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Lucy Stock is a columnist for the Irish News

Is There Any Need To Use Mouthwash?

by Lucy Stock BDS DipImpDent RCS (Eng)

Published in the Irish News . 18.12.2013

About 1 in 3 adults use a mouthwash daily to keep their pearly whites in tip top condition but are they really necessary? Mouth rinses are used for a variety of reasons: to freshen breath, to help prevent tooth decay and gum disease or to reduce plaque (a thin film of bacteria that forms on teeth) and tartar build up. 

If you are looking for a mouthwash to freshen your breath there are 2 main types; the cosmetic and therapeutic ones. “Cosmetic” mouthwashes only temporarily control bad breath and leave the mouth with a pleasant taste but they don’t actually deal with the causes of bad breath. They don’t kill the bacteria that cause bad breath or chemically inactivate odor causing compounds. “Therapeutic” mouthwashes, like Ultradex, can help properly reduce bad breath. However, if you must constantly use a mouth rinse or breath freshener to hide unpleasant mouth odor, it may be a good idea to visit your dentist to see if there is some underlying cause that can be corrected. Clinical studies indicate that regular use of a fluoride mouth rinse (daily or weekly, depending on the rinse) can provide additional protection against cavities as fluoride is the number one weapon you can use to best fight tooth decay. However, keep in mind that all the fluoride mouthwash in the world will not counteract a diet loaded with sweet foods and drinks. Gum disease combating mouthwashes, like Corsodyl, often contain chlorhexidine. This is an effective antibacterial agent which is better used short term as it is very strong, leaves brown stains on the teeth and alters the taste of food. Corsodyl now have a daily mouthwash that is more useful in people with stubborn gum infections and has the added advantage of not staining the teeth. 

Mouthwashes can be used before or after brushing, but they are not a substitute for brushing or flossing. The sequence in which you brush, floss and rinse really makes no difference as long as you do a thorough job and use quality products. Mouthwashes are great because they are quick and easy to use. However like most things in life a quick fix unfortunately doesn’t properly solve problems. Your dentist can advise you on whether you need a mouth rinse depending on the condition of your mouth.