Can antiseptic mouthwash replace flossing?

It’s a fact.  Flossing daily, in addition to brushing twice per day, is really the best addition to your dental hygiene routine.  But it’s not everyone’s favourite activity.  Some people find flossing to be awkward and time-consuming.  Others have trouble getting the floss between tight spaces.  Many have dexterity issues or a gagging reflex that prevents them from getting to those back teeth and gums. So, what do you do if you want to add some extra cleaning power to your oral hygiene routine? Incorporating antiseptic mouthwash is an easy addition – pour some liquid from the bottle, take a sip and swish around in your mouth for 30 seconds! But does it really provide the same benefits as flossing or is it just a way to freshen breath? Let’s examine just how beneficial mouthwash is when added to your daily routine.

Why are mouthwashes used?

According to the ADA, mouthwashes are used for a variety of reasons such as:

  • Freshening bad breath (halitosis)
  • Helping to prevent tooth decay
  • Reducing plaque
  • Preventing or reducing gingivitis
  • Lowering the speed at which tarter forms on teeth

Types of mouthwash

With the benefits listed above, it seems like a no brainer to start using mouthwash right away. But before you begin, be aware that there are two types of mouthwash, therapeutic and cosmetic. One has more health benefits than the other, so be sure you know the difference.

  • Therapeutic mouthwashes can help reduce signs of plaque, gingivitis, cavities, and bad breath. Additionally, mouthwash that contains fluoride can help prevent or reduce tooth decay.
  • Cosmetic mouthwashes can help to temporarily solve bad breath issues and leave the mouth with a fresh taste.  However, they do not deal with the root of the issue, the bacteria that cause bad breath. Therefore, they do not prevent against or reduce plaque, gingivitis or cavities.

Choosing a mouthwash

So, which choice is right for you? If you are going to incorporate mouthwash into your routine, consider choosing the therapeutic kind  to help kill germs and bacteria in your mouth. Antiseptic mouthwashes help to remove debris and freshen breath.  But they also protect against oral disease, reduce plaque and eliminate bad breath. So why is it so important to fight some of these oral maladies? Let’s look at plaque and gingivitis specifically.  And the havoc they can wreak on your mouth if left untreated.

  • Plaque is a sticky substance that forms on teeth.  It is a breeding ground for bacteria which in turn cause gum disease.  It can rapidly harden and form unsightly tartar.  So it’s important to remove as much of this sticky culprit as possible on a daily basis.  And therapeutic mouthwash can help with plaque removal.
  • Gingivitis, a slight irritation of the gums, may seem harmless but can lead to much more serious issues.  If Gingivitis is left untreated, it can lead to more serious periodontitis and tooth loss. Gingivitis is caused by a bacterial infection, which causes the body to inflame the gums.  It may also force gums to begin to separate from teeth. This is when the trouble begins as bacteria can creep in.  But the good news is that using a therapeutic mouthwash helps to reduce bacteria and in turn, signs of gingivitis.

Therapeutic mouthwashes also often have anti-cavity ingredients with fluoride.  These can kill up to 50 percent more of the bacteria that cause cavities than brushing alone.  So therapeutic mouthwashes can help to reduce or eliminate the bacteria in your mouth that cause gum disease, tooth decay and bad breath.

Many mouthwashes containing alcohol cause a burning sensation or dry out the mouth.  It can be tough to feel the benefits if the process makes you uncomfortable.  But there are alcohol-free mouthwashes available.  Many natural or organic, alcohol-free mouthwashes include anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties to help those with oral maladies benefit from the use of mouthwash while still preventing plaque, gingivitis, tooth decay and bad breath.

Final thoughts

You do need to brush and floss prior to using a mouthwash to really reap the benefits.  Brushing and flossing are  vital components of good oral hygiene. So really, mouthwash is not a substitute for flossing.  But using a mouthwash is certainly a great addition to your daily routine. To use, you can simply measure the correct amount of liquid as prescribed on the label, swish around in your mouth and between teeth, for 30 seconds. If you are using an anti-cavity mouthwash that contains fluoride, avoid rinsing your mouth or eating for 30 minutes.  You don’t want to dilute the positive effects of the fluoride on your teeth. Pretty simple, right?

If you are just looking to improve your oral health routine, consider picking up some mouthwash from your local pharmacy.  It will be easy to find one that’s right for you. If you have some severe oral problems that are causing cavities, gingivitis or periodontal disease, obtain a prescription mouthwash from your dentist.

But, getting back to our original question, “Can antiseptic mouthwash replace flossing?”  The answer is no. However, adding mouthwash to your daily routine only takes an additional 30 seconds.  So it is a great addition to flossing, especially if you tend not to floss every single day.

Let’s put it this way, mouthwash is not going to damage your oral hygiene routine.  It can only enhance it!

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