For those of you who enjoy a rinse of mouthwash after brushing your pearly whites (or as a substitute for morning brushing), read on. This may change your perception about that extra step—or have you reassess your mouthwash altogether. 

Sure, mouthwash can help reduce gingivitis, plaque buildup, cavities, reduce the speed and growth of tartar (hardened plaque) and, of course, temporarily freshen your breath. But, while it helps fight halitosis (bad breath) by temporarily nullifying the nasty bacteria, it also kills off the good bacteria in your mouth. Is mouthwash really an essential item in your bathroom cabinet? 

No. “Brushing and flossing properly are the only true essentials for the average person,” advises Patric Cohen, DDS, FAGD, who works out of Beverly Hills. “Those with gum disease need other items like rubber tips or mouthwash as additions to brushing and flossing.” What’s more, using a mouthwash in the morning doesn’t compare favorably with brushing? Brushing is a “mechanical attack” on plaque build-up whereas an “antiplaque” mouthwash only prevents plaque build-up but does not remove plaque, which is necessary. 

If you still enjoy an invigorating rinse, there are some things you should know. “There are concerns that long-term usage of mouthwashes that contain alcohol and/or hydrogen peroxide could pose health risks,” says Cohen. Since most mouthwash users swish practically every day of their lives (which definitely counts as long-term usage), Cohen recommends using mouthwash that contains neither of these ingredients. Listerine took this into consideration when they developed Listerine ‘Zero’, as did Crest when they created ‘Pro-Health’—both are alcohol-free. Other brands are following suit. This may be due to widely circulated literature regarding studies on how the overuse of mouthwash containing alcohol may have a carcinogenic effect on the user. 

For one, Cohen recommends alcohol-free ACT. We’ve also found that Miessence Freshening Mouth Wash is organic and free of any harmful ingredients although pricey. Ultimately, be careful what you choose—there’s much more to it than just fresh breath.


  1. Oral Oncology 
  2. Alcohol, Mouthwash and Oral Cancers