Brushing and flossing are vital to keeping your teeth and mouth healthy, but they aren’t the only tools you have! Mouthwash can also help keep those pearly whites healthy! You may think you know all you need to about mouthwash. Brush, floss, swish with some mouthwash, and you’re good to go, right? Not necessarily! 

Freeman Orthodontics has a few tips and tricks to getting the most out of your mouthwash. Did you know timing is important when it comes to mouthwash? Do you know what to look for when buying mouthwash? We have the answers you need!

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When Do I Use Mouthwash?

Sure, you can use mouthwash anytime, but there is a certain time when your mouthwash will work best. Most people think the best time to use mouthwash is right after brushing. Actually, that may be one of the worst times to use it! 

Your toothpaste puts a coating of fluoride on your teeth. That fluoride strengthens your enamel (the hard outer shell), but only after interacting with your saliva for about half an hour. Your saliva “activates” the fluoride. Using mouthwash after brushing washes off the fluoride before it has a chance to activate. Sure, it may add its own fluoride, but it would be a lot better to have double the protection from fluoride. It’s best to use mouthwash a couple of hours after brushing, so you get the best of both worlds! 

How Often Should I Use Mouthwash? 

To get the best protection, it’s recommended that you use mouthwash at least twice a day. You should also wait until at least half an hour after you use your mouthwash before eating or drinking. As with your toothpaste, the fluoride in your mouthwash takes that long to activate and provide maximum protection to your teeth. 

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Can Mouthwash Replace Brushing and Toothpaste?

How many times has it happened? You’re running late, you think you don’t have time to brush your teeth, so you swish some mouthwash and you’re out the door. But hey, mouthwash alone is fine, right? Wrong. 

You need to brush your teeth because the brush removes all the plaque that can build up and cause tooth decay. Your mouthwash won’t remove all of the plaque. Also, with a layer of plaque on your teeth, your mouthwash will have to work harder to get that enamel-strengthening fluoride to do its job. Always make time for those two minutes you need to brush your teeth properly in the morning. 

Will My Mouthwash Expire?

You may not think about mouthwash expiring, but it can happen. Over time, the ingredients in the mouthwash break down and become less effective. That’s why they put expiration dates on them. 

Some mouthwash expires sooner than others. In general, mouthwash can last up to two years if stored in a cool, dark place. One type of mouthwash can be used after the expiration date, though it’s not recommended. The other type definitely needs to go once it’s expired.

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Types of Mouthwash

Cosmetic mouthwash is your typical mouthwash that’s made to mask bad breath. It usually doesn’t have fluoride or other minerals added to help battle tooth decay. It’s also not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, but it still should have an expiration date. However, since all it does is freshen your breath, it can be used after the expiration date. It may get pretty nasty after a while, so it’s good to replace it after the two-year mark anyway. 

Therapeutic mouthwash is regulated by the FDA because it has specific ingredients that are added for a specific reason. Added ingredients can range from fluoride and essential oils to peroxide, cetylpyridinium chloride, chlorhexidine and other ingredients. They may be used to battle chronic bad breath (halitosis) or severe tooth decay. The expiration date on therapeutic mouthwash lets you know when the added ingredients are no longer effective. The mouthwash shouldn’t be used after that. 

Whoo! Is that Mouthwash Burn Killing Germs?

Mouthwash has that “tingly” feeling when you put it into your mouth. Why is that? Well, it’s because most mouthwash has alcohol to kill the germs in your mouth. That alcohol is what gives mouthwash that “burn.” Menthol in “mint” mouthwashes can also add to that tingling sensation. Burn or no, you still need to swish it in your mouth for at least 30 seconds to be effective. 

On very rare occasions, people discover they have an allergy to either the alcohol or the menthol. If the burn becomes painful, immediately spit out the mouthwash and rinse your mouth thoroughly. Be sure you read all the ingredients before buying your mouthwash. If necessary, try an alcohol-free mouthwash. Several major mouthwash manufacturers offer alcohol-free versions of their products. 

How Mouthwash Benefits You

Brushing and flossing daily will always be the most important things you can do to prevent tooth decay, but mouthwash can help, too. Mouthwash reaches parts of your teeth that brushing or flossing may not. This is especially true for patients with braces, because the mouthwash may be able to get under wires and around brackets better than you can. It’s best to use mouthwash with fluoride for that added protection. 

The right mouthwash can strengthen your enamel and prevent tooth decay. It can even reduce bacteria in your mouth. Mouthwash in general does a great job of keeping your mouth moist and breath fresh temporarily. However, if you have a dry mouth or bad breath, check with your doctor or dentist. These can be caused by chronic issues or by medications you might be taking. There may be ways to alleviate the symptoms beyond constantly using mouthwash. 

Get More Info on Mouthwash

Mouthwash is a great tool in the fight against tooth decay and gum disease. We recommend using mouthwash, particularly if you’re a patient with braces or Invisalign, as it makes it easier to reach those tough spots. If you’re in the San Jose, CA, area, start by scheduling an appointment with us. We’ll evaluate you during a free, no-obligation consultation and let you know what we can do to help you have the most beautiful smile possible! 

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