Are Saltwater Rinses Good For Your Oral Health?

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Medically reviewed by Danielle Romatz, RDH

Many of us are familiar with saltwater rinses. In fact, you might’ve used this home remedy in the past to treat a sore throat or a tooth ache. But are these rinses as beneficial as we’ve been led to believe?

Saltwater rinses can kill harmful bacteria, aid in the healing process following a dental procedure, and fight plaque. However, saltwater rinses are a short-term solution. Using them every day can irritate your gums and soften your enamel, increasing the risk of dental decay.

So if saltwater rinsing is a good short-term option, how should you safely incorporate it into your oral hygiene routine? Here’s what you need to know about saltwater rinses and how they can affect your oral health.

Why Do People Rinse With Salt?


Has anyone ever suggested a saltwater rinse when you had a sore throat or some other oral issue? You may have considered it a questionable home remedy. However, saltwater rinses have been used for centuries, and they have a load of health benefits. In fact, even the ancient Greeks were using this technique some 2,000 years ago!

So, what exactly are the reasons behind saltwater rinsing? Is this treatment rooted in science or fiction?

A Good Mouthwash Alternative

Many of us use mouthwash as part of our daily oral hygiene routine. And that’s for good reason; mouthwash can aid in killing bacteria and freshen breath. However, saltwater rinses may be a better alternative for some people.

Saltwater rinses are far cheaper than mouthwash and nearly as effective. In fact, mouthwash brands can have high levels of alcohol, which can dry out your mouth and irritate your gums. This risk makes saltwater rinses a perfect alternative for those with especially sensitive mouths.

Prevents Bacteria

Saltwater rinses can help prevent and kill harmful bacteria in your mouth. The saltwater destroys the bacteria via osmosis, removing water from the bacteria. Additionally, these rinses cut down on the acidic environment that allows bacteria to thrive.

Bacteria love acidity. Saltwater rinses balance out the pH levels in your mouth, creating a more alkaline environment. This results in less inflammation and irritation.

Aids in the Healing Process After a Procedure

Saltwater rinses can also aid in the healing process after a dental procedure. Saltwater doesn’t irritate the soft tissues found in the mouth, meaning it won’t burn or cause damage.

On top of that, saltwater rinses can increase the cells that govern wound repair activity. That means that swishing with saltwater after a procedure could help you heal faster. Saltwater rinses are also known to prevent dry sockets (a painful dental condition) after surgery.

Be sure to follow your doctor’s post-op instructions after any surgery.

Fights Plaque and More

Saltwater rinses can also reduce the amount of plaque in your mouth and on your teeth. Additionally, these rinses can be used as home remedies for canker sores, toothaches, and even allergies.

Can Saltwater Rinsing Damage Your Teeth?

Saltwater rinsing is generally considered safe. However, there are still some risks to be aware of and precautions you can take when rinsing in this way.

Overdoing and overusing saltwater rinses can irritate your gums, leading to more bleeding and inflammation.

It’s also advisable not to swallow your saltwater rinse in case there is an infection in your mouth. Doing too many rinses a day isn’t recommended either, as this can dehydrate you and your mouth.

How to Properly Gargle With Salt Water

For the uninitiated, a saltwater rinse might seem a bit odd. Many of us may not know what to put in a saltwater rinse. Fortunately, this process is just like gargling with mouthwash and it’s incredibly simple.

Here’s a quick list of tips you need to know before using a saltwater rinse:

  1. It’s safe to gargle before or after you brush your teeth.
  2. Use a comfortable amount of the solution; there’s no need to overdo it.
  3. Gargle the solution around your mouth and around your throat for up to thirty seconds.
  4. Spit out the solution and gargle with normal water as needed.

What Goes Into a Saltwater Rinse?

The basic ingredients of a good saltwater rinse are as follows:

  • 8 ounces of warm water
  • One teaspoon of salt
  • Honey and hydrogen peroxide (optional)
  • Baking Soda (optional)

As you can see, the recipe for a saltwater rinse is relatively straightforward.

Tips for Saltwater Rinsing

Preparing a good saltwater rinse is simple. But there are several things to keep in mind as you go about rinsing with a saltwater solution:

Use Warm Water

Be sure to use warm water when making a saltwater rinse. Warm water is more soothing than cold water and it helps the salt dissolve faster.

Any Kind of Salt Will Work

Speaking of salt, you can use whatever salt you have on hand. You can consider adding ingredients like hydrogen peroxide and honey for extra benefits.

You can also adjust the recipe to fit your needs. If your mouth is a bit more tender, reduce the amount of salt and consider adding honey. If you need a more abrasive rinse, consider upping the salt content.

Make Sure the Salt Is Dissolved

To make a saltwater rinse, bring your water to a boil, allowing the salt to dissolve. You can do this on the stove or even in a microwave. Alternatively, using a kettle is an easy option. From there, ensure the water has cooled down to a drinkable temperature before you use it.

Salt Water vs. Mouthwash: Which Is Better?

Woman rinsing mouth with mouthwash in bathroom

As mentioned earlier, saltwater rinses are comparable to mouthwash. In fact, these rinses can be excellent alternatives for some individuals. However, these two treatments are not the same and do have some different uses.

Saltwater rinses make an excellent short-term solution. Typically, saltwater rinses are used as a post-procedure treatment or for the occasional canker sore. This is because salt water doesn’t irritate the soft tissues found within the mouth and it kills bacteria.

However, using saltwater every day may do more harm than good. Long-term use of saltwater rinses can soften your enamel, resulting in sensitive teeth. Weakened enamel also increases your risk for stains, cavities, and other damages.

Mouthwash, on the other hand, makes for a better long-term solution. Typically, mouthwash doesn’t affect the pH balance in your mouth. That means it won’t upset the good bacteria in your mouth or cause harmful bacteria to develop.

However, not all mouthwash is created equal. Avoid using mouthwash brands containing alcohol, as this can increase the risk of damage and oral cancer. Listerine’s Alcohol-Free Fluoride Mouthwash (on Amazon) may be a good option to try.

What’s the Verdict? Should You Switch to Salt Water?

So, should you add a saltwater rinse to your morning routine or stick with that bottle of vibrant green mouthwash? We suggest you stick with mouthwash for the long run.

Saltwater rinses work as a fantastic short-term solution. Rinsing with salt water can kill harmful bacteria, aid in the healing process, and destroy plaque. However, rinsing with salt water over the long term is not a viable option. This is because saltwater rinses can start to damage and weaken your teeth over time.

Mouthwash makes for a fantastic everyday solution. This is because mouthwash doesn’t affect the pH balance in your mouth. However, you should avoid mouthwash varieties containing alcohol, as these could pose a risk.

As always, be sure to speak with your dentist before making any decisions regarding your oral hygiene.

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