Your Mouthwash is Killing You (And What to Use Instead)

Dr. Aaron Hartman

July 25, 2023


You might find it surprising, but there are important things you need to know about the potential harm caused by mouthwash. In this post, I’ll delve into the reasons why mouthwash can cause disease and suggest alternative ways to improve your oral health.

Check out my video on mouthwash to hear what I really think of it!

Did you know that mouthwash can…

  • Disrupt your gut microbiome
  • Reduce your body’s ability to make nitric oxide
  • Increase your risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes
  • Increase systemic inflammation
  • Raise your blood pressure

These are all scientifically-proven facts. Let’s talk about how mouthwash can promote disease and what to do instead.

The Cascading Effect of a Disrupted Oral Microbiome

mouth bacteria

You’ve probably heard about the importance of the gut microbiome, and if you’ve been around RIFM more than a minute, you definitely have! Research shows that our microbiome is a major key to our health. I’ve discussed on the blog how poor gut health is directly related to chronic disease, cardiovascular disease, and mental health problems.

But crucial bacteria are not limited to just our gut. They also exist in our mouth, on our skin, in our sinuses, and even on our genitalia. Each of these areas has its own unique microbiome or bacterial colonies, and when they are in harmony and balance, they play a beneficial role in maintaining our overall health.

Did you know your gut microbiome is actually seeded by bacteria in your mouth? Maintaining a balanced pH and fostering a healthy bacteria population in your mouth directly influences your gut health.

Now that we know that a disruption in the oral microbiome can directly disrupt the gut microbiome, it’s clear to see how that seemingly innocent bottle of mouthwash on your bathroom counter could be very harmful to your health.

How Mouthwash Affects Nitric Oxide

Ever heard of nitric oxide? It’s the compound responsible for the functioning of medications like Viagra and nitroglycerin. Nitric oxide plays a pivotal role in dilating blood vessels, lowering blood pressure, preventing heart attacks, and promoting healthy sexual function. To ensure its presence in the arteries, it’s essential to consume nitrates found in foods like beets and leafy greens.

The surprising element in the nitric oxide story is that we need specific mouth bacteria to help release these nitrates from foods so that our body can absorb them. What could kill these good bacteria in the mouth, preventing this critical release of nitrates? You guessed it – mouthwash. So now we can see how mouthwash can also prevent the absorption of these critical nutrients from our food.

Without the right bacteria in the mouth – because of mouthwash – nitric oxide fails to reach your system, impacting brain function, blood pressure regulation, and other vital processes.

Oral Health Out of Balance: It’s Not Just About Pretty Teeth

woman showing gums

One noticeable sign of imbalance in the mouth is the presence of tartar. If you frequently experience tartar buildup or scaling, it indicates the formation of a biofilm that harbors harmful bacteria in your mouth. This condition is linked to various oral problems, such as periodontal disease, gum recession, and cavities, all of which can have a significant impact on your overall oral health. But the effects of an imbalanced oral microbiome extend beyond just the mouth, affecting the entire body.

During my medical career, I’ve observed interesting connections between oral health and other conditions. It’s remarkable how often I encounter diabetic patients or individuals with severe gut issues who also have poor dentition and oral hygiene. New research is showing associations between periodontitis (chronic gum infections) and conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, along with other disease states. We are also seeing a link between the bacteria in your mouth and vascular health.

While I don’t recommend using mouthwash, I always recommend that my patients take their oral health seriously because of its intricate relationship with our overall well-being.

Ways to Promote Oral Health Without Using Mouthwash

There are several simple steps you can take to promote a healthy mouth and oral microbiome. If you’re experiencing things like gum inflammation, tartar buildup, foul-smelling breath, or a white tongue, it’s important to take some steps to address your oral health.

  1. One effective technique is called oil pulling, which involves swishing coconut oil or olive oil in your mouth for about five minutes, twice a day. This practice helps combat harmful bacteria and promotes a healthier balance of microbes in the mouth.
  2. Another option is to incorporate oral probiotics into your routine. These specially formulated probiotics are chewed so that they are lodged on the gums, contributing to a healthier balance of bacteria. Some toothpaste brands even offer probiotic-infused options, providing an additional way to support oral health. See below for the oral probiotic that my family uses.
  3. There are new mouthwashes containing essential oils can be beneficial in controlling bacteria in both your mouth and gut. These mouthwashes have shown positive results in putting periodontal disease into remission, reducing tartar buildup, and enhancing overall oral health.

Beyond Fresh Breath: The Far-Reaching Effects of Imbalanced Oral Microbiome

As you can see, maintaining a healthy oral microbiome is vital for your overall well-being. The bacteria in your mouth have a significant impact on your gut health and can even affect processes like nitric oxide production, blood pressure regulation, blood sugar balance, sexual health, and brain function. Since mouthwash disrupts our microbiome, it’s easy to see how it could be very harmful to your health.

There are simple steps you can take to improve your oral health without relying on mouthwash. Prioritizing your oral health is a great place to start to improve your overall health trajectory and ensure that you get the most benefit from the nutritious foods that you eat.

Want to Try an Oral Probiotic?

I often get questions about what products my family uses for oral health. Here is one of my favorite products from our store:

  • Prodegin oral probiotic by Klaire
  • Prodegin oral probiotic by Klaire


  • Prodegin oral probiotic by Klaire helps to reset the oral microbiome. Prodegin™ is a high-CFU blend of 5 Lactobacillus species designed to promote gastrointestinal and oral health, and is formulated as a chewable tablet.

Don’t Miss Out

Sign up for our newsletter and be the first to know when Dr. Hartman posts a new article.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.