How to Use Mouthwash

Three Methods:Choosing MouthwashUsing it EffectivelyKnowing When to Use It

Using mouthwash correctly can freshen your breath, help prevent cavities and treat gingivitis. The most important first step is to choose the right kind of mouthwash. Use it once a day before or after brushing, or more often if your dentist instructs you to do so. See Step 1 to learn more about how to use mouthwash for better dental hygiene.

Method 1
Choosing Mouthwash

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    Use cosmetic mouthwash to mask bad breath. If your aim is simply to freshen up your breath, there are a variety of products you can choose from to cover the smell. These leave your mouth tasting pleasant and temporarily make your breath smell better. Cosmetic mouthwash is a good choice for rinsing after you've eaten a particularly pungent meal, like garlic spaghetti sauce. It serves the same function as an after-dinner mint, with fewer calories.
    • If you have chronic bad breath, cosmetic mouthwash isn't going to address the source of the issue. It masks bad smells, but it doesn't kill the bacteria that produces them. The point of cosmetic mouthwash is just to make your mouth taste and smell good.
    • You can make you own cosmetic mouthwash by adding 15 drops of peppermint or spearmint essential oil to a cup of water.
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    Use antimicrobial mouthwash to fight bacteria. If you're looking for a mouthwash that actually cleans your mouth, choose one with antimicrobial agents that reduce plaque and help fight gingivitis by killing harmful bacteria. Look for an over-the-counter mouthwash in the toothpaste aisle that is labeled as being antibacterial.
    • Using an antibacterial mouthwash will help you tackle the root of bad breath, which is often caused by bacteria.
    • You might also want to try an antiseptic mouthwash. This will kill bacteria as well as fungi, protozoa, and viruses. However, antiseptic mouthwash contains a lot of alcohol, which can dry out your mouth and cause irritation.[1]
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    Use fluoride mouthwash to prevent cavities. If your goal is specifically to keep your teeth from getting cavities, you might want to choose a mouthwash that contains fluoride. It helps to reduce the lesions that lead to cavity formation. Fluoride is in most commercially available toothpaste, and it is also added to the water in many cities, but you might want to consider using extra fluoride if your teeth are particularly prone to cavities.[2]
    • While fluoride does help to reduce cavities, some scientists posit that it can be toxic to the body and the environment.[3] Research the pros and cons of using fluoride before you decide to make it a part of your daily routine.
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    Use prescription mouthwash for medical purposes. If you have an infection or another medical condition, your doctor or dentist might prescribe a special mouthwash to treat the problem. Use the mouthwash as directed by your physician. Check the instructions that come with your prescription to learn about dosage and side effects.
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    Use herbal mouthwash to avoid dyes and chemicals. If you want to start using mouthwash, but would prefer to know exactly what you're using to rinse your teeth every day, choose one (or make your own) that is made with herbs that promote good oral health. Clove, peppermint and rosemary are all herbs that are traditionally used in preparations for the mouth and teeth due to their antibacterial, antiseptic and cooling properties.[4]

Method 2
Using it Effectively

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    Pour 20 ml into a small cup. This standard amount of mouthwash is enough to clean your teeth in one dose. Your bottle of mouthwash may have come with a small cup (often the bottle's cap) you can use to measure the correct amount. If your bottle didn't come with a cup, pour the mouthwash into a small cup you've set aside for this specific purpose. Some fluoride mouthwashes only require 10 ml. Read your label to determine how much to use.
    • Unless you're using a prescription mouthwash, don't worry too much about using the exact amount. Use enough mouthwash to fill your mouth without making you feel uncomfortable.
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    Pour it into your mouth. Tip the cup into your mouth and pour in all of the mouthwash at once. Close your mouth to create a seal so that the mouthwash won't squirt out when you start swishing it. Do not swallow the mouthwash. It may contain strong chemicals that are not meant to be ingested.
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    Swish it through your teeth for 30 seconds to a minute. Follow the directions on the bottle to learn exactly how long you should swish the mouthwash. Make sure it swishes in front of and behind your teeth. Swish it through your molars as well as your front teeth. Swish it under your tongue and across the roof of your mouth, too.
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    Spit it out. When you're done swishing, spit it out into the sink. Rinse out the sink to get rid of the used mouthwash.
    • Depending on what type of mouthwash you used, you might need to wait 1/2 hour or more before drinking water or eating in order to increase the effectiveness of the mouthwash. Read the directions on the bottle to find out if you should wait.

Method 3
Knowing When to Use It

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    Use it before or after brushing. According to the American Dental Association, it doesn't matter whether you use mouthwash before or after brushing - both are equally effective. The more important thing is to use good quality mouthwash.[5]
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    Use it to freshen your breath anytime. You can carry a little bottle of mouthwash with you during the day to refresh your breath after meals. If you have a problem with bad breath, this can be a good alternative to popping breath mints all day long.
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    Don't substitute it for brushing and flossing. Mouthwash is meant to be a supplement to other oral hygiene practices - not a replacement. Make sure you continue to brush and floss your teeth as recommended by your dentist. In most cases you should brush twice a day and floss once. Use mouthwash every time you brush, or just in the morning or at night - it's your choice.
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    Ask your dentist for more information. If you're using mouthwash in an attempt to treat gingivitis, chronic bad breath, or cavities, you should make an appointment with your dentist to make sure you're using the right mouthwash. Mouthwash alone may not be effective enough to treat the problem you're dealing with, so it's important to get dental care before things get worse.


  • Don't rinse with water immediately after using mouthwash. The cleansing properties of mouthwash continue to work after you have spit it out, and rinsing with water will dilute the wash and minimize these effects.
  • Some mouthwashes with extreme mints can dry your mouth, so limit the use of it.
  • Use mouthwash that contains fluoride, which is very good for your teeth.


  • Do not swallow the mouthwash.
  • Try to avoid mouthwashes containing alcohol as this can increase risk for cancer and many other health risks[6].
  • Children should be kept away from mouthwash, or now that there are some available they can be given non-fluoride children's mouthwash. Ask your child's dentist about how much they should use.
  • Mint might be too strong for some people.
  • Always read the directions. Call poison control right away if you swallow more than used.
  • Some say to swish it around your mouth for different times, some amounts to use are different, too.

Article Info

Categories: Bad Breath Treatments