Using mouthwash can help rinse away food debris and bacteria after brushing, but it's not an essential part of a good oral hygiene routine. That said, it doesn’t do any harm either.
Many people feel that using mouthwash is an affective way of clearing away all that loose debris left over after brushing.
While that may be true, you can achieve the same effect by rinsing with water after brushing.
Mouthwash can be a good addition is to your oral hygiene routine, but remember it's not a substitute. Mouthwash will never take the place of brushing, flossing, and visiting the dentist, but it can help freshen your breath, and it’s mostly harmless.
If you’ve heard about the studies over the years that connect mouthwash use to things like cancer and heart disease you may be surprised to hear that.
There was one fairly recent study in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine that was troubling. It found that some mouthwashes could raise blood pressure by wiping out a type of mouth bacteria that helps the body generate nitric oxide, which is known to play a critical role in protecting the cardiovascular system, including keeping blood pressure down.
That study, however, focused on mouthwashes that contain a strong antibacterial agent called chlorhexidine. Mouthwashes containing chlorhexidine are typically only available by prescription. It's also important to note that this particular study was very small, just 19 participants, and therefore requires more research to support its findings.
Some studies since the 90's have suggested that mouthwashes which contain alcohol may contribute to the development of oral cancers. There are many experts who say that these studies are flawed, and focus on excessive mouthwash use—three or more rinses a day.
Several review studies have failed to find any links between alcohol rinses and cancer.
If you have issues with dry mouth, choose an alcohol-free version since mouthwashes with alcohol in them can dry out your mouth.
Antibacterial or antiseptic mouth rinses present a more complicated issue. Only people who have periodontal disease or other harmful types of oral bacteria should use these types of rinses. Be sure to consult with your dentist first, if you want to try one.
People with healthy teeth and mouths who want to use mouthwash should choose a mild variety without any strong antibacterial agents or alcohol.
Remember, mouthwash may feel nice and refreshing to use, but it really doesn’t do much other than (possibly) help reduce bad breath.
If you like mouthwash, there’s no medical reason not to rinse with it once or twice a day, but if you want to save money, just rinse with water instead.