Facts and Fiction About The Oral Health Benefits of Mouthwash


For many of us, mouthwash is just the capstone to the end of our dental hygiene, and skipping that final step can leave our routine feeling incomplete and our mouths funky. For all that, it can make our mouth feel fresh and clean. Have you ever stopped to wonder how much it’s actually helping? While many dentists will suggest mouthwash as part of your oral health practices, you’ll benefit from paying attention and making sure you’re using one that will best benefit you.

Mouthwash In The Dental Aisle: The Illusion of Choice

When you stop and look in the dental aisle, you’re bound to see a seemingly endless variety of mouthwash options before you. It’s likely to come as little surprise that all of these supposed options are merely packaging, presentation, and marketing to hide the fact that they’re largely all the same. That being said, within these myriad reproductions, you can find four distinct types of mouthwash that may serve your purpose. Below we’ll cover the four categories all mouthwash can broadly be divided into:

  • Desensitizing Mouthwash – When tooth decay has led to the development of dental sensitivity, this kind of mouthwash can help. The arginine it contains can effectively close the tubules in your dentin that expose your sensitive pulp to painful acids. It does nothing to prevent decay or fight halitosis, but it can ease dental sensitivity effectively.
  • Cosmetic Mouthwash – This type of mouthwash serves one primary purpose, to mask the presence of bad breath. It doesn’t fight bacteria or wash away plaque; it just helps your breath smell a little fresher for a short period of time. It generally isn’t worth it for the short amount of time it improves your breath.
  • Whitening Mouthwash – This kind of mouthwash is, in essence, just another cosmetic mouthwash. This one just focuses on whitening your teeth rather than improving your breath. While it can help with maintaining white teeth, it’s generally useless against serious staining. It also does nothing to remove plaque or bacteria and can actually cause sensitivity.
  • Anti-Plaque Mouthwash – This kind of mouthwash can actually help your oral health by eliminating bacteria and plaque. It accomplishes this by containing a variety of antiseptic substances that kill bacteria and leave your mouth clean.

All forms of mouthwash you can buy will fall into at least one of these four categories, but there are varieties that are multipurpose. It’s generally advisable to only use whitening mouthwash in the short term, as the whitening agents can promote sensitivity and actually damage enamel over time. The best mouthwash generally has anti-plaque and cosmetic properties, with a dash of desensitizing for those with sensitive teeth.

Pros and Cons of Mouthwash

Mouthwash has been proven to provide a number of benefits for many patients. It can be an effective way to fight gum disease, freshen breath, and reduce the risk of cavities. It can also aid in soothing canker sores and ulcers and help provide more protection for pregnant women. Unfortunately, there is also some evidence indicating that its use may be tied to oral cancer, and as mentioned earlier, dental sensitivity can be a concern.