Mouth Rinse or Mouthwash: Is There a Difference?


Our patients often ask about products. Dental hygiene is one of those areas where stores can sell products with ambiguous claims that are often loosely based on science. Two types of products that cause the most confusion are mouth rinse and mouthwash. What is the difference, and how do you know which will most improve your oral health?

For those who are suffering from poor oral hygiene, on-shelf products are well marketed and attractive. Not knowing the difference can lead to issues. If you get confused about the difference between mouthwash and mouth rinse, here’s what you should know:

Mouth Rinse

Let’s start with a mouth rinse, which isn’t necessarily a product you need to buy from the pharmacist. In most cases, the rinse is used before brushing your teeth. As well as freshening your breath, a good mouth rinse can element plague and many of the harmful bacteria in your mouth.

  • Dentist Recommendations A mouth rinse can be a simple solution of salt and water. Rather than drinking the rinse, you should swish it around the mouth and gargle. Saltwater can draw out bacteria and soothe a sore throat. You should not swallow the water but, instead, ensure that every area of the mouth and opening of the throat are rinsed.


Once you have completed your brushing and flossing regimen, you would use mouthwash.  Active ingredients in mouthwash vary, but most kill bacteria and remove plaque from surface tooth areas and the gums. As an antiseptic solution, mouthwash can prevent the spread or kill harmful bacteria.

You will find that most mouthwashes have a high alcohol content as an active ingredient. Antiseptics, flavoring, zinc, hydrogen peroxide, and fluoride are also key ingredients for maintaining good oral health.

  • Dentist Recommendations A dentist should recommend the most effective mouthwash for your specific needs. If you suffer from repeat bouts of gum disease, oral hygiene education combined with an antibacterial mouthwash is typically the best treatment option.

Fighting Gum Disease & Tooth Decay

It is vital to combat gum disease before the condition gets out of control. Periodontitis is a severe progression of gum disease that can result in loss of bone, tissue, or teeth. You should learn and practice good oral hygiene habits to prevent periodontitis. Mouth rinsing and using mouthwash properly help to control the levels of bacteria in the mouth.

Poor oral hygiene can lead to tooth decay and loss. A saltwater solution should be gargled for approximately 30 seconds, before swishing around the mouth several times. Similarly, mouthwash should be swished around the mouth for 30 seconds to a minute.

If you suspect that you have gum disease, contact your dentist right away. Early intervention will help protect your teeth and gums. Call our offices today to book an appointment for a comprehensive exam and deep clean. All patients are provided with extensive education in oral healthcare.

Remember, healthy teeth make a healthy smile!

Dr. Nishan Halim

Nishan Halim, DMD specializes in a comprehensive approach to dental care in his Capitol Hill, Washington DC neighborhood dental center. When treatment plans include specialty work, he coordinates every step with the practitioners you choose from his referral network. Contact Dr. Halim to schedule an appointment.


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