Can Your Teeth Be Too Clean? Kind Of

A woman puts toothpaste on a toothbrush.

You can’t underestimate the importance of oral hygiene. From keeping your pearly whites intact to making sure your breath is fresh, your mouth matters. But can it be too clean?

As it turns out, yes, you can overclean your mouth. The space is a delicate balance of good and bad bacteria, and it can be thrown off.

Dr. Kami Hoss, dentist and author of If Your Mouth Could Talk: An In-Depth Guide to Oral Health and Its Impact on Your Entire Life, said good oral health is about balancing your mouth’s microbiome. Your mouth is a mix of good and bad bacteria, and you need both. However, when you use products—like antiseptic mouthwash— you end up killing off all of the bacteria, not just the bad.

When you kill off the good bacteria using mouthwashes that contain ingredients like alcohol and that claim to get rid of 99% of germs, you inadvertently give the bad bacteria a place to proliferate unchecked. It’s the good bacteria that actually help hold those bad guys back.

But that doesn’t mean you need to stop using mouthwash. Hoss recommended rinsing with an alkaline mouthwash first thing in the morning to help restore the mouth’s pH and loosen plaque. Then, floss, clean your tongue, and brush your teeth. At night, simply reverse the routine’s order.

If you want to keep your mouth healthy, your mouthwash might be keeping you from your goals.

Curious about why your routine needs to be in a certain order? Find out why you might want to start using your mouthwash first.

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