Does Mouthwash Actually Work? - DB Dental

In recent years, there’s been plenty of debate around whether or not that humble bottle of mouthwash can really make a difference to our oral and dental health. The fact is, there are certainly benefits to be had from making mouthwash a part of your oral hygiene routine. However, it’s important to be aware of what mouthwash can actually help with, and what conditions require a different course of action. From bacteria to bad breath, we’re uncovering the truth about mouthwash…

The Benefits In Your Bottle of Mouthwash

A quick rinse with mouthwash after brushing and flossing can have a number of advantages for your oral and dental health. Here are some of the reasons why that 30-second swish around can leave you with a healthier mouth:

  • Fresher breath: Rinsing with mouthwash can be a fast and effective way to make your mouth feel a whole lot fresher, as well as leaving you with fresher-smelling breath. However, while mouthwash can take care of temporary breath-busters such as a garlic-heavy meal, mouthwash alone isn’t a cure for persistent bad breath (read more about this below).
  • Protection against cavities and disease: Using a mouthwash that contains fluoride may help to protect your mouth against the development of cavities, as well as gum disease. If you’re using a fluoride-containing mouthwash, take care not to dilute the mouthwash with water, as this will prevent the fluoride from coating your teeth and serving up that all-important protection.
  • Reduction in oral bacteria: The regular use of mouthwash can help to minimise the amount of bacteria and plaque in your mouth, which is good news for your oral and dental health.

The Truth About Mouthwash and Bad Breath

Given the breath-freshening qualities of mouthwash, it’s not uncommon to assume that it would be an effective weapon in the fight against everyday bad breath (or halitosis). However, while mouthwash can assist in the treatment of some oral or dental conditions, using mouthwash is not enough to cure bad breath.

The symptoms of persistent bad breath can include the following:

  • A dry mouth
  • Mucous or a post-nasal drip
  • An unpleasant sour taste in your mouth all the time
  • Overdue dental cleaning or treatment
  • Sticky saliva making it difficult to clear your throat
  • A thick white coating on your tongue

If you’re experiencing the symptoms of bad breath, it’s important to talk to your dentist about how to address the issue, as mouthwash isn’t going to cut it. Bad breath can be caused by a wide variety of factors, including decaying teeth, infections of the gums or sinus, oral cancer treatments such as radiation, poor oral hygiene, and issues with dry mouth.

More About Your Mouthwash

If you’ve browsed your local supermarket for a mouthwash, you’re likely to have been faced with a wide array of brands and types. While different mouthwash products can have different properties, most will contain the following ingredients:

  • Alcohol or antimicrobial agents to kill bacteria and germs that can lead to tooth decay and bad breath
  • Detergents to remove food debris and loose plaque
  • Flavours and colours designed to improve taste and appearance
  • Preservatives to stop bacteria developing in the mouthwash
  • Water to dissolve the other ingredients
  • Fluoride (in some mouthwashes), which can increase teeth’s resistance to acid attacks and help protect against tooth decay

Choosing the Best Mouthwash For You

With so many different varieties of mouthwash available, deciding on the best mouthwash for your needs can be a confusing task. A good starting point is this list of approved mouthwash products from the Australian Dental Association.

The right type of mouthwash for you will depend on whether you have a specific oral or dental condition which can be helped by mouthwash, or if you’re simply after a cosmetic mouthwash that will leave your mouth and breath feeling fresher.

For example, a mouthwash with antimicrobials can be useful for gingivitis, while people with periodontal problems may benefit from a chlorhexidine-based mouthwash, which can prevent inflammation of the gums by slowing the development of plaque.

Saltwater mouthwash can be effective if you have small ulcers or have bitten the inside of your mouth, but you should see your dentist if this hasn’t cleared within a week or two, as using saltwater products for too long can damage your teeth’s enamel.

Alternatively, if you’ve recently undergone dental surgery, you may want to opt for a pain-treating mouthwash containing benzocaine.


If you’d like to discuss whether mouthwash might be effective for a dental or oral condition you’re experiencing, make an appointment with a DB Dental professional.

Share This