Do I have to use mouthwash if I brush and floss my teeth daily?

Rita Medwid

Everything you do to have a cleaner mouth will improve your oral health and general health. Flossing, then brushing is best and you can follow by swishing your mouth with water, to dislodge any food particles. You do not need to use mouthwash, for at times it is an added expense. Read the labels on the mouthwash to see if it will be a benefit to you. Some have a high percentage of alcohol that can have a negative effect of drying the mouth, especially people on cancer treatment, high blood pressure meds, antidepressants, and diabetics. The aging process and loss of hormones also can decrease saliva flow. For people with dry mouth syndrome, some mouthwashes are a benefit. Check for ones that say on the label that they are moisture replenishing. The best thing will be to talk it over with your dentist at your next visit.

Mouthwashes are generally cosmetic and do not have a long-lasting effect on bad breath. If you must constantly use a breath freshener to hide unpleasant mouth odor, see your dentist. If you need extra help in controlling plaque, your dentist may recommend using a special antimicrobial mouth rinse. A fluoride mouth rinse, used along with brushing and flossing, can help prevent tooth decay.

Look for the American Dental Association Seal when purchasing oral care products so you know they have been thoroughly evaluated for safety and effectiveness.
Carol Jahn

A mouthwash can be a great addition to brushing and flossing, but it does add one more thing to your daily routine. A really easy, efficient way to use mouthwash is to put it in your Water Flosser. A Water Flosser is an easy, effective alternative to string floss so you can combine two steps into one.

Dante A. Gonzales, DMD
Orthodontics & Dentofacial Orthopedics
Any little thing you do will help. But using a mouthwash should be secondary to brushing and flossing. Most mouthwashes are only effective at the very surface. If plaque and bacteria are allowed to build up on the teeth and tissues, the mouthwash is not very effective at penetrating into the plaque. Therefore, for most mouthwashes and fluoride rinses to be effective you must clean the teeth and gums first with brushing and flossing.
Personally, I am not crazy about mouthwash. To start, it really doesn't do much but give a quick shot of bacteria killing (that doesn't last very long). Sure, your breath will be fresh for a few minutes, but trust me, the bacteria returns very quickly.

The downside is most over the counter mouthwashes contain alcohol. Alcohol dries out your mouth (which makes it a bacteria haven), and has also been linked to oral cancer. I find using a water flosser (water piks and the like) with a tiny shot of peroxide to be a better germ-killing solution. Or just rinse/gargle using plain water.

You don't have to do anything you don't want to do, but the American Dental Association suggests that you probably should add rinsing with a fluoride antimicrobial mouthwash along with brushing with a fluoride toothpaste and flossing daily. You can buy mouthwashes over-the-counter that contain fluoride, alcohol, and other antimicrobial ingredients. Check for the ADA seal of acceptance. This seal shows that the ADA has rigorously tested the product to be safe and effective. Adding mouthwashes can prevent dental cavities and tooth decay. Rinsing for 30 seconds after brushing is enough to give you the protection you need. People with diabetes should definitely use mouthwashes because they are at higher risk for dental cavities and gum disease.

Continue Learning about Healthy Teeth & Mouth

What are the three classic types of smiles?
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MDDr. Mehmet Oz, MD
There are three classic types of smiles that include the following: Mona Lisa (two-thirds of peo...
More Answers
How can I find a dentist in a foreign country?
American Dental AssociationAmerican Dental Association
The following are resources for finding a dentist in a foreign country: Before you travel abroad,...
More Answers
How Can a Healthy Smile Affect My Self Confidence?
How Can a Healthy Smile Affect My Self Confidence?
What Your Tongue Says About Your Oral Health
What Your Tongue Says About Your Oral Health

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.