DIY vs. OTC Mouthwash

By Premier Dental of Ohio

OTC vs DIY Mouthwash rinses

DIY vs. OTC Mouthwash

It seems that people will DIY anything these days. With a plethora of instructional blogs and videos online, there is a wealth of information available, and in the case of mouthwash, that information often includes recipes for homemade mouthwash. Because there is so much information out there, it can be difficult to differentiate on what might be beneficial and what you should avoid.   

We will begin with an explanation of why you should use mouthwash in the first place. Then we will dive deeper into the benefits of various ingredients and the option of making your own homemade mouthwash.

Is Mouthwash Necessary for Good Oral Health?


Mouthwash can be quite beneficial, but it is not as essential to good oral health as brushing and flossing. It can never replace brushing and flossing for dental plaque removal, so it is not a standalone oral hygiene regimen.

Mouthwash, on its own, does not remove dental plaque from the teeth, and that is the overarching goal of oral hygiene. For this reason, mouthwash is only an adjunct to good brushing and flossing techniques.

What are the Benefits of Using Mouthwash Regularly?

Mouthwash performs two important functions that, when added to brushing and flossing, can improve your oral health. First of all, mouthwash helps to flush away loose food debris from the teeth and gums.  This makes brushing and flossing easier to perform.

Mouthwash also acts as a carrier to apply important compounds to the teeth and gums. This is why the actual ingredients in mouthwash are so important. When we swish it around the mouth, we are bathing the teeth and gums in whatever chemicals it contains.

What are Some Common Ingredients in Over-the-Counter Mouthwash? 

When we buy pre-made mouthwash, we still need to read and understand the ingredients it contains. Any mouthwash sold over-the-counter that carries the American Dental Association’s Seal of Approval has been tested for safety, so you can rest assured that it will not harm you.

We need to understand specific ingredients so that we can tailor our mouthwash selection to our own specific needs.

  • Essential Oils including Thymol, Menthol, and Eucalyptol – These oils are common ingredients in many mouthwash formulations. They are the source of the strong, burning or tingling sensation many mouthwashes cause inside the mouth. These oils provide an antibacterial effect, which can reduce plaque levels when used consistently.
  • Fluoride – Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that promotes strong enamel to resist cavities and damage from acid erosion. It even has the ability to reverse some of that early damage!
  • Xylitol – This plant-based sugar substitute is often used as a sweetener in oral care products. It adds flavor and fights bacteria!
  • Cetylpyridinium Chloride (CPC) – This mouthful of a chemical provides great antibacterial power to fight gum disease and bad breath. CPC is less prevalent than other ingredients, so you may have to search to find it in a mouthwash.
  • Chlorhexidine – This ingredient is typically only available in prescription mouthwash. It is a wonderful antibiotic that targets the “bugs” of periodontal disease.  It provides the best benefits when used in brief intervals rather than long term.
  • Hydrogen Peroxide – Most mouthwash formulations that contain hydrogen peroxide as an ingredient claim to have whitening power. While hydrogen peroxide is an important chemical for teeth whitening, it does not perform that function when used in a mouthwash. Instead, it provides a nice anti-inflammatory effect to soothe angry, red, swollen gum tissues.

How Do These Ingredients Promote Good Oral Health?

The purpose of our home care is to remove dental plaque from the teeth. Plaque houses bad bacteria that lead to cavities, gum disease, and bad breath. As we stated earlier, mouthwash does not remove plaque. But it does have some beneficial effects to help enhance oral health.

Of the ingredients we listed above, several have antibacterial properties. This means that they will fight the bacteria living inside dental plaque. By reducing bacteria in the mouth, you can reduce the risk of various dental diseases.

Fluoride, and other remineralizing agents, work to strengthen the enamel of teeth. This helps them fight cavities, and it often improves the symptoms of sensitive teeth.  

*If you desire to avoid fluoride, please ask your dentist for a recommendation for a different remineralizing agent to keep your enamel strong and healthy.

Why Would Someone Consider a DIY Mouthwash Recipe?

Most people like the idea of DIYing mouthwash or toothpaste for the simple fact of making something on their own. Others think that they may save money by mixing up their own mouthwash formulations. Unfortunately, this is usually not the case. Mouthwash is so inexpensive that you would probably spend around the same dollar amount on the ingredients.

Many people find over-the-counter mouthwash formulations to be too harsh for daily use. Those with certain soft tissue disorders or allergies may not be able to use most OTC mouthwashes. This leads some to pursue a home recipe for mouthwash that will not irritate their mouths and will continue providing some oral health advantages.

Again, understanding the purposes of the ingredients is essential to knowing how to use a mouthwash correctly. We will delineate which ingredients are safe and which to avoid at all costs.

What Ingredients are Safe in DIY Mouthwash?

If you are searching for a homemade concoction to swish, you will likely see some of these as ingredients. Here is how they can help and why they are safe.

Coconut Oil – Coconut oil acts as a wonderful carrier for other ingredients. It is not acidic in pH and has the consistency of water at mouth temperature. Some people claim that it draws toxins out of the gums; studies do show a reduced prevalence of inflammation in the gums of those who consistently practice “oil pulling”.

Baking Soda – Baking soda is present in most pantries, and some recipes call for it as a cleaning agent. It has some absorptive properties, and it is not abrasive enough to cause any damage to enamel.  

Essential Oils – Proponents of essential oils claim that they have beneficial oral health properties. Most of these are in the form of natural antibacterial properties. The most noteworthy are clove oil and peppermint oil.  Make sure to dilute them in a carrier, and do NOT use them at full strength!

Xylitol – You can find xylitol in granular form (like sugar) at the grocery store, and it is an acceptable sweetener in your DIY mouthwash. Xylitol has an inhibitory effect on the bacteria that cause cavities and gum disease, so it can provide a genuine benefit in reducing the risk for dental infections.

Hydrogen Peroxide – Peroxide is safe to use inside the mouth if you dilute it! You should not use undiluted peroxide as a rinse as it is too harsh for the soft tissues and will cause irritation and tissue exfoliation. At the most, you can use peroxide at half strength.  

What Ingredients Should You Avoid in DIY Mouthwash?

Perhaps more important is understanding what ingredients you should NOT use when making a homemade mouthrinse. The good news is that it is quite simple.  

Avoid anything acidic.  Swishing an acid around inside your mouth is dangerous for your teeth. Acid is the only thing that can weaken tooth enamel. This means that you should never use any type of fruit juice or apple cider vinegar in your homemade mouthwash recipe.  Never!

Avoid alcohol.  Alcohol is a great solvent, and some manufacturers use alcohol in their OTC mouthwash formulations. Unfortunately, alcohol also has a great drying effect. When used in a mouthwash, the alcohol will dry out the inside of the mouth, which actually increases the adherence of dental plaque and worsens the risk for dental diseases.  

More Questions about What Type of Mouthwash to Use?

Call your nearest Premier Dental of Ohio location today to schedule a consultation with one of our knowledgeable dentists. We can answer every question you have about mouthwash and how it affects your oral health. We can also assess your current situation to advise you which ingredients will provide you with the greatest benefit. We love helping our patients keep their mouths as healthy as possible!

Premier Dental Shop


No items found.
View More ProductsView More ProductsView More ProductsView More ProductsView More ProductsView More ProductsView More ProductsView More ProductsView More ProductsView More ProductsView More ProductsView More Products

Join our 37,500+ patients who are maintaining healthy teeth and gums for life.

Find Your LocationSchedule online
Schedule Now