Ask The Dentist: Can Mouthwash Replace Brushing?

You’re running late for an important meeting, and you hurriedly swish around a bit of mouthwash instead of taking the time to brush your teeth. We’ve all been there. Although this shouldn’t be a problem every once in awhile, keep in mind that mouthwash can never replace tooth brushing.

Mouthwash can be a wonderful supplement to your dental routine, but it should never replace another routine necessity such as brushing. Although mouthwash may feel like it cleans your teeth as good as brushing, remember that its main purpose is to freshen the breath, not cleanse the mouth.  Even mouthwashes with fluoride cannot replace brushing and flossing, which are the only ways to remove plaque. Plaque is the hard substance that is formed when the bacteria in your mouth stick to your teeth, and it can only be removed physically or mechanically.

You can think of this like washing your car. How clean would your car get if you only sprayed it with water? You must use soap and scrub the dirt off to properly clean your car. Similarly, you cannot just rinse your teeth with mouthwash and expect them to be clean – you must brush and floss to remove the plaque.

Choosing to skip brushing leaves your teeth exposed to all of the food, acid, and bacteria contained in your mouth. This can turn to plaque and eat away at your enamel, causing serious oral health problems. Unfortunately, mouthwash cannot prevent this – only proper brushing and flossing can.

Aside from failing to remove plaque, many mouthwashes contain alcohol. This can dry out your mouth, which is normally already dry during the night. Alcohol slows saliva production, and saliva is a natural plaque reducer. Some also argue the alcohol-containing mouthwashes are linked to cancer. We recommend using an alcohol-free mouthwash, but if you prefer an alcohol-containing mouthwash, use it sparingly.

If you notice persistent bad breath even after brushing, you may need to consult with your dentist. Of course bad breath in certain situations is normal, such as after eating onions or garlic, but if you bad breath continues you may have gum disease. If you cannot remove your bad breath with brushing and mouthwash, you should make an appointment with your dentist to inspect the possible causes.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us today!

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