What does your twice daily oral hygiene routine look like? Maybe you floss first, then brush thoroughly, and then finish up with a swig of mouthwash. It’s not surprising that many people like to include mouthwash in their oral hygiene routine. Not only does mouthwash leave your breath fresh and your mouth feeling clean, it’s also advertised as being an extremely effective tool against bacteria. But what if your mouthwash is destroying the wrong kinds of oral bacteria? A new study suggests that minty-fresh rinse could be doing you more harm than good.
The Pros and Cons of Mouthwash
Whether or not mouthwash is good for your oral hygiene has been a subject of some debate in the dental field. There are definitely some benefits to the stuff:
- It often contains fluoride. Fluoride has been proven to reduce dental decay, so a fluoride mouthwash could help protect from cavities.
- It’s anti-bacterial. Some bacteria can contribute to gum disease, so anti-bacterial mouthwash could reduce your risk.
- It freshens breath. More of a social benefit than a health benefit, mouthwash can make your breath smell fresher.
Unfortunately, there are also some negatives when it comes to mouthwash use. For example, those anti bacterial agents in mouthwash can either discolor your teeth, or cause damage to the mucus membranes in your mouth, depending on the type. Many mouthwashes are dangerous if swallowed, and that fresh breath isn’t really a solution — just a cover-up.
Still, these pros and cons are mild enough that many people consider mouthwash worth the risks. Unfortunately, new research suggests that the cons may be starting to outweigh the pros.
Mouthwash Could Increase Risk of Diabetes
You may have heard that oral bacteria causes gum disease and dental decay, but what you may not realize is that only some oral bacteria causes these problems. In fact, your mouth is full of bacteria of all kinds, much of it absolutely necessary for a healthy mouth. That’s why it’s important that our oral hygiene routines protect us from disease-causing bacteria, but leave healthy bacteria alone. The antibacterial compounds in mouthwash are not discriminating in terms of which bacteria they destroy, which one new study thinks may be a problem.
The study found a correlation between people with diabetes and people who use mouthwash at least twice a day. Their theory? The “good” bacteria that form nitric oxide, a chemical compound that regulates insulin, is being killed off by the mouthwash.
Of course, one observational study isn’t enough to draw a reliable link between mouthwash and diabetes. But the good news is, good oral hygiene is perfectly easy to achieve without mouthwash. As long as you brush twice a day, floss daily, and visit your dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings, you shouldn’t need to risk the possible negative effects of mouthwash to keep your breath fresh and your teeth healthy.