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What is it? | How it works? | Benefits | How to make? | How to gargle? | Risks | Gum Infection | Tooth Pain

At any point in time, your oral cavity has over 20 billion bacteria of over 500 different species. And the number could increase to over 100 billion in 24 hours if you are not cleaning your mouth using suitable toothpaste and oral rinse. It is not just about white teeth and fresh breath, as bacteria release toxins that could reach the brain and cause serious mental conditions. Optimum moisture, fairly neutral pH, and mild temperature of the human oral cavity make it a perfect habitat for unicellular microbes. Fortunately, all microbes aren’t bad and you can control the bacteria count pretty easily with the saltwater rinse at home.

Your regular twice a day brushing and flossing once will ensure a healthy dental system, but sometimes bristles might not do an effective cleaning. Gargling with salt water regularly not only keeps your oral system in perfect health, but helps in fighting gingivitis, bad breath, sore throat, and boost healing post-surgical procedures. So, use salt water as per the instructions of your dentist to have a refreshingly confident smile forever.         

What is Salt Water Rinse?

The presence of billions of bacteria in the mouth might be shocking for anyone. Thankfully, gargling with salt water can help in reducing bacteria count in the mouth, thus preventing tartar and plaque buildup, which ultimately leads to gum disease and tooth decay. Why make your dental system prone to infection when you have an easy and affordable way to keep it healthy. Above all, the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends using warm salt water rinse to prevent infection and boost healing. So, what is salt water rinse, and how it works:

As said, it is the easiest and simplest way to keep your mouth bacteria-free as saltwater is nothing but a mixture of salt, water, and baking soda, available easily in every home. As compared to medicated mouthwash, it is highly cost-effective. All you need is lukewarm water and table salt to prepare the solution. Besides oral health, it is highly effective in soothing sore throat, sinus and respiratory infections, and some allergies. To make mouth rise more effective, you can use alum—potassium aluminum sulfate- mouthwash.  

Saltwater solutions are not well studied. A small study from 2010 of 45 children investigated the effectiveness of a saline saltwater gargle and a mouthwash containing alum. It is easy availability that makes saltwater rinse a better alternative to alum mouthwash.

How Salt Water Rinse Works?

Saltwater is a death trap for bacteria as high salt concentration outside the bacterial cell triggers diffusion of water from inside the cell to reach concentration equilibrium. When bacterial cell losses all cellular fluid, it:

  • Dehydrates the bacterial cell
  • This leads to loss of bacterial cell structure
  • Triggers protein and enzyme malfunction  
  • Eventually, the bacterial cell dies

So, when you gargle with salt water solution you create an alkaline environment of high salt concentration. It triggers the osmosis process, resulting in dehydrating the bacterial cell and killing. It is all about increasing the pH in your mouth temporarily, and nothing could be as effective as the easily available table salt.

Benefits of Salt Water Rinse

You are now aware, how saltwater solution kills bacteria by making the oral cavity environment alkaline. So, use salt water rinse regularly to keep bacteria count in check. Here are some of the benefits of saltwater rise:

Bacteria Control

Saltwater is highly potent in killing some, if not all, bacteria of oral space. It not only kills but brings bacteria to the surface of gums, teeth, and throat, thus you can wash it away with the saltwater rinse. Regular use of saltwater solution prevents bacteria growth, so you keep gum and other oral diseases away.

Keep Breath Fresh

The main reason for bad breath is the bacteria outgrowth, so gargling with salt water helps in eliminating unwanted bacteria in oral space. This keeps your breath fresh for a longer period of time. If you are sensitive to alcohol-based mouthwash, it could be an excellent alternative. Aggressive gargling with warm salt water helps in removing stuck food particles, so your mouth remains fresh.

Boosts Healing

Saltwater control bacteria, so oral hygienists recommend using salt water rinse to control inflammation. Post invasive dental surgeries, using saltwater rinse could help you in recovering quickly with comfort.  

Zero Cost  

Unlike medicated mouthwash, saltwater rinse is cheap as table salt is easily available in all homes. You don’t have to bother about keeping stock of medicated mouthwash as you can prepare it anytime using common salt.

How do you make salt water mouthwash?

All you need is lukewarm water and table salt to prepare the saltwater rinse. Just go to the kitchen, take a glass of water and boil it and add table salt to it. According to the ADA, 8 ounces of water would need half of a teaspoon (tsp) of salt. If you wish to make it more potent, you can add one tablespoon of baking soda to the saltwater solution and stir it well.

How do you gargle properly?

Saltwater gargling is  effective only when done it properly for 5-10 minutes. Just take the lukewarm solution in a glass, take as much of it into the mouth, as your mouth permits.

Gargle aggressively, so that saltwater could reach every nook and corner of your mouth. Avoid doing so aggressively, if you have blood clots in sockets post teeth removal as it could dislodge clots, causing dry socket condition.  

If you have a throat infection, you should allow the solution to reach around the back of the throat, but avoid swallowing. Once done, rinse the mouth, teeth, and gum properly and spit the solution.

Oral hygienists recommend saltwater gargling once or twice a day for maximum effectiveness.

Risks and Considerations

Gargling with salt water is highly effective for all age groups, however, if your kid doesn’t feel comfortable, you should better look for an alternative. Swallowing saltwater solution loaded with bacteria could cause excessive bowel movement in some cases. 

There is no side effect of saltwater rinse, even if you are doing so several times a day to control pain. However, you should use less amount of salt in your solution if you have sensitive teeth.

If you have a medical condition, like high blood pressure, you should consult your doctor before starting salt water rinse. If the taste is an issue, you can add some honey or mint to make it refreshing.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can saltwater rinse heal gum infection?

Gums get infected due to bacterial outgrowth. Since saltwater is highly effective in controlling bacteria growth in the mouth, your gum will heal faster with the use of a saltwater rinse. If the infection is severe and bleeding, you should consult your dentist before starting the saltwater rinsing. 

How long does it take for the saltwater rinse to work?

Bacteria count in the mouth multiplies several times in a 24 hours span, so you should gargle with salt water twice to get effective results. Usually, patients start feeling better after 24 hours. Since saltwater triggers osmosis, resulting in cellular dehydration, you should drink lots of water for better results.

Can saltwater rinse damage teeth?

It is all about how you use it. Using excessively high concentration salt water several times a day could damage enamel. In the long run, you might start feeling sensations in your teeth and gums. So use it as advised by the dentist to keep the mouth disinfected.

How often can you use salt water rinse?

It all depends on the condition and severity of your oral cavity. Oral hygienists recommend saltwater gargling once or twice a day. But if the condition demands, you can do it up to four times a day for up to two weeks with no side effects.

Can saltwater rinse heal tooth pain?

Saltwater, a natural disinfectant, is highly effective in reducing inflammation as it kills microbes. Once the inflammation subsides, your pain will slowly start easing. Your dentist will tell you about the frequency of gargling for managing tooth pain.   

Is saltwater better than hydrogen peroxide?

Hydrogen peroxide is a good antiseptic and it can be used for mouthwash, but under strict control. If the concentration is too strong, and accidentally swallowed it could cause serious gastrointestinal problems, lung irritation, and in some cases vomiting. Whereas, gargling with salt water is completely safe, as swallowing the solution doesn’t have any adverse effect.

Bottom Line

A saltwater rinse is a proven at-home remedy to keep your mouth free of harmful microbes. Regular salt water gargling will cut the chances of gingivitis and other oral diseases. It is highly effective in alleviating pain and discomfort caused by bacterial infections and injuries. Interestingly, all these benefits come easily at almost zero cost as you can prepare the solution at your home using table salt and baking soda. All you need is a commitment to gargle once or twice daily after your regular brushing and flossing to have a bacteria-free mouth with refreshing breath.  It is perfectly safe to use salt water regularly, so make it part of your regular oral care regimen and keep your dental system healthy.


Published by Dr. Daniel Bronsky

Dr. Daniel is an orthodontist at Invis London.

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