Fact or fable: rinsing with mouth water does more harm than good

rinsing with mouth water
What do you really know about rinsing with mouth water?

Floss, toothpicks, toothbrush and toothpaste: these are all part of the standard bathroom dental care collection of someone who wants to avoid cavities. In many a bathroom you’ll also find a bottle of mouth water, but we wondered… Does this really help against tooth decay?

To what extent does mouth water really protect your teeth?


As a child, you start with your baby teeth and then, after a few years, you have a whole new set of teeth. These new ones have to last you a whole lifetime, though. Regularly going to the dentist, brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing; we do all this like we’re supposed to. Some people also use mouth water, but according to Lance Vernon, professor in dentistry at the Case Western Reverse University School of Dental Medicine, this has little use.

No alternative for brushing

Rinsing your mouth with mouth water isn’t really all that effective, Lance Vernon explains. According to the professor, brushing your teeth for a mere five seconds is already better for your teeth than using mouth water. Mouth water mostly poses a problem for lazy people. The professor explains that some people think rinsing with mouth water is a good alternative to brushing your teeth, but this certainly isn’t the case.


Dagmar Else Slot, who’s a dental hygienist and researcher, says that mouth water isn’t completely useless. According to research, people who both brush their teeth and also rinse with mouth water have less dental issues like inflamed gums and dental plaque than people who only brush.


A while ago there were rumours that mouth water could cause cancer, but is this really true, and how does that work? Back in 2012, Italian researchers did a study on this, but they couldn’t find any evidence that mouth water was indeed carcinogenic. Later, a different study in 4000 people did show that people who rinsed their mouth with mouth water at least three times a day had a higher chance of getting mouth cancer. There is a bit of nuance to this, though, because Dagmar Else Slot explains that rinsing with mouth water three times a day is a bit excessive. She states that people who rinse more often might do that because they have halitosis. This halitosis might be caused by a health problem like mouth cancer. So, it might also be the case that people who use a lot of mouth water don’t know they’re dealing with the symptoms of mouth cancer.


Do you have normal teeth? Then it isn’t necessary to use mouth water, but it might have a few benefits. It is important to not use mouth water too often, though. Just stick to the maximum of once or twice a day, as advised by the package leaflet.

Read more: Overhydration is a thing: this is how your body tells you you’re drinking too much water

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Source: HLN | Image: Pixabay