Using mouthwash vs toothpaste is frequent source of confusion. Many people use mouthwash as part of a regular addition to their daily oral hygiene routine. For days when you are running late or just trying to save a step somewhere, using mouthwash is not the best way to save time. Mouthwash may seem beneficial or even essential, but it cannot compete with a good old fashioned scrub with a toothbrush and toothpaste. Here are three of the most important reasons why using mouthwash instead of brushing teeth is more trouble than it is worth.
1. Mouthwash Gets Rid of Good Bacteria
Using mouthwash instead of brushing in the morning may seem like a quick fix, especially if you are in a rush or forgot to bring your toothbrush with you. It is definitely better than nothing once in a while, but be careful not to make its use routine. Most mouthwash brands contain antibacterial properties and are designed to kill bacteria that cause plaque buildup and bad breath. If you are rushing your teeth with mouthwash or completely replacing a good brushing regimen with mouthwash only, you may end up killing all the bacteria in your mouth.
Sound like the perfect solution to your oral health problems? It definitely is not, and we do not advise the switch. Your mouth contains a whole host of bacteria, and some of them are actually helpful (including by keeping bad bacteria under control). When you rinse out your mouth with mouthwash, you do get rid of the harmful bacteria — but helpful bacteria that helps the body function optimally goes with it.
Getting rid of all the good bacteria can create room for new bacteria. If your mouthwash contains alcohol, using it more often than recommended can introduce too much alcohol in your mouth, disrupting saliva production and leaving you with dry mouth. Dry mouth attracts more bacteria and causes bad breath, counteracting your oral hygiene efforts.
In addition to inhibiting the growth of bad bacteria, good bacteria in the mouth helps with certain metabolic functions and produces nitric oxide, an essential part of regulating insulin in the body. One study even found that overweight adults who used daily mouthwash increased the risk of developing diabetes. The risk of diabetes increased with the frequency of mouthwash.
2. Using Mouthwash Instead of Brushing Teeth Does Not Effectively Combat Plaque
Plaque builds up on your teeth and along the gum line when bacteria break down food particles. This filmy substance can cause bad breath. It can also lead to tooth decay and gum disease if it accumulates over a long period of time. Proper oral care requires getting rid of plaque before it causes an oral microbiome imbalance and destroys your teeth.
Because plaque is sticky, the best way to get rid of it is by using a combination of brushing, washing, and occasional mouthwash use. Using mouthwash instead of brushing your teeth will get rid of some plaque but not all, just like brushing your teeth with mouthwash or toothpaste will also do part of the job. Some plaque buildup between your teeth will remain intact unless you floss too. Adding flossing to your oral care routine will help get rid of plaque between your teeth and help protect against tooth decay, bad breath, and other oral health problems.
3. Mouthwash Can Mask Underlying Problems
Bad breath is a potential indicator something is wrong in your mouth. Not brushing or flossing as recommended by your dentist leads to bacterial and plaque buildup, causing bad breath (along with other problems). A quick swish with mouthwash may leave your breath fresher, but it does not manage oral health concerns.
Bad breath can actually be an indicator of something else going on in your mouth and even other areas of the body. The human body contains millions of bacteria. The good bacteria in your mouth works with the good bacteria in your gut to make everything function properly.
Chronic bad breath may be an indicator something is out of whack. Bad breath can herald periodontal disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), sinus infections, and other problems. In turn, untreated periodontal disease increases your risk of stroke, heart disease, and, of course, tooth loss.
Brushing your teeth with mouthwash or strictly using mouthwash instead of brushing only masks the problem — and creates more. If you have been experiencing chronic bad breath, make an appointment to see your dentist as soon as possible.
How and When to Use Mouthwash
While using mouthwash instead of brushing your teeth is not recommended, you can still incorporate it into your daily routine, albeit carefully. There is no hard rule on when to use mouthwash, but you can always follow a few dos and don’ts of rinsing for best results.
Different mouthwashes come with different benefits. Choose one most suited to your biggest oral problem. For example, if you want whiter teeth, choose a whitening mouthwash. If you need more fluoride, opt for a mouthwash with fluoride instead. Your dentist can help you pick a mouthwash most appropriate for you and may even help you find a better option than the over the counter bottles.
You can use mouthwash before or after brushing. Brushing and flossing help get rid of plaque, so mouthwash can act as a kind of bonus oral assistant. Just make sure you do not overuse it, and never use mouthwash instead of brushing your teeth!
For More Information
Oral hygiene is an important part of your daily routine. Choosing the best practices for the long term will help ensure your teeth stay healthier for longer. Opting for mouthwash instead of brushing teeth may seem easier, but it ultimately ends up doing more harm than good. Brushing your teeth with mouthwash is just not sufficient. If you need help deciding when to use mouthwash or what kind you should use, we can help! Contact Arkansas Family Dental to schedule an appointment with one of our caring, qualified family dentists.