Mouthwash vs flossing: a battle or a win-win?

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Mouthwash and floss are two essential parts of a dental care routine. Sometimes people tend to decide on mouthwash vs flossing for different reasons. In this article, we will take patients’ concerns into consideration and will thoroughly discuss the matter of flossing vs mouthwash. By the end of this article, you should be able to decide the best option for your oral health. So without further ado, let us begin!

What are the differences between mouthwash and floss?

One major difference between floss and mouthwash is the purpose of their usage. Flossing is used to preserve dental health by cleaning the teeth’ surface, spaces between the teeth, and the gum line. Flossing is an essential part of dental cleanings that should not be overlooked or ignored. The main mission of mouthwash can be said to bring fresh breath. Despite popular belief, mouthwash doesn’t contribute much to cleaning the teeth. Depending on what the dentist recommends, a person can know how often to use a mouthwash and how much.

Another main difference between mouthwash and floss is in the way they function. Flossing is scraping the teeth by dragging a thin strong string all over the tooth surface while using mouthwash, as expected is gargling an antibacterial liquid in the oral cavity. When people think about mouthwash vs flossing, they have four factors in mind:

  • Which one is better for your teeth?
  • Which one is better for your gums?
  • Which one is easier to use?
  • Which one is more affordable?

Let us answer each of these questions separately to make it easy and clear to choose the best option.

Which one is better for your teeth? Swishing vs sliding

When it comes to teeth health, flossing is the better option. Dentists emphasize the importance of regular flossing and consider it as important as brushing for dental hygiene and health. Floss can reach the areas a toothbrush can not reach. This is crucial, as it scrapes plaques that are built up in those spaces, aka interdental plaques, flossing prevents tooth decay and cavities. Flossing also helps with removing bacterial colonies on teeth’ surface and debris before they turn into hard plaque formation.

On the other hand, mouthwash is not much effective in removing already built-up plaques. The mouthwash might kill the harmful bacteria in the oral cavity but will not work efficiently enough on the ones that are stuck between the teeth. It would be a very nice idea to use mouthwash as a complementary element for oral hygiene. 

If I have implants which one is better for me?

As proper oral care is essential for the preservation and longevity of dental implants, again the question comes up to decide on mouthwash vs flossing. Just like brushing, daily flossing plays a more effective role in maintaining dental implants than mouthwash. Even though implants are immune to plaque buildup, flossing around them and on the gum line prevents gum disease which is a major cause of implant falling. You can use dental floss for both permanent and temporary dental implants, even if you are having them for a short period of time.

Rinsing with mouthwash is another good way to ensure the durability of your implants, however, it is not as efficient as dental floss. Make sure not to use alcohol-based mouthwash. Because it is highly abrasive, it will damage your microbiome and the damage will be irreversible. In addition to that, an alcohol-based mouthwash is not a good choice for dental implants as it can damage the adhesive agents.

Ask your dentist for the best product recommendation.

Which one is better for your gums? Flossing vs mouthwash

Flossing is a good way to maintain the health of the gum tissue. Removing the debris and bacteria from the gum lines protects the gum against gingivitis and gum disease. Using floss also slows down the progress of gum disease. On the other hand, mouthwash is not effective in removing debris or stopping gingivitis from further developing.

Remember scraping plaques of the teeth also helps prevent gum diseases, as plaque or tartar build-ups on teeth can cause gingivitis, gum irritation, and gum disease.

Which one is easier to use? Rinsing vs Winding

Many people think of replacing flossing with mouthwash because it can be a difficult task to scrape all the teeth in a proper way, twice a day. Especially for people with a limited range of hand motions, flossing can be quite a challenging task as it requires a fair amount of time and a lot of hand motions in different directions to properly floss. Mouthwash is easier to use. You have to rinse your mouth and teeth, and sometimes gargle the back of your throat with it. They all can take 30 seconds to 1 minute. 

Which one is more affordable?

For people, the price is a determining factor for the oral hygiene products they are going to use. The average price of mouthwash is usually higher than string flosses. Regardless of the mouthwash type, therapeutic or anti-bacterial, mouthwashes slightly cost more.

The average price for dental floss is 9.90$. Compared to floss, the price range of mouthwash varies from 3$ to 23$.

Can I use mouthwash and floss in the same routine?

The answer is an absolute yes. For an ideal dental care routine, you should brush your teeth and floss at least two times a day. For an optimal and top-notch result, you can rinse your mouth with mouthwash after you are done brushing and flossing. In addition to killing bad bacteria, mouthwash gives you a fresh breath.

You can rinse your mouth with mouthwash as the last step of your routine twice a day, but not more than that. In the long term, using mouthwash more than twice a day will bring more damage than benefits, especially if it is alcohol-based. The alcohol in mouthwash can cause mouth dryness which is a reason for bad breath, as well as irritating the gum tissue.

Even though rinsing with mouthwash, therapeutic or not, is a very good option for dental health, it can never be a substitute for regular brushing and flossing. However, in a situation where the person has no access to a toothbrush or floss,  using mouthwash is better than doing absolutely nothing.


(1) Mythri H, Ananda SR, Prashant GM, Subba Reddy VV, Chandu GN. The efficacy of antiseptic mouth rinses in comparison with dental floss in controlling interproximal gingivitis. J Int Soc Prev Community Dent. 2011 Jan;1(1):31-5. doi: 10.4103/2231-0762.86385. PMID: 24478951; PMCID: PMC3894074. Link

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