Mouth Wash and Mouth Rinse – What You Need To Know.

Man and woman holding hands barefoot

Mouth Wash and Mouth Rinse – What You Need To Know.

09, Apr 2024


What do we really know about mouth rinses? Does it live up to the expectation and trust we put into it? The marketing of mouth rinse and mouthwash have been very effective without having to produce any scientific results. Professional studies don’t attribute much value to mouthwash in preventing disease, yet we often claim it as the must have in our dental cleaning routine. Did the manufacturers succeed in making us feel guilty for not using their products without producing the science to support their claims?


We asked our Dental Hygienist Sarie Liebenberg to answer some commonly asked questions regarding mouth rinses.


Are mouthwash and mouth rinse the same?


A mouthwash only temporarily freshens your breath but does not clean your teeth. Mouthwash is not a replacement for your oral cleaning routine. It simply helps to wash away left over food particles and some bacteria. It typically contains mint flavouring breath-freshening ingredients, leaving behind a pleasant taste. It has no chemical or biological application beyond their temporary benefit. As the pleasant minty taste diminish, the evidence of bad odour will increase. It does not have the ability to remove plaque from the teeth. Plaque is sticky and needs mechanical removal with a toothbrush and floss and/or interdental brushes.

By contrast, a mouth rinse is therapeutic and have active ingredients intended to help control or reduce conditions associated with gingivitis (gum disease), plaque, bad breath, tooth decay and demineralization of enamel to name a few. Active ingredients that may be used in therapeutic mouth rinses include: cetylpyridinium chloride, chlorhexidine, essential oils, fluoride, and peroxide. These rinses are available either over the counter or by prescription, depending on the formulation.


What about the claims made by manufacturers about mouth rinse and mouth wash?


Let’s look at the claims manufacturers made regarding their products.


 – Reducing Bacteria

Oral rinses contain active ingredients, such as antiseptics and antimicrobial agents, which help reduce the bacterial load responsible for plaque and gum diseases. But no rinse can remove bacteria from the tooth surface.


– Freshening Breath

Essential oils like menthol, eucalyptol and thymol assist in giving you a pleasant taste in your mouth, but only masking bad breath. No rinse can eliminate bad breath. You need to have a professional plaque removal to eliminate the reason for bad breath – remove plaque, reduce inflammation, clear up bleeding gums, and then maintain good oral hygiene to prevent reoccurrence.


– Prevent Tooth Decay

Some oral rinses contain fluoride, which helps strengthen the enamel to prevent tooth decay.


– Gum Health

Rinses formulated with anti-inflammatory ingredients can aid in reducing gum inflammation and promoting healthier gums if used after a professional dental cleaning was performed.


Can I Use a Mouth Rinse Instead of Flossing my Teeth?

No mouth rinse is a substitute for brushing or flossing. Rinsing is a chemical adjunct with the aim to reduce the number of bacteria. To effectively remove bacteria, mechanical means like brushing and flossing is needed to physically disturb the bacterial matrix.


What is the best oral cleansing routine?


The best oral care routine is to always brush and floss or use interdental brushes to mechanically remove the plaque sticking to the teeth. Only then it is advisable to enhance your oral cleansing routine with a mouth rinse. Consult with your dentist or dental hygienist to find out if you need to use a specialized rinse to assist your unique oral health condition.


In conclusion:


While mouthwash and mouth rinse can be a valuable addition to your oral health routine, it cannot replace regular brushing, flossing and the use of interdental brushes. Proper brushing, flossing and professional dental cleanings remain the foundation of maintaining good oral health.