Salt Water Mouth Rinse: Is It Effective?

Good daily oral hygiene is very important for overall health. Many types of bacteria live in your mouth and can cause cavities, gingivitis and periodontal disease when there is an overgrowth. They're good reasons to keep your oral cavity in tiptop shape. Some people suggest that rinse mouth with salty water can keep good oral hygiene. Is it true?

Is Salt Water Mouth Rinse Effective?

Historically, salt water rinses have been used for hundreds of years, from ancient China to the Romans. Ancient Indian Ayurvedic documents have been found to contain references to oral hygiene with salt water. Even today, dentists often recommend salt water mouth rinses to ease pain and swelling after a tooth extraction.

A study conducted in 2010 showed that salt water is an effective way to kill oral bacteria. The saturated saline solution kills the bacteria by changing the oral environment into one not conducive to bacterial growth.

Can I Use Salt Water to Rinse My Mouth Regularly?

Many believe using salt water oral rinse regularly can be a cheaper and more effective way of achieving good oral health. Some dentists believe that while salt water is good to reduce inflammation after tooth extraction and for mouth sores, it may damage the tooth enamel if used for prolonged periods. Salt water is alkaline in nature and the ensuing enamel damage can lead to tooth decay. Regular salt water rinses may also mask bad breath which can be due to a host of other undiagnosed problems.

Can I Replace Mouthwash with Salt Water?

No scientific study can confirm that salt water mouth rinses are superior to commercial mouthwashes. In fact, commercial mouthwashes are carefully formulated to have a neutral pH to preserve tooth enamel. However, the high levels of alcohol contained in many mouthwashes can lead to an increased risk of oral cancers. Mouthwashes that contain a compound called chlorhexidine are recommended only for 2 weeks. Fluoride-containing mouthwashes are generally recommended for daily use.

Benefits of Salt Water as Mouth Rinse

  • Cheaper than commercial mouthwashes
  • More environmental-friendly than the chemicals contained in commercial mouthwashes
  • Convenient because salt is easily available and the mixture can be made anywhere
  • Alcohol-free, so will not cause the burning sensation that some mouthwashes cause in sensitive people
  • Will cause no allergies
  • Non irritant to sensitive oral tissues
  • Acts an antibacterial because it kills bacteria by increasing the pH of the mouth to an environment not suitable for bacterial growth

The following oral conditions can benefit from salt water mouth rinses:

  • Bad breath (halitosis)-salt water kills the bacteria that cause bad breath and infection.
  • Gum disease (gingivitis) is characterized by inflamed and bleeding gums caused by overgrowth of a bacteria found naturally in the mouth. Rinsing the mouth with the saline solution will reduce the incidence of gingivitis.
  • Toothache due to cavities that are caused by bacteria can be minimized.
  • Healing of oral tissue after tooth extraction or infection-salt treatment is successful at reducing inflammation because it is an astringent and causes swollen tissue to shrink, promoting rapid healing. It also prevents infection of any exposed tissue.
  • Relieves a sore throat by killing the bacteria and soothing the inflamed throat tissues.

How to Use Salt Water as Mouth Rinse

There are some variations to the recipe of salt water mouth rinse. Use one that is easily tolerable to your personal tastes, but take care not to make it too salty.

  • One half to three-quarters teaspoon salt mixed with one cup of warm water.
  • Once the solution is dissolved, take a sip and swish around in the mouth against the gums. Do this for about 30 seconds then spit out the solution.
  • You may take a second sip and repeat for another 30 seconds. This will remove pieces of food stuck in the gaps of your teeth and kill off any bacteria that can cause the excessive build-up of plaque.
  • Continue brushing and flossing your teeth.
  • Some recommend adding baking soda to the saline solution to increase pH even more. Half a teaspoon of baking soda added to half a teaspoon of salt mixed with warm water is a common dosage. This may help whiten teeth as well. Other additives used either in combination with salt or alone are: hydrogen peroxide, coconut oil, aloe vera juice, sesame or sunflower oil.


Remember that while saltwater mouth rinses are cheap and convenient, they can cause tooth decay because the alkalinity of the solution erodes the tooth enamel. Damaged tooth enamel, in addition to more cavities, can cause chipping and excessive wearing of teeth.

Saltwater mouth rinses are safe only if the solution is spit out after use. Do not swallow large quantities of salt because excessive salt intake can cause vomiting and dehydration. Long term effects include hypertension or high blood pressure.

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