Should You Throw Out Your Mouthwash?

Dr. Christopher Li Etobicoke - Li Family Dental

By Dr. Christopher Li

April 13, 2021

dental care, dental hygiene, mouthwash, oral care

You might find you are getting mixed messages when it comes to using mouthwash and your oral health. That is probably because there are so many different kinds of mouthwash. Although some might be less effective than others, it’s important to consider the different ingredients to find the mouthwash best for your particular needs. If you are wondering if you should be throwing out your mouthwash, here’s our advice on whether or not a mouth rinse is a necessary part of your oral health regime, the pros and cons of use, and how to choose the rinse that’s right for you.

Understanding Mouthwash Ingredients 


First, let’s take a look at the ingredients found in mouthwash. Because there are so many types of mouthwash, it can be overwhelming trying to decide the right type for you. Here is a review of each “active” ingredient and how it can help:

  • Fluoride. This is probably the most familiar ingredient as it is also found in toothpaste. However, it is also applied to your teeth at your regular checkup/cleaning appointments and found in your local water. This is an important ingredient as it fights tooth decay and helps strengthen tooth enamel. However, if you are using mouthwash strictly because you feel you need more fluoride, you probably don’t need to use mouthwash. Since you’re getting fluoride in your toothpaste, water and at your dental cleanings, it’s just an extra unnecessary step.
  • Cetylpyridinium chloride: This ingredient is less familiar, and might even sound quite dangerous. However, this is the ingredient added to help kill bacteria that cause bad breath. If you find you suffer from bad breath you should speak to our team to find out what might be causing it. Generally, however, this type of mouthwash can help if your goal is to freshen your breath.
  • Chlorhexidine: Another dangerous-sounding ingredient, this is only dangerous if you happen to be plaque. That’s because chlorhexidine helps kill plaque-causing bacteria. It is a good choice if you find you have plaque buildup or have been told you are at high risk for gingivitis or gum disease.
  • Essential oils: The trend towards creating natural personal care products has led to finding more essential oils in oral health products. This can include a number of herbs. Most commonly however you will probably find menthol or peppermint as a flavouring and bad breath fighter; and Eucalyptus and/or thymol (thyme) for their antifungal and antibacterial properties. All of these ingredients are fine unless of course, you are allergic to them!
  • Carbamide peroxide/hydrogen peroxide: These ingredients are added for whitening. If you are trying to keep your teeth white, this can be helpful. They can be irritating if you have sensitive teeth, however. Speak to our team to discuss the best whitening treatments and products.

Regardless of the mouthwash you choose, always remember they are not meant to be swallowed. Follow the instructions and when in doubt speak to our team to find the product best suited for your needs.

The Pros Of Using Mouthwash 


Now that you understand the types of mouthwashes available, let’s look at the pros of using a mouth rinse as part of your oral health regime:

  • Healthier Gums: As mentioned above, formulas containing Chlorhexidine are effective at helping fight gum disease and reducing painful gum inflammation. For pregnant women, this can also help lower the risk of low weight or pre-term babies which can occur in women with periodontal disease.
  • Fresher Breath: You can use mouthwashes containing Cetylpyridinium chloride to help rinse away the bacteria that leads to bad breath.
  • Cavity Prevention: If you choose a fluoride formula or even mouthwashes containing natural essential oils such as thymol or eucalyptus, you can help prevent cavities by killing bacteria and also help promote stronger tooth enamel.

Just be sure to check the ingredients and recommended use to choose the mouth rinse suited to your needs.

The Cons Of Using Mouthwash 


Some of the cons that might have you worried about using mouthwash probably include:

  • High Alcohol Content: The products with high alcohol content can be irritating especially if you have swollen gums or suffer from cankers or other types of oral sores. However, alcohol can also have the opposite effect you are hoping it will have. This is because it can contribute to cavities and gingivitis by decreasing saliva production. As a result, high alcohol mouthwashes can leave your gums and teeth more vulnerable to bacteria if you don’t have enough saliva to rinse bacteria away. If you are taking medications that can cause dry mouth, always choose non-alcohol mouth rinse formulas.
  • Mouthwash Masks, Not Kills, Odours: If you use mouthwash to kill odours and bad breath, the products must contain Cetylpyridinium chloride. Otherwise, you really will only temporarily mask the odours and they will quickly return once your saliva rinses away the minty scent. If you choose a natural rinse product for bad breath look for products containing cinnamon as they tend to have longer-lasting effects than their minty counterparts. As mentioned, it is best to discuss frequent bad breath with our team to determine the cause.
  • Oral Cancer Risk: This isn’t one to be deeply worried about. Although heavy alcohol users can be at higher risk for oral cancers, the content of alcohol in mouthwash is not likely to contribute to the risk.
  • Not for Kids: Children under the age of five aren’t meant to use mouthwashes. In fact, unless your dentist has specifically recommended a certain type of rinse for older kids, it’s not really something kids should be using or would even need.

If any of these cons seem troubling, you can speak to our team for advice.

Should You Toss Your Mouthwash? 


Despite the cons associated with mouthwash use, there are many products recommended for use by the Canadian Dental Association. They can provide a safe addition to ramp up your oral health regime. If you aren’t sure what the best mouth rinse is for your needs, speak to our team and we can make recommendations. The most important thing is that you continue to brush twice a day, floss regularly and visit our office for your regular dental checkups and cleanings.  

Give us a call at 416-232-2033 or request an appointment by clicking here.  


Dr. Christopher Li

About the author

Doctor Christopher Li, DDS
Dr. Chris, as he is affectionately known, is a licensed dentist with over 20 years experience. His caring personality makes even the most tentative person at ease. Patients are constantly commenting about how Dr. Chris is incredible at delivering pain-free freezing, and how he has an amazing chair-side manner.  Dr. Chris loves sharing information with his patients and everyone who has teeth about how to care for their teeth, avoid tooth decay, and the treatments available to help them overcome their tooth pain or other dental issues so they can enjoy life and food to its fullest!

Never miss a good story!

 Subscribe to our newsletter to keep up with the latest trends!