount of fluoride from the toothpaste staying on the teeth.
  2. Measure out approximately 4 teaspoons of the solution (usually a cap-full)
  3. Empty it into your mouth, swishing and gargling for 30-60 seconds and making sure not to swallow the liquid.
  4. Spit the mouthwash into the sink, and avoid rinsing with water to ensure the mouthwash coats the teeth and protects them for as long as possible.

Gold Coast Dentists

If you want some more advice on the most effective mouthwash for you or just want to make sure your teeth are in their best condition, please feel free to make an appointment for a check-up and clean with one of our amazing Gold Coast dentists at Oasis Dental Studio.


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