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Mouthwash – to rinse or not to rinse?

mouth_wash

A common question that dentists are asked is whether there is any benefit to using a mouthwash as part of a daily oral hygiene programme.

As a general rule, it is fair to say the for the removal of plaque bacteria (the cause of tooth decay and gum disease) is achieved most effectively by brushing and flossing your teeth daily and by seeing a dental hygienist at least twice a year.

There is no scientific evidence that the use of a general (non-specific) mouthwash significantly reduces plaque bacteria over and above good brushing and flossing techniques.

Some mouthwashes contain the chemical Chlorhexidine Gluconate. These are strong anti-bacterial formulas that may be prescribed by your dentist when it is not possible to brush your teeth for a short period of time, for instance following surgery in the mouth. Some companies market these as long term daily oral hygiene products but they should not be used as such. Chlorhexidine Gluconate can stain teeth and affect your taste buds when used for long periods.

If you have suffered from thinned or weak enamel, or if you happen to have a high decay rate, your dentist may recommend using a mouthwash with high levels of fluoride. Fluoride can attach to the molecules of your tooth enamel and strengthen it, making it harder for sugars and acids to break down the enamel molecules. It is important not to swallow these products in significant levels and it is therefore only recommended for children over the age of seven and adults.

If you want to use a mouthwash in conjunction with a good brushing and flossing regime (you may simply like the feeling that it gives you), it is very important to make sure that the mouthwash is water based and does not contain acohol. Traditionally many mouthwashes contained alcohol to act as a preservative but some studies have suggested that long term use of alcohol on the oral tissues could increase the risk of oral disease. Thankfully, many mouthwashes have dispensed with the use as alcohol as a preservative but some still exist and it is worth checking.

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