When it comes to building your oral care foundation, you need three things: a toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss. Use them well—and use them regularly—and you’ll probably be able to manage if you don’t have any significant dental problems. Anything more might seem extraneous. If this is the case, should you use mouthwash? Is it even necessary?
Well, yes and no. You don’t necessarily need mouthwash in your oral care regimen. But those who do have special oral needs might find certain medicated rinses helpful in alleviating their conditions. It also helps cut down on harmful oral bacteria, which was what it was initially meant to do. Listerine, one of the oldest mouthwash brands, started as an antiseptic for surgical wounds.
All this considered, then, should you still use mouthwash? And for what reasons?
People used mouthwash to disinfect over the centuries
Before its use as an antiseptic, mouthwash undergone various forms. From Portuguese urine to tortoise blood, ancient civilizations had long used DIY rinses to keep their mouth clean and to ward off tooth pain. Even then people worried about bad breath, often looking for ways to dissipate the bad odor.
It’s interesting to note that this need seems to diverge from the original intent of the toothbrush and toothpaste. We recently talked about how early toothpaste had more abrasive ingredients to clean the teeth, although never quite targeted oral bacteria and germs. One could then say that mouthwash became a necessary supplement that covered the problems brushing could not.
As toothpaste evolved, however, the need for mouthwash grew less and less. Modern toothpaste now contains antibacterial ingredients that the rinses of yore would have aspired for. What then called for a full brush-floss-rinse eventually needed only a brush-floss.
That being said, why then should you use mouthwash?
Mouthwash helps alleviate the effects of some oral conditions
Most people tend to use mouthwash to combat bad breath. If you’re one of them, that’s perfectly fine—in a way, it’s one of the main draws mouthwash has in conjunction with an oral hygiene routine. And it’s an intentional one, as well—The Smithsonian notes how companies framed halitosis as a medical condition to sell more mouthwash.
We established, however, that some causes of halitosis are more complex than merely forgetting to brush your teeth. We previously talked about the different types of mouthwash you can purchase. There are two varieties: cosmetic and therapeutic. Cosmetic mouthwashes tend to sweeten the breath temporarily, but do not target the actual causes of halitosis. Instead, they tend to mask the odor. On the other hand, therapeutic mouthwashes have active ingredients which zero in on the origins.
If a therapeutic mouthwash caters to a specific oral ailment, like gingivitis, you’ll need a prescription from your dentist. It’s because each of these specialty rinses contains a particular combination of ingredients that cater to treating the disease. Depending on what issue you have or how severe the problem is, they may include:
- An astringent,
- An antimicrobial,
- An antibacterial agent,
- An anti-tartar agent,
- A pain reliever.
If you do have a dental problem, this type of mouthwash may be necessary for your routine.