Mouthwash is a great way to clean your mouth and improve your oral health. Brushing and flossing only cleans 25% of your mouth, while mouthwash can clean the entire inside of your mouth in just a few seconds.
However, there can be a lot of debate about when to use mouthwash, and whether you should use mouthwash before or after brushing. Let’s learn more about mouthwash and when to use it properly.
Two Types of Mouthwash
Many people don’t know that there are two basic types of mouthwash, and the type of mouthwash you use is important. Here are the two different types of mouthwash.
1. Cosmetic. Cosmetic mouthwash has two main benefits:
- Rinses debris from the inside of the mouth. Swishing anything (even water) around the inside of the mouth can help loosen and rinse away food debris and other buildup inside the mouth. It can help clean the mouth after eating.
- Freshens breath. Cosmetic mouthwashes usually have ingredients specifically designed to freshen your breath. A minty or cinnamon flavor helps to conceal other mouth odors and make the breath smell better.
2. Therapeutic. Therapeutic mouthwashes provide the same benefits as cosmetic mouthwashes, but they have other active ingredients that have additional therapeutic effects. Therapeutic mouthwashes often have ingredients that:
- Kill germs. Many therapeutic mouthwashes have antiseptic ingredients that kill germs inside the mouth. Killing germs can help fight bad breath and also protect the teeth from harmful bacteria.
- Strengthen teeth. Some therapeutic mouthwashes have fluoride or minerals that help to strengthen teeth and make them more resistant to cavities.
- Treat oral health problems. Some therapeutic mouthwashes have ingredients that help heal gums or mouth sores, and dentists may prescribe specialty mouthwashes to treat specific health conditions.
A whitening mouthwash can be classified either way, depending on the specific ingredients. For example, many whitening mouthwashes contain hydrogen peroxide, a powerful germ-killing antiseptic. A whitening mouthwash that contains charcoal may simply be cosmetic.
When NOT To Use Mouthwash
There are a few times when you should not use mouthwash, or use mouthwash carefully, with regard to the ingredients. Avoid using mouthwash:
- After a professional tooth-whitening procedure. Most commercial mouthwashes contain color additives, making the mouthwash blue or green, and these colored ingredients can quickly re-stain your teeth. In addition, teeth whitening can also make the teeth more sensitive, so it’s best to avoid mouthwash for 10-14 days after the procedure.
- Immediately after brushing. Almost all toothpastes contain concentrated fluoride or other ingredients designed to help strengthen teeth and prevent cavities. In order for these ingredients to be effective, they need to remain on the teeth for long enough to penetrate the enamel. Using any mouthwash immediately after brushing will rinse away these ingredients and make them less effective. This is true even if you are using a remineralizing mouthwash, since the concentration levels in toothpaste are higher than in mouthwash. Wait at least 30-60 minutes after brushing to use mouthwash.
Do You Use Your Mouthwash Before or After Brushing?
Either use mouthwash before brushing, or wait 30-60 minutes after brushing to use mouthwash. But that’s not the best way to use mouthwash. The best way to use mouthwash is at different times of day than when you brush your teeth.
The Best Way to Use Mouthwash
The best way to take advantage of the special cleaning properties of mouthwash is to:
- Use a therapeutic antiseptic mouthwash. Unless your dentist has specific recommendations for your oral health needs, use a mouthwash with active germ-killing ingredients. Killing bacteria inside the mouth helps protect the teeth and provide fresh breath, rather than covering up bad breath odor.
- Use mouthwash after meals. Instead of using mouthwash when you brush, use mouthwash after meals, or twice a day. Even a simple cosmetic mouthwash is better used after meals, where it helps to rinse away food debris and refresh the breath.
- Use the recommended amount of mouthwash. The manufacturer will recommend how much mouth wash to use for greatest effectiveness. Most mouthwashes have a lid that doubles as a cup with a measurement line in it – use the right amount for the best benefits.
- Swish for 30-60 seconds. Using mouthwash for too little time reduces its benefits. Likewise, if you are using a teeth whitening, remineralizing, or antiseptic mouthwash, using it for longer than 1 minute does not enhance the effects. Swish the mouthwash thoroughly around the mouth and gums for 30-60 seconds.
For optimal oral health, you can brush and floss your teeth in the morning and evening, and use mouthwash twice daily after meals, to keep the mouth clean and fresh all day long. Review the ingredients to determine what type of mouthwash is best for your needs, and don’t use mouthwash immediately after brushing your teeth.