Is Mouthwash Better Than Brushing Teeth?

You may have heard that mouthwash is better than brushing teeth—but is it really? The short answer is no, but there’s a lot more to it than that. Actually, there’s somewhat of a mouthwash vs. brushing teeth debate that often comes up. Let’s explore the relationship between using mouthwash and brushing your teeth to discover the truth about how to best preserve oral health with mouthwash.

The Reality of Mouthwash Hoaxes and Ineffective Applications

The truth is, mouthwash can be effective when used correctly, but that application may not be when or how you think. First of all, mouthwash cannot serve as a replacement for brushing teeth, as the American Dental Association (ADA) states directly on their website. Both vigorous brushing and regular flossing are important because they serve as mechanical processes where plaque is removed from the teeth before there is too much buildup. Toothpaste provides a nice scent and fluoride to help teeth stay clean. Mouthwash serves a similar purpose, but actually has a less concentrated form of fluoride, meaning it is not as useful in some situations. Using mouthwash immediately following brushing teeth is often not recommended by experts, who say this technique washes away the helpful fluoride from toothpaste and leaves teeth more vulnerable than if you rinse with water.

Many of the claims and assumptions about the utility of mouthwash in oral health are unfounded. Mouthwash is not the one-stop cure-all or preventative measure for any potential dental problem, and shouldn’t replace a regular brushing regimen. Plus, there are a variety of different types of mouthwashes so it’s essentially impossible to give a hard-and-fast rule that’s universally applicable. Talk to your dentist about the mouthwash specifics for what would be best for your oral care.

How Mouthwash Can Be Useful

If mouthwash isn’t better than brushing teeth and it isn’t a replacement for brushing teeth, then what should we actually use mouthwash to do? The ADA explains that mouthwash can reach areas that your toothbrush can’t, serving as a good supplement to (rather than a substitution for) brushing teeth.

Using mouthwash as recommended can prevent or control decay, reduce plaque, and freshen breath. Integrating mouthwash into your oral hygiene routine is quick and convenient since it’s easy to use even when you’re away from home. Plus, it can have great results that you can feel (and smell) basically right away. In short, mouthwash can work for anyone as a short-term fix for bad breath. This includes both alcohol-based mouthwashes and hydrogen peroxide. However, that often is only covering up the problem, or the source of bad breath or bad oral hygiene.

Mouthwash In Specific Situations

So, mouthwash can be used by anyone, but it’s often best used as a specific recommendation for certain cases. After all, many of us don’t actively think about oral health or prioritize oral hygiene; we just stick to our regular routine. However, when facing a dental condition or even a dental emergency, keeping our teeth clean and pain-free suddenly moves to the front of our minds. Mouthwash can be recommended by a dental professional in these types of circumstances. Dentist Mark Wolff explains, using mouth whitening mouthwash won’t suddenly give the user white teeth but thorough brushing in combination with mouthwash may help.

Mouthwash often is used to cover the smells of bad breath that come from using alcohol or drugs. However, since mouthwash kills bacteria, it also kills good bacteria, which means you have to be careful about how frequently you use it.

If You Have to Pick One, Pick Brushing

If you’re choosing between only using mouthwash or only brushing your teeth, it’s much better to only brush your teeth. However, it’s ideal to have multiple habits prioritizing your oral health. There are a variety of healthy habits for your teeth that you should try to form, from flossing more regularly to limiting snacks between meals. Using mouthwash can be a good addition to your routine.

Take Care of Your Teeth

Got a dental checkup coming up? Worried about bad breath? There are lots of reasons to think about better oral hygiene. Brushing teeth is something everyone should do well daily, and that means there’s a lot of information out there about the best tips and strategies for keeping your teeth clean. Hopefully, this guide has been helpful in understanding how you could use mouthwash (and how you shouldn’t).

Whether you regularly use mouthwash or not, it’s important to take care of your teeth. Don’t forget to schedule regular dental exams and checkups to make sure you and your dental team are on top of your oral health.

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