Mouthwash – To Swish or not to Swish?

Mouthwash swish

Should I use a mouthwash?

Mouthwas variety
Our lovely hygienists!

The use of Mouthwashes has been around since Roman times. Even during the Roman Empire people knew that the mouth and the teeth could cause adverse effects on human health. The cause of the problems in the mouth was often thought to be caused by a curse or a sin committed by a person or their family because bacteria were unknown.  Modern times we discovered the microbial world and the use of mouthwash increased and included the idea of killing germs. In the late 1800s Listerine was first used as a surgical scrub and floor cleaner. The promotion of Listerine as a mouthwash and “cure” for halitosis did not occur until the 1920s.
The use of mouthwash has gone in and out of favor with the dental community, for as long as there have been dentists. My patients ask me almost daily, if they should use mouthwash on a daily basis. I always know when my young male patients have become interested in girls when they ask me if they should use mouthwash!  My answer has changed over the years. In the early part of my career I always said yes because I had learned in dental hygiene school at the University of Nebraska Dental School that mouthwash was an important part of oral care.  As my career continued though, much of the research that was conducted showed little or no benefit of using mouthwash and in fact some studies suggested the harmful effect of the overuse of mouthwashes that had a high alcohol content. I even discouraged the use of mouthwash that contained a lot of alcohol especially for children.
Now the dental research community is coming back to the use of mouthwash on a daily basis.  Recently there has been developments of mouthwashes that contain no alcohol and have added ingredients that help prevent cavities, help prevent stain, alleviate dry mouth, and are targeted to kill the bacteria that cause gingivitis.  These developments had led to mouthwashes in many forms and types. There are Anti-Adhesives, Antiseptics, Anti-Cavity and Anti-Inflammatory.  We also have the option for prescription strength mouthwash. In conclusion the answer to whether or not you should use mouthwash as part of your daily oral care regime is Yes!  The real question is which one should you use and the answer to that question depends on your individual needs.  We will cover some of that in another blog post.  Until then, ask your Dental Hygienist at your next visit, which mouthwash is right for you.

Karen Miller RDH