Do saltwater rinses really work?

August 01, 2014 | Posted in Dental Tips | Be the first one to comment

You can use salt water for so many things. Have you heard?

You can gargle it to help heal a sore throat, to treat a cold or canker sore or you can even use it to get rid of bad breath.

Is it really that effective for all these things? Can salt water help cure your mouth troubles?

A look back shows people have been using salt water to treat wounds and rinse mouths for at least 5000 years. It’s believed the Chinese first used salt water rinses to treat gum disease. The ancient Egyptians also noted its effectiveness on injuries. Even Hippocrates, the father of medicine, encouraged his fellow healers to use salt water to heal various ailments.

So why is salt water good for your mouth?

Salt water rinses are beneficial since they alkalinize the mouth or increase pH levels. This limits bacterial growth because bacteria need a moist environment in order to thrive, so without enough water they can’t survive.

This is backed by a 2010 study by the Journal of Indian Society of Pedodontics and Preventive Dentistry. The study shows saturated saline rinses - a solution containing 9 tsp of salt per 2/3 cup of water – kills bacteria in the mouth by dehydrating it. The oral bacteria that the saturated saline attacks can be responsible for a variety of health problems, such as gum disease and bad breath.

Salt water is also astringent and promotes wound healing by reducing inflammation and contracting the tissues. This is why dentists use warm salt water rinses to ease the swelling and pain after dental procedures.

Things to keep in mind

Although salt water rinses are an effective bacteria killer, there isn’t enough scientific evidence to support its use as a daily mouth rinse. Some dentists argue that excessive use of salt water rinses can be harmful because the acidity of it can wear away tooth enamel and cause chipping and cavities.

Swallowing large quantities of salt water can also be unsafe and lead to dehydration. As you drink salt water, the water present in your body is rerouted to help your body break down the excess salt. This causes your other bodily functions to suffer because of the deficient water levels in your system. This means the more salt water you drink, the more water your body will lose, which leads to thirst, dry mouth, cramps, and vomiting.

Of course, drinking small amounts of salt water won’t hurt you. It’s sometimes even recommended for intestinal and bowel flushes. But the take home message is clear: If you’re going to use salt water rinses, please do so in moderation.

So do you think salt water rinses are as effective as mouthwash? Please leave your comments below and give us your thoughts. We’d love to hear your feedback.



 Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D. "Why Does Salt Work as a Preservative?”

Dr. David Kerr. “Mouthwash or salt water rinse”

Eberhard J. Wormer. “A taste for salt in the history of medicine”

S RupeshJJ WinnierUA NayakAP RaoNV Reddy. “Comparative evaluation of the effects of an alum-containing mouthrinse and a saturated saline rinse on the salivary levels of Streptococcus mutans”;year=2010;volume=28;issue=3;spage=138;epage=144;aulast=Rupesh

Sirah Dubois. “The Use of Salt Water for Washing the Mouth”

Vicki M. Giuggio. “What if you drink saltwater?”

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