Oral Health Benefits of Salt Water Rinsing and How to Do It
Mouthwash can be useful for freshening your breath and cleaning areas that your toothbrush cannot reach.
However, salt water rinses are generally less expensive and can be just as effective in improving your oral health and hygiene, says Dr Chris Kammer, DDS, dental surgeon.
“Salt water rinses kill many types of bacteria through osmosis, which removes the water from bacteria,” says Kammer. “They are also good guards against infection, especially after procedures.”
Besides their disinfectant properties, salt water rinses can also be used to treat other oral problems, from canker sores to allergies and toothaches. They also have positive effects on respiratory health, making them remedies for cold and flu season.
Let’s see their benefits, how to make them and how to use them.
According to Oral Cancer Foundation, the high alcohol content of some mouthwashes can irritate your mouth, especially your gums. Salt water rinses can be safer alternatives while killing bacteria and keeping your mouth clean.
In addition to stopping bacterial growth, salt water rinses have other benefits. These include reducing the amount of plaque in the mouth and promoting a safe recovery after dental procedures.
Salt water rinses stop the growth of bacteria in the mouth
Salt water rinses can be helpful in stopping the growth of bacteria in your mouth. Dr Marc Lazare, DDS, says they reduce the acidic environment that allows bacteria to thrive.
“Salt water rinses work by increasing the pH balance in the mouth, creating a much more alkaline oral environment in which bacteria are no longer able to thrive,” explains Lazare. “Harmful bacteria prefer an acidic environment, so once neutralized, the mouth can become less inflamed and healthier.”
A small study 2017 have been shown that salt water rinses are effective in reducing dental plaque and the number of oral microbes, when used with routine plaque control.
Helps in the healing process after dental procedures
Lazarus says that salt water rinses help in the healing process after dental procedures like tooth extractions.
“Salt water promotes healing after dental procedures because it promotes migration of gingival fibroblasts and an increased amount of extracellular matrix components, which serve to regulate wound repair activity,” he says. “Salt water will not irritate the soft tissues in the mouth, nor will it burn or cause pain in the mouth.”
Using salt water rinses can also prevent painful dry socket (alveolar osteitis) that can occur after extractions, according to one.
Respiratory health benefits
Researchers in the study suggested that it may provide a potentially safe and effective intervention for people diagnosed with COVID-19 after contracting the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Salt water rinses have multiple advantages but must be used differently depending on their use.
After tooth extraction
“Wait a full 24 hours after extraction before using a mouthwash,” says Dr Henry Hackney, DMD. “Swish the rinses very gently so as not to damage the blood clot (s). You can do them several times a day, after eating, to make sure your mouth stays clean. They kill bacteria from the painful area, preventing the infection from spreading.
“Salt water rinses can be helpful for people living with periodontal disease,” says Dr Neil Gajjar, BSc, DDS, MAGD, FADI, FPFA, FICD, FACD, Cert. IV Sedation. “To make your own rinse, simply put a teaspoon of salt in a glass of lukewarm water, then rinse your mouth with lukewarm salt water.”
“For a toothache, salt water will help temporarily relieve the pain until you can see the dentist,” says Dr Joi M. Fremont, DDS.
“Salt water rinses can help fight gum infections by removing excess fluid from infected tissue,” says Fremont. “But like a toothache, treatment by the dentist is needed to remove the bacteria, plaque or tartar that caused the infection.”
“Gargle with salt water for 15 to 30 seconds, then spit and repeat,” Hackney says. “It will soothe the sore throat and kill bacteria. ”
“Salt water rinses can sting your canker sores, but they’re still good to use,” says Gajjar. “Just put a teaspoon of salt in a glass of lukewarm water and rinse with lukewarm salt water.”
“Salt water will not cure an allergy but can help relieve some of its symptoms,” says Hackney. “If your throat is swollen, gargling with salt water may provide relief.”
“Excessive use of salt rinses could irritate the gums and lead to additional bleeding,” says Dr Jeffrey Sulitzer, DMD. That being said, saltwater solutions are generally safe to swallow, but it’s always best to spit them out, he adds.
And in the case of infections, Sulitzer says coughing up salt water is considered best at keeping infection at bay. However, he cautions against doing multiple mouthwashes a day and swallowing too much salt water, as this can also dehydrate you.
To make your own salt water rinse, Sulitzer recommends following these three steps.
- Use lukewarm water, as heat relieves a sore throat more than cold water. Hot water will also help the salt dissolve more effectively in the water.
- Use whatever type of salt you have available, and consider additional ingredients like hydrogen peroxide or honey for additional healing and soothing properties. Most salt water rinse recipes require 8 ounces of lukewarm water and 1 teaspoon of salt. However, if your mouth is sensitive and the salt water rinse stings, reduce the amount of salt to 1/2 teaspoon for the first 1 to 2 days.
- Bring the water to a boil, then remove from the heat, salt and stir. Let the salt water cool to a warm temperature before rinsing off with it. Once you have completed your rinse, discard any leftover solution to avoid contamination.
To gargle with a salt water solution safely, Sulitzer advises the following tips:
- You can gargle before or after brushing your teeth.
- Take as much of the solution as possible in your mouth.
- Gargle with the salt water at the back of your throat.
- Rinse around the mouth, teeth and gums for 15 to 20 seconds.
- Spit out the solution.
Salt water rinses can be helpful in improving dental health in several ways. These include reducing bacteria and plaque, and preventing infections after dental procedures.