Your dentist will always place emphasis on the importance of flossing and brushing. He or she is right to do so. Flossing once a day and brushing twice a day are absolutely crucial for your dental health. Mouthwash is the often overlooked part of the dental routine. Many people floss, brush, and swish with a little bit of water. They call it a day. After all, doesn’t your toothpaste clean your mouth? What makes mouthwash so special?
Mouthwash plays a vital role in your oral care routine, but the kind of mouthwash you use is what’s most important. Conventional mouthwashes and natural mouthwashes have two extremely different approaches to the exact same problem. Conventional mouthwashes might work a little too well, and that’s the problem.
In order to understand why natural mouthwashes do a better job than conventional mouthwashes, you need to have a little bit of knowledge of how the mouth’s microbiome works. If you’re really new to the concept, you’ll first need to learn what a microbiome is.
Understanding Your Oral Microbiome
Every part of your body has its own microbiome. A microbiome is a system of bacteria and microorganisms that coexist to form a beneficial balance. Good bacteria and beneficial organisms rid the system of bad bacteria and bad microorganisms. Some supplements, like probiotics, work to fortify the necessary parts of your microbiome.
Your mouth is home to the second widest variety of your bacteria in your body. Your gut contains up to 1,000 different species of bacteria, all aiding in digestion and assisting your body to process and deliver nutrients. Your mouth is home to about 700 species of bacteria. The mouth is the very beginning of the digestive system, and mouth bacteria is intended to prepare food for gut bacteria.
Everyone has a core biome and a variable biome. The core biome is composed of the bacteria and microorganisms that every human has in common. The variable biome will change for everyone. Your diet, the water you drink, the germs you’re regularly exposed to, and the presence of any infection can change your variable biome. The goal is to keep both biomes healthy so that they work well together.
The layman’s explanation: there is a constant war of bacteria soldiers going on inside of your mouth. Your body makes the good guys, and the invaders who are trying to take over your mouth with plaque and infection are the bad guys. A balanced microbiome is one where there are way more good guys than bad guys. The bad guys can’t accomplish much if there's a good guy on every corner, or in this case, every tooth.
What Bad Bacteria Does
Bad bacteria form a gang and hit the town looking for trouble. They band together and stick to all the surfaces of your mouth, creating havoc wherever they go. These bacteria stick together to create a thin, slimy layer called a matrix. The matrix on your teeth serves as a foundation for plaque to grow and take hold. As plaque strengthens, the matrix hardens. When it hardens, it’s almost impossible to get off.
Bad bacteria love to eat sugar and carbohydrates. Every time you feed sugar to yourself, you’re also feeding sugar to them. They eat it, digest it, multiply, and excrete the byproducts of what they ate. These byproducts turn the matrix into an acid environment, completely developing your teeth in a corrosive substance that can lead to tooth decay or cavities. Despite the acidity of the matrix, it still won’t inhibit plaque from growing.
What Good Bacteria Does
Good bacteria puts on a superhero suit and goes out to fight crime. Your body releases a wealth of good bacteria, and puts it on a mission to fight the bad bacteria before they have a chance to make a permanent home of the surface of your teeth. Good bacteria will also form their own kind of film. It’s a thin, slick, clean film. It’s not sticky like bad bacteria film - it’s designed to protect your teeth from outside invasion, rather than welcoming invaders to get stuck.
Both good bacteria and bad bacteria rely on community support. Groups of bad bacteria provide resources to other bad bacteria. Good bacteria will do the same thing. Certain variables can affect their reproductive rates.
If your good to bad bacteria balance is correct, your chances of developing plaque, cavities, or dental infections is significantly minimized. The fewer bad bacteria there are, the easier it will be for good bacteria to execute their intended functions.
Things That Upset Your Bacterial Balance
If your good bacteria and bad bacteria aren’t properly balanced, you’ll begin to see obvious signs. Teeth erode, cavities form, plaque develops, gum disease takes hold, and dental infections will sometimes occur.
Part of your bacterial balance comes from your diet. If you’re eating a lot of sugar, you’re feeding, raising, and breeding colonies of bad bacteria in your mouth. You’re giving them readily available energy and they won’t waste an opportunity to use it. This is the reason why you might have heard growing up that sugar rots your teeth. It’s not the sugar itself, but the chain reaction it causes.
Excessive eating or snacking can drastically upset your mouth’s ability to regulate its bacterial balance. It also dramatically upsets your body’s ability to regulate its waistline, giving you even more incentive to limit yourself to three healthy, balanced meals every day.
What is The Purpose of Mouthwash?
Mouthwash is an antibacterial rinse designed to reach or treat all the areas of your mouth that you wouldn’t ordinarily brush. Brushing your gums is painful and unnecessary. You also wouldn’t brush the insides of your cheeks, your inner lips, beneath your tongue, or your soft palate. The bacteria living there can only be managed with a solution that works on contact, like a good swish of mouthwash.
In addition to managing bacteria that already exist, mouthwash can also help to prevent more bacteria from growing. Small particles of food and debris that may not make their way out from the nooks and crannies of your mouth can be stirred up and forced out by the power of a good swish. They won’t remain and continue to break down in your mouth.
What’s In Conventional Mouthwash?
Conventional mouthwash uses a number of antibacterial or antiseptic ingredients to kill the bacteria in your mouth. The key ingredient in most mouthwashes is the same as the key ingredient in hand sanitizer - alcohol. Alcohol has a remarkable ability to kill germs, as well as just about anything else it comes into contact with. It’s a grenade thrown into a wide open space. It will kill whatever it hits, whether or not it’s something bad.
Alcohol’s overwhelming efficiency is what makes it a bad choice as an antibacterial agent in mouthwash. It’s throwing out the baby with the bathwater, or in this case, slaying all your good bacteria with your bad bacteria.
Having no bacteria in your mouth is not the right substitute for having a wealth of good bacteria in your mouth. The bad bacteria will be back the very next time anything enters your mouth. There won’t be any good bacteria to help defend the space. You wind up back where you started, and you’re absolutely no healthier for it. It’s a tricky situation.
What’s in Natural Mouthwash?
Natural mouthwash uses slower acting antibacterial agents, like coconut oil, lavender, tea tree oil, or even nano silver. These natural alternatives function perfectly well, but they aren’t extremely fast acting or excessively efficient.
Your body will continue to make good bacteria, while outside invaders will continue to produce bad bacteria. The idea behind using a milder antibacterial ingredient is that everything will slowly die at an even pace. Mild antibacterial ingredients are also going to kill the good bacteria along with the bad bacteria, but the process will happen slowly. This gives you a little reprieve to catch up.
While this is happening, your body will continue its natural process of producing good bacteria to join the fight. When they get there, there will be fewer bad bacteria for them to encounter. They’ll work a new strategy and overtake more of the remaining bad bacteria, giving your mouth a chance to restore its natural microbiome.
Natural mouthwash is key in maintaining good oral hygiene because it treats your mouth holistically. It doesn’t come in on a warpath to destroy everything. It simply gives your mouth a little rest and reset so it can focus on replenishing its stores of good bacteria. You want an oral microbiome that is strong and healthy on its own - not a mouth that is highly dependent on a bunch of exterior products to mimic a state of homeostasis.
Long story short, your body is pretty good at taking care of itself. It just needs a little help to do what it does best, and natural mouthwash is perfect for that purpose.
Source 1 - oral microbiome
Source 2 - how bacteria eat
Source 3 - how alcohol kills bacteria