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Is Mouthwash Wrecking Your Oral Microbiome? Let’s talk about it!

Swish, swish, gargle and spit. Nothing beats that icy fresh feeling of a clean mouth. But can your mouth be too clean?

You know how your gut has both good and bad bacteria? Well, your oral microbiome works the same way.

Mouthwash freshens bad breath, can help reduce plaque and gingivitis, as well as fight tooth decay and prevent cavities.

Good oral bacteria = many important functions, including rebuilding enamel
Bad oral bacteria = health issues leading to disease

There are lots of controversies out there whether using mouthwash is helpful or harmful for our oral health.

Here are some facts:

  • The mouthwash can’t replace using a toothbrush.

  • The mouthwash can’t replace using dental floss.

  • Mouthwash can change the level of both bad and good bacteria.

  • ·A wrong mouthwash can dry your mouth and that can lead to a mouth prone to have dental decay/cavities. Less saliva means more gum disease and bad breath.

  • Your mouthwash will not fix a bad breath. Find the problem with a dental professional and address it – do not just cover it with minty flavors.

  • Alcohol based mouthwash is not recommended as it totally disrupts the delicate balance of your oral microbiome.

  • Your mouth should balance your pH.

  • Your mouthwash must not contain toxic ingredients as those will be quickly absorbed in your body and let’s agree we have enough chemicals around us.

  • Special antiseptic mouthwash can be used only as prescribed by your dental professional and not as a daily routine habit (such as Chlorhexidine that will cause teeth staining, if used inappropriately).

We want to keep the good bacteria in our mouth and destroy the bad one but most over the counter brands of mouthwash can't tell the difference between good and bad bacteria, so it kills off both kinds.

Mouthwash is supposed to freshen your breath, prevent cavities, and keep your gums healthy, right? That’s possible only if you a gentle one: a special and clean ingredients bio-formula mouthwash.

Let’s dig into the science and learn why your oral microbiome might hate the regular mouthwash, and why it is important to use better alternatives.

Many dental experts (including the ADA) support the positive benefits of killing off the nasties in your mouth that lead to disease.

According to other dental professionals, mouthwash may be “one of the top dental mistakes”. WAIT - WHAT!?

What We Know

The first reference of “mouth rinsing” as a formal practice dates back to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), at about 2700 B.C. TCM practitioners used a simple saltwater rinse to treat gum disease.

Ancient upper-class Romans later took up the practice. And even Hippocrates advocated rinsing your mouth with a mix of salt, vinegar, and other minerals.

However, it wasn’t until the 1920s that commercial mouthwash became as common. A series of ads touting one popular brand as a cure for chronic halitosis (i.e., bad breath) convinced people to buy and use it.

That popular brand of mouthwash (that you see everywhere in grocery shops) was first created in the 1870s as a powerful antiseptic to kill bacteria and reduce surgical infections.

Thanks to those antiseptic properties, this mouthwash was also sold as a floor cleaner, cold remedy, cure for gonorrhea, preventative for “infectious dandruff,” and more.

Almost every commercial and over the counter mouthwash at the grocery or drug store now builds on the Listerine model: KILL ALL the germs and bacteria that live in your mouth.

How scientists think about oral bacteria and dental health has changed significantly since the 1920s. We now know the microorganisms in your mouth and teeth are a complex ecosystem.

Faculty at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine uncovered at least 615 different species of bacteria in the average person’s oral microbiome (and counting!).

So while marketers seized on the opportunity to “kill germs that cause bad breath,” mouthwash containing alcohol or other antibacterial agents also kill the hard-working beneficial bacteria. The “good” bacteria help manage and prevent the damage caused by the “bad.”

Just like antibiotics destroy both types of bacteria in your gut, regular mouthwash makes a clean sweep of the entire colony in your mouth.

Mouthwash freshens bad breath, can help reduce plaque and gingivitis, as well as fight tooth decay and prevent cavities.

Scientists say technological advancements have proved the importance of keeping the oral microbiome intact. Research shows a surviving community is better equipped to prevent infections from pathogens, ward off cavities, decrease your risk of gingivitis, and lessen bad breath.

While we still need more scientific studies to be sure, emerging research suggests that: A wrong mouthwash may cause more cavities and tooth decay as it halts remineralization.

Your diet, lifestyle, and dental hygiene can all whittle down your teeth’s protective outer layer of enamel. Remineralization is your smile’s natural repair process. Your saliva and your “good” oral bacteria deposit minerals such as phosphorus, magnesium, and vitamin K2 onto your teeth. This helps rebuild your teeth’s enamel to prevent cavities and even naturally reverse tooth decay.

But if you use mouthwash to destroy that bacteria, remineralization can’t happen, leaving you more vulnerable to dental problems.

In the age of constant hand-sanitizing, we all know alcohol creates a drying effect on our bodies. Over the counter mouthwash clocks in anywhere between 19% to almost 27% alcohol (in the form of ethanol), which is higher than most beer (~7%), wine (~13%), and some liquors. This concentrated source of alcohol zaps your mouth’s natural saliva production and dries up all the parts of your mouth that should be kept moist.

Less saliva means more gum disease and bad breath.

Recommendations from ConfiDent Palm Dentist team for the best oral health

Is Mouthwash Wrecking Your Oral Microbiome? Let’s talk about it!

  • Get a great electric toothbrush. If your hygienist or dentist recommends a manual one – go ahead!

  • Find a non-toxic toothpaste that aids remineralization.

  • Upgrade your basic mouthwash. Choose an alcohol-free and bio mouthwash that protects your good bacteria.

  • Use a tongue scraper - Tongue scraping removes the plaque buildup on your tongue to decrease bad-breath-causing bacteria. This manual removal process is easier on your mouth than gunk-dissolving chemicals.

  • Try oil pulling - The Ayurvedic principle of oil pulling leverages the antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial properties of coconut oil to target harmful bacteria while allowing beneficial bacteria to thrive.

  • Consider a change in diet. If you really want stronger, healthier teeth and better breath, add more foods rich in calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus to your diet. You may want to supplement to fill in any nutritional gaps.

  • Schedule regular checkups and cleanings at your dentist. An exam and a professional clean will not just remove unhealthy plaque buildup but will also help and show what areas in your mouth need more attention to prevent problems.

The Bottom Line

Mouthwash should never replace proper dental hygiene, which includes brushing at least twice a day and regular flossing.

This routine may be enough to maintain an optimal balance of good bacteria in your oral microbiome. Then your body can remineralize, manage bad breath, and prevent cavities and tooth decay naturally.

A good mouthwash will help your oral health. Choose wisely the product and read well the ingredients.

We still need additional studies to learn precise data, until then, keep the most important basics shared by your dental professionals and stay healthy!


Schedule an appointment by contacting us at +971 42 4040 21 or tap the WhatsApp button below.

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Secondary source educational information gathered by the author.


About ConfiDent ® Palm Dental Clinic.

State-of-the-art restorative and cosmetic dental practice awarded Leading Implant Center in GCC and the Middle East.

Our premium class practice uses sophisticated and precision-engineered German-made technology that helps us to perform all treatments at the highest level.

ConfiDent® Dental Surgery Clinic is located right in the center of the Palm Jumeirah, inside the Golden Mile Galleria Mall, building 8 on the mezzanine floor.


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