A salt water mouth rinse is useful for a number of different reasons. It's a great option for anyone who has a sore throat, gum sores or recently underwent dental procedures. It doesn't take the place of modern dental hygiene, but is used as a supportive measure for adults and children alike.
History of Salt for Medicinal Use
The use of salt for health care purposes has a long history, dating back to some of the oldest medical scripts in existence, according to the Science Tribune. Ancient Egyptian papyruses from 1600 B.C. provide recipes for a range of medicinal treatments using salt, particularly in anti-infectives. The ancient Greeks used it for similar purposes, and already knew – more than 2,000 years ago – that it had anti-inflammatory effects.
How Salt Inhibits Dental Bacteria
So, how does a salt water mouth rinse work to reduce dental bacteria? According to a 2014 study, salt water rinses temporarily increase the pH balance of your mouth, creating an alkaline environment in which bacteria struggle to survive. Because they – along with most other natural species – generally prefer an acidic environment, using the rinse often enough can make it difficult for bacteria to breed.
Healing Properties of Salt Water
The use of salt also promotes healing, so it's ideal to use it 24 hours after minor dental surgery to help your mouth recover (if recommended by your dentist or oral surgeon) according to the Canadian Dental Association. It's an isotonic solution, which means it contains the same salts and minerals our bodies do in equal concentrations. For this reason, it doesn't irritate the mucous membranes as a medicinal mouthwash might, which is why many dentists recommend it as a gentle healing aid after a procedure.
Making a Salt Water Mouth Rinse
It's actually easy to make a personal salt water-based mouth rinse. Add ½ a teaspoon of salt to a cup of warm water, as recommended by the Canadian Dental Association. Rinse your mouth every two to three hours for the first few days after surgery, then use it three to four times a day thereafter. You can use the rinse to:
- soothe and heal mouth sores.
- benefit a sore throat caused by strep, tonsillitis or even a common cold.
- provide emergency dental hygiene in the event you don't have your regular mouthwash or toothpaste handy.
Other Options for Oral Hygiene
Although there are definitive benefits to using a salt water mouth rinse, it should be a supplement to your daily oral hygiene routine. Mouthwashes may also provide protection for your mouth and kill germs, and some continue working even after you start a new meal. Just be sure to check with a dentist for approval, especially if you've had oral surgery.