Mouthwash is helpful for rinsing away food debris and bacteria after brushing, but it's certainly not an essential part of a good oral hygiene routine.
Many people enjoy rinsing with mouthwash after brushing their teeth because they feel that it's clearing away any loose debris left over after brushing. While this is actually true, rinsing with water after brushing can do the exact same thing.
It's important to remember that while mouthwash is a good addition is to a proper oral hygiene routine, not a substitute. Mouthwashes and mouth rinses will never take the place of proper brushing, flossing, and visiting the dentist, but it can help freshen your breath, and it’s mostly harmless.
This may surprise you, if you’ve heard about the studies over the years that connect mouthwash use to things like cancer and heart disease.
One relatively recent study in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine found that some mouthwashes could raise blood pressure by wiping out a type of mouth bacteria that helps the body generate nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is known to play a critical role in protecting the cardiovascular system, including keeping blood pressure down.
This study however, focused on mouthwashes that contained a strong antibacterial agent called chlorhexidine. Mouthwashes containing chlorhexidine are typically only available by prescription from your dentist. Also it's important to note that this was a very small study of only 19 participants. Further research using a larger group of participants is required in order to support this study's findings.
Some studies conducted since the 1990s have suggested mouthwashes that contain alcohol could contribute to the development of oral cancers. Many experts however, say that these studies are flawed because they focused on excessive mouthwash use of three or more times daily. Since these studies were conducted several review studies have failed to find links between alcohol rinses and cancer.
Mouthwashes containing alcohol can dry out your mouth. So, if you have issues with dry mouth, be sure to use an alcohol-free variety of mouthwash.
A more complicated issue is presented by antiseptic or antibacterial mouth rinses. These should only be used by people who have periodontal disease or other harmful types of oral bacteria. If you feel that you could benefit from using this sort of mouthwash consult with your dentist first.
People with healthy teeth and mouths who want to use mouthwash should select a mild variety without alcohol or strong antibacterial agents.
In the end, it's fair to say that mouthwashes might feel nice and refreshing to use, but they really don't do much other than (possibly) help reduce bad breath. If you like mouthwash, there’s no medical reason not to use it once or twice a day, but if you would prefer to save some money, just rinse with water instead.