Why you should avoid mouthwashes that kill 99% bacteria – plus 3 top tips for healthy teeth and gums

  • When taking care of our teeth and gums, there are many things we often do incorrectly. 
  • One dentist shares helpful advice for maintaining great oral health.
  • These include avoiding mouthwashes with alcohol and choosing a soft-bristled toothbrush.

Tooth talk: maintaining good oral health can boost your confidence and self-esteem but is also directly linked to your overall well-being.

As News24 previously explained, if the number of bacteria in your mouth gets too high, it can result in inflammation and disease. So to keep bad breath, tooth decay and gum disease at bay, there are certain things you need to do to keep your mouth in tip-top shape.

READ MORE | Oral health basics: what you need to know

Speaking to Fox26 News, Dr Terri Alani, dentist and owner of the Texas Tooth Lady shares her tips for achieving the best oral health.

1. Choose a toothbrush with soft bristles

“The worst thing you can do is brush with a hard toothbrush, even a medium brush - you want to brush with a soft brush,” says Alani.

People who brush their teeth too aggressively wear down the enamel, which can cause extreme hot and cold sensitivity in their teeth. 

READ MORE | Is brushing your teeth for two minutes enough? Here’s what the evidence says

“Also, it can cause toothbrush abrasion where patients will come in, and they’ll have roots exposed,” she adds. This is because the hard, aggressive brushing pulls the gum tissue away from the tooth, leaving the tooth vulnerable to gum disease and cavities. “It’s not [about] how often you brush - it’s how you brush,” says Alani.

2. Brush in circular motions

Many of us are guilty of brushing our teeth in a back-and-forth sawing motion, but this kind of pressure can be abrasive to our teeth and gums.

Instead, aim for very soft, circular motions at a 45-degree angle, says Alani. “You have four sections in your mouth [and] you want to brush each section for 30 seconds.”

3. Brush at the right time

“You want to brush [your teeth] at night before you go to bed,” says Alani. 

And while many people consider it best to do so after having their breakfast, this isn’t the best choice in the morning, she adds. “It’s the exact opposite - you brush your teeth when you first wake up.

“When you eat breakfast, you have acidity in your fruits, juices and coffee, so if you brush your teeth right after [your breakfast], you’re weakening the enamel, and it takes over 30 minutes for that enamel to reharden.”

READ MORE | Are these habits ruining your teeth?

So, if you decide to give your mouth a cleaning after breakfast, make sure to wait at least half an hour after you eat. If you absolutely must have clean teeth immediately after you eat, swish with water or chew sugar-free gum, advises Alani.

Not all mouthwashes are good

Mouthwashes on the market today have become popular for their germ-killing qualities.

“There are so many mouthwashes [and] it can be very confusing.” But here’s what Alani wants you to know: “When it says that it kills 99% of your bacteria, I would not buy that product because it’s killing the good bacteria as well.”

You should aim to maintain a healthy balance between your good and bad bacteria, she adds. 

READ MORE | How sugar hurts your teeth

Alcohol is one of the most popular ingredients used in mouthwashes, but Alani suggests you stay away from these products.

“Alcohol will dry your mouth out,” says Alani. Hydrogen peroxide is another ingredient, along with alcohol, that will kill healthy bacteria as well.

A mouthwash should always be used 30 minutes after you brush your teeth to avoid washing away the fluoride in toothpaste, which helps prevent tooth decay, says Alani.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.