Brushing and Flossing

Can Rinsing With Mouthwash Replace Brushing?

Are you rinsing with mouthwash when you don't have time to brush? Find out why this habit is hurting your health and even might be the culprit of bad breath.

by Dr. Burhenne

Can rinsing with Listerine mouthwash replace brushing?

Jessica Simpson admitted in an interview recently that when she doesn’t have time to brush, she uses Listerine and her sweater.

It goes without saying that not brushing your teeth is, well, gross, and can also lead to tooth decay, gum disease, and other problems.

However, when you’re in a hurry, using mouthwash as a quick way to freshen up is a tempting quick fix. I’d like to explain how dangerous this is.

Alcohol-containing Mouthwashes Are Thought to Cause Cancer

You know that burning sensation you feel when using mouthwash? That’s the alcohol drying out the mouth – which causes cells to die and increases your risk of oral cancer.

Crest, Scope, and Listerine are not the only culprits. Don’t buy any wash with alcohol, namely ethanol, in it. Chlorine dioxide is another ingredient you want to stay away from.

Alcohol-containing Mouthwashes Worsen Bad Breath

In addition to increasing your cancer risk, these mouthwashes don’t even do what they’re supposed to! The high levels of alcohol in mouthwash make bad breath worse by drying out the mouth. Don’t be fooled by the “minty” flavor of your Listerine or Scope mouthwash – that’s just a masking agent.

The fix for bad breath is this: Brush and floss your teeth after each meal. It’s that simple. If you still want to use mouthwash, go with Tom’s of Maine’s alcohol-free mouthwash, but don’t use it as a replacement for brushing.

White Teeth Do Not Necessarily Mean Healthy Teeth

I’ve seen a lot of talk on the web about how Jessica doesn’t need to brush since she whitens her teeth. This is dead wrong.

Whitening teeth does not remove plaque, which is the stuff responsible for tooth decay and bad breath.

Ditch the mouthwash and use a toothbrush and floss instead.

Mark Burhenne DDS

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Dr. Mark Burhenne DDS

9 Comments

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  1. I will do as my friend, Claudia, does. She uses mouthwash on her feet. After this, I will not purchase this product. Many thanks for this advice.

  2. My father, who is 83, watches a lot of TV and has stopped brushing his teeth in the misapprehension that rinsing his mouth with Listerine is enough to take care of his oral hygiene. As a result, his teeth have become black. He has also developed a fungus in his throat, which he is supposed to be treating with another product. I have no idea what the cause of the fungus is but I suppose that the fact that he does not brush his teeth has not helped. We have tried to reason with him and make him brush his teeth to no avail, he seems to have been brainwashed by the commercials.

    I wonder if there are more cases of this kind. We worry about the effects of commercials on children but I am beginning to realize that the elderly can be even more vulnerable to marketing ploys. Whereas children can only pester their parents to get what they want, the elderly can actually decide for themselves and buy and use products as they wish. Do you have any suggestions?

  3. some of this about mouthwash with alcohol making breath stink is a total farce. I used crest mouthwash (no alcohol and only has fluoride as an ingredient) and I had horrible breath with just brushing and then brushing plus crest mouthwash. I switched to brushing and listerine ultra clean and within days my halitosis disappeared. listerine has alcohol. I would never ever use crest mouthwash it doesn’t work and this article is full of it saying listerine makes your breath stink.

    • Todd, I’m glad you have good results with Listerine, but this is not what I’ve seen in private practice and this is not what is supported by the literature in our profession. Read this for more information: askthedentist.com/oral-microbiome/ I’m not a fan of Crest either, but in the long term, I think you might find this won’t work for you.

      • Hi,

        my 9 year old son is having great difficulty using toothpaste. He does not like the foaminess. He wishes to only use mothwash. We have explained some of the risks. Would be grateful for any advice.

        Helen

  4. The sugars and acids in food can soften the enamel. Before you brush right after you eat, rinse your mouth out with water and wait a little while before you brush.

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