To Rinse, Or Not To Rinse, That Is The Question?

At Urban Dental, we get asked a lot of questions about dental products, as you would expect! However, mouth rinse or mouth wash, whichever you prefer to call it,

seems to raise a lot of questions for patients.

So, at Urban Dental, we decided that it’s time to talk about mouth rinse and whether you need and should be using a mouth rinse. We also just wanted to clear up once and for all the answer to this question,

“Can I just use a mouth rinse instead of brushing and flossing?”

NO! Sorry to be so blunt, but no.

Mouth rinse is not a substitute for brushing and flossing. It can be used in conjunction with brushing and flossing, but it is not a replacement because it works differently.

You see, brushing and cleaning in between your teeth acts to mechanically remove and disrupt plaque. Plaque is that clear-whitish, sticky layer of bacteria which coats your teeth and mouth. It is responsible for causing dental diseases, like decay and gum disease, if it is not effectively removed.

Unfortunately, mouth rinse cannot do this.

Mouth rinse instead relies on a chemical control by ingredients to disrupt or alter the bacteria. But after rinsing the bacterial biofilm, is often still left on your teeth. This means that mechanically cleaning your teeth is more effective at keeping your mouth healthy and clean.

At Urban Dental, our favourite analogy that we give our patients to explain this is,

“Think of when you wash your dishes. If you just rinse your plates with soapy water to wash them, once they are dry, you will still feel little food particles stuck to them. But if you use a dishcloth or brush, then it mechanically removes those food particles which get stuck to the plate that water and soap could not remove. This concept works the same way in your mouth.”

So, no, mouth rinse cannot replace the need to brush and clean in between your teeth! Rather, it should be used as an additional or adjunct product to your cleaning regime.

So, should you use a mouth rinse?

Some people really enjoy that “fresh mouth” feeling that they get from using a mouth rinse. In general, though, it is more like a cosmetic rather than a functional or therapeutic reason for using one.

Whether you need to use a mouth rinse depends on your risk factors for dental disease.

Some mouth rinses have antiseptic or antibacterial properties. This means that they contain special ingredients like chlorhexidine to help reduce and control specific bacteria in the mouth, such as the bacteria known to cause gum disease.

Other mouth rinses may contain a higher concentration of fluoride, which helps to remineralise, strengthen, and protect the teeth from dental decay.

Additionally, there are mouth rinses available that are designed for people who suffer from xerostomia. Xerostomia is the term used for people who suffer from a dry mouth, which can be caused by poor or reduced salivary function. These rinses contain saliva substitutes which can help to neutralise acids and keep the mouth moist and lubricated.

While people often enjoy the ‘fresh mouth’ feeling that they get

from using a mouth rinse, using a mouth rinse is not necessarily required.

At Urban Dental, we think that it is best to speak to your oral health professional before using one. They can also advise you as to which one is best for you. They can help you to understand your risk factors for dental disease and assess whether using one is going to be beneficial or not. This could, in the long run, save you time and money.

Can mouth rinse cause damage?

Some mouth rinses, especially those containing special ingredients, are not designed for prolonged use or overuse. Also, some rinses may not be recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women. Therefore, it is important to talk to your oral health professional and read the labels before you start using them.

Additionally, concerns have been raised about whether it is okay and safe to use an alcohol-containing mouth rinse. Alcohol was once commonly used in mouth rinses as a means of stabilising or carrying the active ingredients. However, alcohol has been shown to dry the mouth out, often referred to as a drying agent. It is proposed that they could potentially increase your risk of dental disease.

Therefore, at Urban Dental, if we recommend a mouth rinse, it will usually be a rinse which is alcohol-free.

Can children use a mouth rinse?

Children do not need to use mouth rinse either, unless it has been prescribed by your oral health professional.

But often, they are not recommended because they could inadvertently swallow or ingest the rinse, rather than spitting it out.

Hopefully, this helps to answer any questions you may have about whether you

need or should be using a mouth rinse.


a mouth rinse is not a substitute for practicing good oral hygiene habits at home. It is also important to speak with your oral health professional before using one.

If you still have any questions or concerns, please contact the Urban Dental team on 07 3839 9488 or email us at

We are always here to help!

Don’t forget to check back regularly or follow us on social media

as we continue to share our dental knowledge with you and answer your dental questions!


  • American Dental Association. Mouthwash. (2019). URL:

  • Figuero E, Nobrega DF, Garcia-Gargallo M, Tenuta LMA, Herrera D, Carvalho JC. Mechanical and chemical plaque control in the simultaneous management of gingivitis and caries: a systematic review. J Cli Periodontaol. 201;44(18): s116-134.

  • Harrison P. Plaque control and oral hygiene methods. Irish Dental Association. 2017;63(3): 151-156.

  • Jafer M, Patil S, Hosmani J, Bhandi SH, Chalisserry EP, Anil S. Chemical plaque control strategies in the prevention of biofilm-associated oral diseases. J Contemp Dent Pract 2016;17(4):337-343.

  1. McCullough MJ, Farah CS. The role of alcohol in oral carcinogenesis with particular reference to alcohol-containing mouthwashes. Australian Dental Journal. 2008; 53:302-305.

  2. Ustrell-Borras M, Traboulsi-Garet B, Gay-Escoda C. Alcohol-based mouthwash as a risk factor of oral cancer: a systmatoc review. Med Oral Patol Oral Cir Bucal. 2020; 25(1):e1-e12.

The information in this article is for general guidance only. It does not constitute professional advice, and should not be relied on in making any decisions that may affect your general and oral health. Because it is intended only as a general guide, it may contain generalisations. You should obtain professional advice from a registered health care professional if you need advice.

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