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, and could help to fight bad breath.
Some people enjoy rinsing with mouthwash after they’re brushed, because they feel that the mouthwash is clearing away all any loose debris left over after they have finished brushing.
This is actually true, but it's important to note that rinsing with water after brushing has the same effect.
Mouthwash can be a good addition is to a proper oral hygiene routine, but it's absolutely not a substitute! Mouthwash should 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 it may surprise you that mouthwash is mostly harmless.
One fairly recent study in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine found that some mouthwashes could raise blood pressure by wiping out a type of mouth bacteria that helps the body generate nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is known to play a critical role in protecting the cardiovascular system, including keeping blood pressure down.
However, this study focused on mouthwashes that contained a strong antibacterial agent called chlorhexidine. These particular mouthwashes are typically only available by prescription. Also, it was a very small study of just 19 participants, which means that much more research is required in order to support its findings.
Some studies dating back to the 90's have suggested mouthwashes that contain alcohol may contribute to the development of oral cancers. But many experts say that these studies are flawed, and focus on excessive mouthwash use—three or more rinses a day.
In addition, several review studies have failed to find links between alcohol rinses and cancer.
It is important to note that mouthwashes with alcohol in them can dry out your mouth, so if you have issues with dry mouth, make sure that you choose an alcohol-free mouthwash.
Antiseptic or antibacterial mouth rinses present an even more complicated issue. Only those people who have periodontal disease or other harmful types of oral bacteria should use these types of rinses. If you really want to use one, make sure that you consult with your dentist first.
People with healthy teeth and mouths who want to use mouthwash should select a mild variety without alcohol or strong antibacterial ingredients.
In the end, mouthwash may feel nice and refreshing to use, but it doesn’t do much other than (possibly) help reduce bad breath. If you enjoy using mouthwash, there’s no medical reason not to rinse with it once or twice a day, but if you like saving money just rinse with water instead.