Using a mouthwash will never replace brushing and flossing your teeth. However, it could benefit your oral health as it can aid the manual removal of food debris and plaque, as well as freshening your breath and providing you with extra fluoride if needed.
In some mouthwashes, fluoride is added to strengthen teeth which are more susceptible to decay. Most people get a sufficient amount of fluoride from drinking water and toothpaste, however some people need extra help in strengthening their enamel and a fluoride mouthwash can help with this.
Anti bacterial based mouthwash acts to kill bacteria on contact, which can help to remove plaque – but it should never be used as a substitute to brushing and flossing. Bacteria that are left on the teeth converts sugar from our diets into acid that can then begin to attack the enamel of the teeth and cause dental decay.
The bacteria, which can become trapped between the teeth and on the tongue, can lead to gum disease which is the leading cause of tooth loss in the UK. The stagnant bacteria releases sulphurous chemicals, which create the pungent smell associated with bad breath. Mouthwashes that reduce bad breath all work to kill the bacteria that causes it.
If you chose to use a mouthwash, be sure to follow the instructions on the back of the bottle to get the maximum effect from your mouthwash. Whilst the clinical effects of mouthwashes have been proven, you have to continue to brush and floss your teeth, and mouthwash should be used as an added extra rather that a replacement. This is because a mouthwash will not remove bacteria between the teeth and under the gum line effectively.