Mouthwash is an oral hygiene product that dates back thousands of years. It has existed in various forms including salt water and vinegar sometimes mixed with wine, honey and spices. Back then they were marketed as a cure-all for all manner of health problems from gum diseases to tooth decay. These days, the claims are a lot tamer, limiting benefits to killing harmful bacteria and freshening your mouth. Here are some common myths about mouthwash.
Myth 1: It can be a substitute
Mouthwash is not a substitute for brushing or flossing. True, a liquid rinse can get into the cracks and crevices between the teeth, but brushing is still required for a variety of reasons including to fight build-up. Also, nothing replaces flossing.
Myth 2: It’s okay to swallow
Swallowing small quantities once or twice accidentally is safe, however, the more you do it, the higher the risks and health concerns. Some brands contain ethanol and fluoride both of which are poisonous when consumed in large amounts. This is also why children under the age of 6 who are likely to swallow should not use mouthwash unless directed by a paediatrician.
Myth 3: All types of mouthwash are equally effective
Not all liquid rinses are created equal. Cosmetic mouthwash can leave an agreeable taste in your mouth but are not as effective at fighting bacteria. Therapeutic mouthwash has compounds designed to boost oral hygiene and may be more effective at killing bacteria.
Myth 4: No such thing as too much
If mouthwash freshens your mouth and kills bacteria, can you do it too often? Yes. Depending on the ingredients, you can harm yourself by doing it too much. If it has alcohol, too many rinses can dry out your mouth leading to bad breath. This is why people with dry mouths are not advised to use mouthwash. Overuse can also lead to sensitivity and discomfort. Even with alcohol-free alternatives, doing it too much can stain the teeth.
Myth 5: Mouthwash cures bad breath
Bad breath or halitosis is caused by a wide range of things including inadequate dental hygiene, mouth infections, abscesses, medications, dryness or health problems. If you’re dealing with bad breath, talk to a dentist before you start self-medicating with mouthwash.
Myth 6: If it burns, it’s working
People often look for physical evidence that something is working, with mouthwash, there’s an assumption that if you hold it for long until it starts to burn, then it’s working. False. Irritation is not evidence of efficacy. If your mouthwash is uncomfortable to use, talk to your dentist. Associated is the myth that you need to hold it for a long time for maximum benefit. Only hold it for the recommended time which is usually about 30 seconds.
Myth 7: It kills all bacteria
Mouthwash cannot kill all the bacteria in your mouth and it shouldn’t. Certain types of bacteria are necessary for oral health and wiping out all the bacteria can be harmful.
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