The truth and myths about mouthwashes

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Oral Hygiene and Dental Therapy
BOH (Adel)

A question that many of our patients ask us is “Should I be using mouthwash?”

We’re glad they do ask, because patients should consult their dentist or oral health practitioner before using any mouthwash. The fact is, mouthwashes may mask the evidence of dental or other health problems. The most common of these is bad breath (halitosis) – which can be due to a range of causes, including poor oral hygiene, decay, infection or xerostomia (dry mouth).

It’s important that patients have a good understanding of the differences between a mouthwash they may use at home on a daily basis (a “cosmetic” mouthwash) and one prescribed by their dentist or oral health practitioner (a “therapeutic” mouthwash). It’s a good idea to discuss with your dentist or oral health practitioner which mouthwash may be appropriate for your use.

COSMETIC MOUTHWASH

Are available over the counter from pharmacies and other retailers. They can give you fresh breath for up to three hours. A cosmetic mouthwash may temporarily mask bad breath but does not always affect the bacterial agent causing that bad breath. The ingredients in these products include odour neutralisers, which work by chemically deactivating the odour-causing compound. Some cosmetic mouthwashes also contain fluoride (to fight cavities), as well as other ingredients that help fight gingivitis and decrease plaque build-up. Nevertheless, over-the-counter products that do contain these additional ingredients have limited ability to combat decay, gingivitis and plaque accumulation.

THERAPEUTIC MOUTHWASH

Which can be prescribed by your dentist or oral health practitioner, contain active ingredients that specifically target decay-causing agents, aid in reducing plaque build-up and help reduce gingivitis in a more controlled and direct way than their cosmetic counterparts. The concentrations of ingredients in therapeutic mouthwashes are usually higher and therefore require professional advice before use.

It’s crucial to remember that any kind of mouthwash is only helpful when used in conjunction with brushing twice daily and flossing once daily; it is not a substitute for these essential parts of your daily oral hygiene routine.

Also, it’s recommended that patients opt for alcohol-free mouthwashes as recent research has shown a link between alcohol-containing mouthwashes and the development of oral cancers.

In summary, if you’re concerned about having fresh breath, daily use of a mouthwash may be helpful, but only if used along with daily tooth brushing and flossing, accompanied by regular six-monthly checkups with a dentist. Cosmetic mouthwashes can have a place in your daily oral hygiene routine. Therapeutic mouthwashes may be helpful where appropriate and when recommended by your dentist or oral health practitioner for decay, plaque reduction and gingival inflammation.

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