Mouthwash help's to rinse away food debris and bacteria after brushing, but it's not an essential part of a good oral hygiene routine. However, it doesn’t do any harm either, and might help to fight bad breath.
Many people like rinsing with mouthwash after brushing their teeth, because they feel that the mouthwash is clearing away whatever loose debris is remaining in their mouth.
While this is true, rinsing with water after brushing is equally effective.
It's important to note that while mouthwash is a good addition is to an effective oral hygiene routine, it is not a substitute for regular brushing and flossing. That said, it can help freshen your breath, and it’s mostly harmless.
This may surprise you, if you’ve heard about the studies over the years that connect mouthwash use to things like cancer and heart disease.
For example, a recent study in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine found that some mouthwashes could raise blood pressure by wiping out a type of mouth bacteria that helps the body generate nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is known to play a critical role in protecting the cardiovascular system, including regulating blood pressure.
This particular study however, focused on mouthwashes that contain a strong antibacterial agent called chlorhexidine, which is generally only available by prescription. It was also a very small study of only 19 participants, and therefore more research is required to support its findings.
Since the 1990s, studies have suggested that mouthwashes that contain alcohol may contribute to the development of oral cancers. However, many experts say that these studies are flawed and focus on excessive mouthwash use—three or more rinses a day.
In addition, several review studies have failed to find links between the alcohol found in mouthwash and cancer.
It is important to be aware, though, that mouthwashes with alcohol in them can dry out your mouth, so if you have issues with dry mouth, choose an alcohol-free brand.
Antiseptic or antibacterial mouth rinses present a more complicated issue. Only people who suffer from gum disease or with harmful types of oral bacteria should use these types of rinses. If you're thinking of using one, be sure to consult with your dentist first.
If you have healthy teeth and a healthy mouth, select a mild mouthwash without alcohol or strong antibacterial agents.
Ultimately, mouthwash might feel nice and refreshing to use, but it really doesn’t do much other than (possibly) help reduce bad breath. If you like mouthwash, there’s no medical reason not to use it in moderation, but if you want to save some money, just rinse with water instead.