We've all seen the compelling commercials – with a vigorous swish of mouthwash, your entire mouth-cleaning routine is completed. Whiter teeth, healthier gums, and no trace of bad breath.
However, that's far from the truth. In fact, over-reliance on mouthwash is one of the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to oral hygiene.
So, is mouthwash absolutely essential for dental health? Dr Jaclyn Toh, an experienced dentist gives you the low down. Here’s what she had to share.
No, mouthwash is not considered an essential
You should focus on plaque removal
To ensure good oral home care, you should focus on removing plaque from all surfaces of your teeth. This applies to the areas that aren’t so easily seen too, e.g. the interdental spaces between the teeth.
Best tools for plaque removal: toothbrush, floss, interdental brush
Plaque is most efficiently removed using mechanical means such as a toothbrush, floss, interdental brushes. 
While most people brush their teeth daily, interdental cleaning is still very neglected.
Mouthwash does not replace interdental cleaning
Dr Jaclyn stressed that mouthwash doesn't exempt you from interdental cleaning. She has seen a lot of patients who use mouthwash in place of their interdental cleaning. This is a big mistake!
When is mouthwash correctly used?
Mouthwash is only recommended when mechanical toothbrushing is not possible. This includes situations like during a healing period after oral surgery, or if you're suffering from an infection that causes soreness in your teeth/gums when you brush them. 
Sometimes, patients may be advised by their dentists to use certain types of medicated mouthwash ON TOP of daily brushing and interdental cleaning.
Who benefits from using mouthwash?
You might benefit from using mouthwash if you:
- Have a high risk of tooth decay
- Are going through orthodontic treatment
- Have just completed oral surgery (e.g. wisdom tooth removal, implant surgery)
- Suffer from severe gum disease
- Always develop mouth ulcers
- Have chronically dry mouth (from medication, Sjogren's syndrome, after radiotherapy to the head and neck)
Mouthwash does not help with bad breath
Many people believe that mouthwash can freshen the breath. However, don't let the cool minty flavour fool you! Dr Jaclyn revealed that this breath-freshening effect will not last.
This is especially true if your bad breath is caused by an infection or it's coming from another source such as the back of the nose or the throat. 
Antibacterial mouthwash kills good and bad bacteria
Despite what a lot of advertising would have you believe, antibacterial mouthwash is probably doing the exact opposite of what you're taking it to do.
Firstly, the effectiveness of antibacterial mouthwashes is short-lived. Once you spit the mouthwash out, its bacteria-killing efforts don’t continue in the oral cavity.
Besides, it kills bacteria indiscriminately. Only a small amount of bacteria in your mouth are harmful, most of them are there to help you fight against diseases. So if you kill all of it, you're allowing yourself to be more susceptible to diseases. 
Mouthwash can stain teeth and trigger ulcers
Some chlorhexidine-medicated mouthwashes do not taste pleasant, may cause taste disturbances and stain the teeth brown.
For some people, mouthwashes that contain alcohol can trigger ulcers and can also make the lining of the mouth peel.
Good bacteria is the key to good oral health
According to Dr Jaclyn, there's an increasing awareness that having a healthy oral microbiome (good bacteria that resides in your mouth) may be linked to having good oral health.
Put your efforts into brushing and interdental cleaning!
Unless you suffer from any of the oral conditions listed above, Dr Jaclyn advises against using mouthwash regularly.
Your efforts are better spent on developing a thorough brushing technique (Dr Jaclyn recommends electric toothbrushes), regular interdental cleaning and having your teeth professionally cleaned regularly.