Can I Use Mouthwash Instead of Flossing
Can I use a mouthwash or rinse instead of flossing?
This is a very common question that dentists and dental professionals get rather frequently. We assume that this is coming because flossing can, admittedly, be somewhat of a nuisance and pain. The pain of flossing can be very literal pain if your gums are tender, sore, or you have gum recession. At the risk of being the bearer of bad news, we’ll just come out and say it. No. No, you can’t replace flossing your teeth with any type of mouthwash. Even if that mouth wash (claims) to kill 99% of bad breath causing bacteria. The reason mouthwash can’t replace flossing comes down to a very simple fact:
- Flossing involves literally scraping the surface of the tooth to remove gunk.
- Using mouthwash does not.
It really is that simple. You could never replace brushing your teeth with a mouthwash for the same reason (and this is not a question dental professionals get often). Brushing your teeth allows the bristles of a brush to scrape your teeth clean. Flossing is the exact same thing but for areas of the teeth that your brush can’t get.
While some mouth rinses may be great at loosening or killing microorganisms, mouthwash and mouth rinses leave the gunk and microorganisms where they are: on your teeth. Only actually scraping (flossing and brushing) can remove these things.
Here is another problem with only using a mouthwash:
- Although a layer of plaque may be quite thin, it’s remarkably protective to the bacteria that live within it.
- Antibacterial rinses may have an effect on the bacteria that live on the surface of plaque but will have a very limited effect on those within it.
Flossing breaks apart the bacteria’s stronghold. The bacteria then must start from scratch in rebuilding a colony. Generally, only large groups or colonies of bacteria are harmful to oral health. Flossing keeps these colonies from forming.
Want further evidence that flossing is superior to using only a mouthwash? In January 2005, Southern District of New York Judge Denny Chin issued a finding that enjoined Pfizer, Inc. (the makers of Listerine Antiseptic Mouthwash) from making the claim in their advertising that the use of their oral rinse is “as effective as floss.” Judge Chine even felt that Listerine’s ads could pose a public health risk by convincing people that they did not need to floss daily.
Bottom line – brush and floss daily!