If you’ve ever had a tooth extracted, or been sick with a sore throat, your doctor may have recommended a saltwater rinse. A salt water rinse, which calls for rinsing out your mouth with a mixture of water and salt, can be used in place of mouthwash. Salt water rinses can also be an effective tool for helping relieve a number of conditions; and due to the presence of salt, which can have an antibacterial effect, these rinses can be a cheap, simple way to maintain oral hygiene. Salt water also has the advantage of being less irritating to the gums than many mouthwashes, which tend to contain alcohol.
Benefits of a salt water rinse
Salt water rinses can be helpful for a number of conditions: They can keep your mouth clean after a tooth extraction; provide relief for a sore throat; keep the mouth clean when you have a canker sore; or help reduce irritation and inflammation from gum infections or periodontal disease.
“The big benefit that salt water rinses provide is that it helps reduce bacteria,” said Elena Zamora, a family medicine physician at UTHealth Houston. For a tooth extraction, cutting down bacteria can help with healing, and reduce the risk of developing dry socket. Salt water rinses can also help manage gum disease by cutting down on bacteria.
How to do it properly
To do a salt water rinse at home, Zamora recommends mixing one teaspoon of salt with eight ounces of lukewarm water. “If you mix it with warm water, it will dissolve better,” Zamora said. Then, you’ll want to rinse for about 15 to 20 seconds, trying to make sure that the salt water gets to all the various parts of your mouth. If you are doing a saltwater rinse because of a sore throat, “make sure it is getting to the back of the throat, and not just getting to the teeth and mouth,” Zamora said. Once you’ve rinsed thoroughly, it’s important to spit the salt water out, rather than swallow it.
Ask your doctor how often you should rinse, but barring any specific issues, Zamora recommends aiming for a frequency of no more than three or four times a week, or every other day, as too-frequent rinses can weaken the enamel of your teeth. This frequency may change depending on whether you have a specific health condition, or are dealing with a recent surgery, which you should discuss with your doctor.
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