Can you use mouth wash instead of flossing?

Anyone who has tried flossing (and unsuccessfully prevented injuring their gums in the process) will know that it can be challenging to get into this habit.

The question is if mouth wash can be used as an alternative to flossing. We hate to be a bearer of bad news but the answer is no.

Many people would hands down choose mouthwash over flossing thinking that the former can be a substitute for the other. However, these two dental aids have different uses and are both needed to keep our teeth and gums healthy. 

"So what does mouthwash really do?" you might ask. Mouthwashes or mouth rinses are liquids we swish around the mouth usually after brushing and flossing. Most mouth washes that you can see in the supermarkets usually address bad breath but a lot of them also prevent bad bacteria from increasing in number in the mouth or sticking onto tooth surfaces.

While flossing involves the use of good hand dexterity, mouth washing gives us a hassle free way of cleansing around the inside of our mouth. It is also useful after dental surgery for areas that are not easy/painful to brush.

As good as all of these sound, flossing still tramples mouth washing in terms of removal of food debris and bacteria because it actually involves mechanical removal on the tooth surface. Much like how toothbrushes work, flossing scrapes away the bacteria in between the teeth that tooth brushing is not able to remove. 


A lot of us believe that flossing is an optional addition to brushing but these two go hand in hand in cleaning different areas of the teeth. After eating, you can see food debris that gets stuck in between teeth. Brushing these areas might make us feel like they're clean already, however, thin films of bacteria are still lodged in these tight areas and they can only be removed by flossing. If these area are not cleaned, in time cavities can develop which then means another trip to the dentist for new fillings. 

Granted mouth washes prevents and/or kills bacteria on our teeth, it does not effectively remove everything on the surface. A lot of mouth wash brands also only offer temporarily relief from bad breath. This can make us think that our mouth is clean because of the fresh and pleasant taste it leaves (and make us even lazier with using the floss).

The way to look at tooth brushing, flossing and using mouth wash is to see them as a triumvirate of oral health essentials. They each serve a specific purpose in cleaning our teeth and gums and needs to be used with proper technique to be able to be efficient.

As much as we'd like mouth wash to replace flossing, we definitely cannot substitute one from the other. Flossing may seem like a tedious thing but it ultimately gets the job done in preventing gum diseases and tooth decay.

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