Many Americans choose to use mouthwash to supplement their dental hygiene. While it will never replace the usual measures of brushing and flossing, mouthwash can reduce the levels of harmful bacteria in the mouth and combat cavities and gingivitis. In addition, it can help freshen your breath.
Many types of mouthwash are alcohol-based, which has become a cause for concern. Some studies have linked certain health risks to alcohol-based mouthwash, leading to the production of alcohol-free varieties. But are they as effective as alcohol-based brands?
While alcohol-based mouthwashes are certainly capable of killing bacteria, other types can still be just as effective. Neither will be 100% effective, which is why brushing and flossing are still important. Also, the effectiveness of a mouthwash is partly based on how long you have it in your mouth. Naturally, the longer it’s swishing around, the more bacteria you’ll kill off.
This is a problem for alcohol-based formulas since they cause a strong burning sensation in your mouth. This will often compel people to spit it out early, reducing its overall effectiveness.
Alcohol-based mouthwash also has the drawback of causing dry mouth. Alcohol is a desiccant—a drying agent—that dries up saliva in the mouth. Since you need saliva to wash away food particles and maintain nutrient levels in the mouth, this is obviously not desirable. Not only is it uncomfortable, but it can actually make bad breath worse and increase the risk of tooth decay.
Alcohol-free mouthwash doesn’t have this problem, making it a better bet for maintaining your oral health. The positive effect it has tends to last longer since it doesn’t upset the natural balance in your mouth the way alcohol-based brands do.
Anyone can use alcohol-free mouthwash. It won’t make children sick if they accidentally swallow it (which happens when first learning to use it). In addition, it lacks the burning sensation, making it easier to use for children and those who have oral health conditions, such as mouth sores or burning mouth syndrome.
For obvious reasons, recovering alcoholics also tend to prefer alcohol-free mouthwash.
Some studies have linked alcohol-based mouthwash with oral cancer, and while the data conflicts somewhat on the matter, it is still an issue that is worth considering. Alcohol consumption has already been shown to increase the risk of oral cancer, so it stands to reason that washing your mouth with an alcohol-based agent could have the same effect.
When choosing the right mouthwash for you, consult with your dentist. Dr. Lynn will be happy to help you with recommendations on mouthwash and other oral health measures. To learn more, contact the dedicated dentists at Lynn Dental Care today.