Is Mouthwash Bad for You?
We’ve all seen the commercials — just 30 seconds of swishing mouthwash and your teeth will be whiter, your gums will be healthier, and all your bad breath problems will disappear! Except, that’s not really what’s happening.
In fact, we consider mouthwash to be one of the top dental mistakes made by both dentists and their patients.
Marketing propaganda aside, it’s important to understand that mouthwash isn’t just a way for manufacturers to make more money. Not only will mouthwash not live up to the claims spouted in expensive commercials and on flashy labels, but conventional mouthwash can actually make your dental and oral health problems worse. Contrary to popular belief, the killing of “99.9% of germs” does not actually aid your dental health by preventing cavity formation.
Mouthwash and other bacteria-killing options developed to prevent and heal dental disease don’t work. They don’t work because they harm the most important immunity tool your oral health has: the oral microbiome.
Think of mouthwash as the equivalent of unnecessary antibiotics in your mouth. In the same way that antibiotics totally disrupt the balance of bacteria in your gut (which can lead to poor immune function and a host of other problems), mouthwash destroys all bacteria indiscriminately.
And just like you need them for gut health, you need good bacteria to support your oral microbiome, which can decrease the risk for common issues like cavities, gingivitis, and bad breath. If you kill all the bacteria in your mouth (both good and bad), you eliminate a critical part of the equation in reversing tooth decay.
It’s incredibly important to have sufficient saliva in your mouth, as it supports the process of remineralization, helping you prevent and reverse cavities naturally. Further, saliva serves to disorganize the oral bacteria that can cause decay, while also depositing important minerals like phosphorus, magnesium, and vitamin K2 onto the teeth. Unfortunately, mouthwash disrupts the mouth’s natural production of saliva.
Toothpaste contains anionic compounds to kill bacteria that remain after brushing; meanwhile, the high alcohol content in mouthwash contains cationic compounds that neutralize what your toothpaste has left behind. The reaction between these two types of compounds creates a drying effect in your cheeks and mouth.