Is It Good to Use Mouthwash Daily?

Using mouthwash daily is a common practice for many people. But is it safe? We'll analyze the possible effects of this habit.
Is It Good to Use Mouthwash Daily?
Vanesa Evangelina Buffa

Written and verified by la odontóloga Vanesa Evangelina Buffa.

Last update: 27 March, 2023

It’s a frequent question whether or not you can use mouthwash daily. These products are easily available in pharmacies and even in supermarkets. However, not everyone knows that there are different varieties available.

Some are available over the counter and are promoted as a supplement to brushing. Others require the precise indication of a dentist, as they’re part of treatments guided by a health professional.

In one way or another, it should be clear that these mouthwashes don’t replace brushing. And it should also be clear that a dentist’s opinion is the ideal guide to determine which components of a rinse are preferred for each mouth.

So, let’s review what these liquids are like and what types exist. With this information, it will be easier for you to understand which mouthwash can be used daily and which cannot.

What is mouthwash?

A mouthwash is a liquid solution. The person retains it inside their mouth for a while so that it cleans the inside, or makes a movement with it known as gargling.

The main task of this product is to eliminate germs and reduce or control the formation of bacterial plaque. Additionally, it’s capable of reducing discomfort and even providing better breath for its users.

But beyond your breath and the sensation of freshness, it’s important to emphasize that it’s an oral cleaning method. Gargling takes the liquid to hard-to-reach areas where the brush has difficulty entering. That’s why it’s a complement to brushing and flossing.

Now, there’s no single type of mouthwash, and that’s why you have to evaluate whether it’s worth using a mouthwash daily, depending on its components. The following are the most common commercial products.

Common mouthwash

This is the over-the-counter mouthwash that we can all buy in pharmacies without a prescription. Its components are very similar to those of toothpastes. Even so, its fluoride contribution is lower than that of the latter.

Its action is focused on eliminating bacteria and removing food debris from the mouth. Some versions contain alcohol and all improve breath.

Antiplaque mouthwash

Daily mouthwash works for plaque.
The use of rinses allows the areas that aren’t reached by the toothbrush to be sanitized in a better way.

Antiplaque or antiseptic mouthwashes have the primary function of attacking oral bacterial plaque. For this, the most widely used component is chlorhexidine digluconate, which has proven efficacy in reducing different bacterial colonies that cause oral diseases.

Chlorhexidine is often combined with other ingredients:

  • Phenols
  • Povidone iodine
  • Essential oils

When a dentist must treat cases of periodontitis or gingivitis, they can indicate the use of these mouthwashes to the patient., including children over the age of 6.

They’re also prescribed in the period after certain mouth surgeries, as they serve as a preventive method to avoid infections in surgical sites.

Chlorhexidine isn’t only effective against bacteria. Recent investigations have certified the potential of the substance to reduce the presence of SARS-CoV-2 and the herpes simplex virus type 1.

Mouthwashes with more fluoride

In this case, we’re talking about mouthwashes with a higher fluoride concentration than common versions. They’re not usually found for over-the-counter sale and must be prescribed by a professional.

The goal is to reduce the risk of cavities or reverse early ones. Therefore, they’re prescribed for children and adults who are at high risk of developing this disease.

For dry mouth

With the aim of helping in the treatment of dry mouth or xerostomia, specially formulated mouthwashes are available. Guidelines for addressing the disorder include rinsing as an essential part of daily routines. Especially those that contain antibiotics.

To reinforce teeth whitening

There are different types of treatments to achieve teeth whitening. Some approaches include the use of particular mouthwashes that have low doses of clarifying peroxides.

Professionals indicate them in order to sustain the results achieved for a longer period of time. The specialist with indicate whether to use this type of mouthwash daily or at certain intervals over the course of several weeks or months.

For tooth sensitivity

Sometimes teeth whitening techniques or gum retraction increases tooth sensitivity. This state is very bothersome and uncomfortable for patients, and that’s why substances are available to combat it.

Dentists may prescribe a potassium nitrate mouthwash to reduce post-whitening sensitivity. This is a special case, as these are mouthwashes that can’t be used for a long time (no more than 3 weeks).

Can I use the mouthwash daily?

As you can already guess, the answer depends on the type of mouthwash we’re talking about and the number of uses per day. In general terms, it’s safe to use over-the-counter and common mouthwashes daily, as long as they’re not applied more than 2 times a day.

But if you want to wash your mouth with chlorhexidine or potassium nitrate, then the same recommendation isn’t valid. These active ingredients require a medical prescription and a limitation on the amount and frequency of use.

Why? Because the beneficial action of certain substances, in excess, ends in unwanted side effects.

The warning also refers to quantity and not just continued use. The gargles should last no more than 1 minute, taking care to spit the liquid out when finished.

The ideal time for rinsing isn’t determined by science, but we do know that it shouldn’t be done before brushing or immediately after.

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), the ingredients in toothpastes and mouthwashes determine the correct order. There are certain active ingredients that, if combined, reduce their effectiveness. That’s why a consultation with the dentist should prevail in order to establish whether or not there will be an interaction.

What side effects can there be from the daily use of mouthwashes?

As we already clarified, the rational use (2 times a day) of a common over-the-counter mouthwash shouldn’t have negative consequences. However, the particular situations of a person or the increase in the amounts applied are associated with risks and problems.

The signs that can alert us to inappropriate use or that we should stop using mouthwash are the following:

  • Stained teeth
  • Canker sores and recurrent sores
  • Hypersensitivity in the teeth or pain
  • Dry mouth, despite hydrating well
  • Bleeding from the gums when spitting out the mouthwash during daily cleaning

Irritation from mouthwashes

Commercial presentations with alcohol or sodium lauryl sulfate tend to be irritating to the oral mucosa. Above all, if the person has active canker sores or a high tendency to present them.

For example, irritation from alcohol shouldn’t be confused with allergies. As with any drug, a person can be allergic to the active substance and manifest it with specific symptoms, such as swollen lips, reddish rashes on the gums, and even respiratory distress.

The substances most associated with these allergies are xylitol, fomentol, and sodium lauryl sulfate. If the antecedent exists, then the labels should be carefully checked before commencing daily use.

Stains on teeth

Long-term use of chlorhexidine can stain the teeth. Scientific studies state that this probability is significant when the active principle has a concentration of 0.12 to 0.20% and is combined with alcohol.

The effect of mouthwashes on the coloring of materials used to repair teeth was also evaluated. In this regard, a certain variation in the tone of the resins could be observed in the experiments. Although the authors clarify that it’s not enough to promote the suspension of mouthwashes in these cases.

Mouthwashes and the risk of cancer

Daily Mouth Rinse Not Linked to Oral Cancer By Itself
The use of mouthwashes isn’t considered a risk factor for oral cancer, although it’s important to see a doctor if there are symptoms and risk factors.

The presence of alcohol among the ingredients of some mouthwashes raises alarm about the possibility that they carry an increased risk of oral cancer. Daily contact between this toxic substance and the mucous membranes could trigger malignant changes in the long term.

A 2020 systematic review concluded that alcohol-containing mouthwashes by themselves don’t cause oral cancer. But the risk is increased when the person using the mouthwash has other risk factors, such as high consumption of alcoholic beverages or smoking.

Chlorhexidine and the oral microbiome

The antiseptic potential of chlorhexidine doesn’t distinguish between beneficial and pathological bacteria. Therefore, its presence in mouthwashes is capable of eliminating part of the normal flora of the oral cavity.

Scientific studies in this regard suggested the following :

  • The saliva microbiome is changed by local chlorhexidine
  • The conditions of the mouth become more acidic, due to the decrease in pH
  • It increases the concentration of glucose in saliva.

Paradoxically, these changes could increase the risk of cavities. Yet another reason to limit the use of chlorhexidine in the long term.

Using mouthwash daily can be a great ally, depending on the case

You can find a great ally for your oral health if you use the right mouthwash daily and consciously. And, of course, with the endorsement of your primary dentist. Remember that it’s a complement to brushing. However, it doesn’t replace it.

If you have questions about the components that would help you the most in your case, schedule an appointment with a professional. That way, you can buy a product with the certainty that you’re not damaging your health, but rather protecting it.

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