It’s an old wives’ tale. You feel a cold coming on so you rinse your mouth out with warm salt water to stave it off. Sure enough, you managed to give that cold virus the, ahem, cold shoulder, but you also ate a clove or two of raw garlic, drank ginger tea, and relieved your local pharmacy of their stores of vitamin C. So, between the advice that your grandmother always used to give you and the hard science behind rest and vitamin boosting, you can’t be sure what kept that cold at bay.
It’s probably excessive to call for a full forensic analysis and conduct a double-blind experiment just to find out how you beat that cold but we can say some things for sure. Namely, warm salt water doesn’t just make for a great spa bath. In fact, rinsing your mouth with warm salt water has a whole host of benefits, some obvious and others quite surprising. So, before you go dismissing your grandparents’ sage advice, here are five reasons why warm salt water rinses are actually great for your oral health.
It happens like clockwork. Summer ends, the weather turns frigid—insert eye roll here—and you get the first of many sore throats until the spring rolls around. Believe it or not, but salt water rinses might be the cure you’ve been seeking all these years. As we spend more time indoors in close quarters, we encounter more harmful bacteria and some of those little microbes can cause sore throats. Rinsing regularly with warm salt water balances the pH—the acidity level—of your mouth. Bad bacteria, unsurprisingly, don’t like a healthy pH balance so rinsing with warm salt water can, um, flush them out.
Protect Your Teeth
A balanced pH level isn’t just useful in keeping bad bacteria to a minimum. The protective enamel coating of your teeth also needs a balanced pH level. If the pH level in your mouth is too low—i.e., too acidic—your enamel will begin to corrode. Deteriorating enamel can, and almost certainly will, lead to a number of dental and oral complications. Increased tooth sensitivity to hot and cold foods and beverages, staining and discoloration, and, of course, cavities. A warm salt water rinse after consuming acidic foods and drinks such as soda—or a bowl full of lemons—will help to balance out your mouth’s pH level and protect your enamel.
Reduce Bad Breath
There are many causes of bad breath but they all, more or less, boil down to a simple explanation: an abundance of bad bacteria. So, not only do those microscopic pests increase your chances of developing a sore throat, they’ll send anyone you talk to running for the exits. If you happen to be one of the many people who either doesn’t like commercial mouthwash or has an allergy to some of the ingredients, warm salt water is your new best friend. Rinse out all of those bad bacteria with warm salt water and remember to stay hydrated—particularly in the drier, colder months—to keep them out.
Stop the Bleeding
If your gums start to bleed when you floss or when you visit the dentist’s office, you guessed it, bad bacteria are likely to blame. Rinsing regularly with warm salt water can improve your overall oral hygiene and stop the bleeding. While the concept of “throwing salt on the wound” conjures up painful images, in the case of bleeding gums, a little salt can provide a lot of relief.
Reduce Respiratory Infections
Well, well, well. Grandma was right. And all it took was a peer-reviewed 2013 study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information. As it turns out, those who followed their grandparents’ advice and gargled with warm salt water did, in fact, significantly reduce their chances of contracting common respiratory tract and sinus infections such as the cold and flu. In fact, the researchers concluded that adherence to this old wives’ tale was even more effective than face coverings at reducing the spread of common respiratory viruses though they stopped short of providing hypotheses as to why.
Nothing Beats a Trip to the Dentist
As effective as rinsing your mouth with warm salt water is at boosting oral and dental health, there’s no substitute for the basics. It’s still important to brush twice every day and floss regularly but there’s no harm in adding this step to your nightly routine. And, of course, scheduling regular trips to the dentist is the best way to ensure that your teeth and mouth are as healthy as they can be. And if you know of any other old wives’ tales about dental and oral health, we’d love to hear about them on your next visit to Applewood Dental. Come see us today!