Mouth Swishing | Gargling

Have you heard about the oil pulling craze?  Basically, it’s using oil as a mouth wash. It may seem “out there” but swishing oil in your mouth for 20 seconds is beneficial to oral health. Research shows oil pulling can significantly reduce plaque, gingival bacteria, and aerobic microorganisms found in plaque.   Sesame seed oil, sunflower, and coconut oil can be used. Oil pulling has been a natural folk remedy in India for years, used to strengthen teeth, prevent bad breath, decay, and bleeding gums.  Swishing can be a positive habit, but it can also encourage decay, depending on what you’re swishing. If you have noticed or suspect you may be a swisher, contact your Lake Forest dentist, Dr. Fondriest, to discuss what to swish and what not to swish.

Mouth Swishing: Things to consider with gargling

Hydrogen Peroxide:

Swishing with 3% hydrogen peroxide for 5 seconds helps prevents bacteria from building up on your gums and teeth, and turning into plaque.  Swishing with hydrogen peroxide has been done for centuries. It’s important, however, to be aware that over-use, or high concentrations of hydrogen peroxide can irritate oral tissues, and dissolve tooth enamel. If swallowed, damage to the throat, esophagus, and other internal membranes can occur.  However, store bought 3% hydrogen peroxide is commonly used, and a 5 second swish is sufficient for it to be safe and effective. After swishing thoroughly between your teeth, rinse twice with water to remove residual peroxide from enamel. Repeat daily, or a few times a week.

Salt Water:

A recent study shows salt water is effective in killing oral bacteria by dehydrating it. Salt water has been used in China as an oral rinse since 2700 B.C. Saturated saline rinses are the most effective–a mixture of 9 teaspoons of salt per 2/3 cup of water. For people with high blood pressure, this practice is not recommended daily, as the high concentrations of salt may affect their readings. Occasionally, however, it can be beneficial. Swish thoroughly, making sure to get between your upper and lower teeth before spitting.

Mouth Swishing:  What Not To Swish in Your Mouth


Swishing soda is detrimental to your oral health, and this goes for diet sodas, too.  Although diet sodas don’t contain sugar, it is not only sugar that harms teeth.  Soda contains acids, three to be exact.

  • Carbonic Acid: The one acid we are probably all familiar with as a byproduct of the carbonation process, carbonic acid is the least harmful of the three acids because it is not as powerful.
  • Citric Acid: Found in sour candy, fruit juice, and fruity flavored soda, citric acid is one of the worse things for your teeth. It erodes enamel resulting in diminished tooth size.
  • Phosphoric Acid:  Phosphorous is low in pH, with levels from 2.47 to 3.35. The lower the pH the higher the acidity. As a comparison, water is neutral with a pH of 7.0. The human mouth has a pH of 6.7 to 7.0. Think of swishing phosphoric acid as putting battery acid on your teeth.  Phosphoric acid is used as an additive to prevent mold, and to add tartness to offset the sweetness of the sugar.


 The pH factor in wine is the measure of active acidity.  The average table wine has a pH of 3.3 and 3.7, which means it is high in acid that is harmful to your teeth.

 Fruit Juice:

Citric acid is found in fruit juice. Most juices have a pH of 3.5 to 4.0 deeming them harmful to the enamel of your teeth, as well.

The longer the acids are in contact with teeth the more damage the enamel will sustain. If the acids begin to wear away the dentin inside the tooth then the damage will be even more severe, possible requiring a root canal. Swishing not only spreads the sugars and acids in between your teeth, and over your gums, the beverages are in contact with the oral cavity longer than if they were simply swallowed.  If you are a swisher, perhaps you should be swishing oil, hydrogen peroxide, or salt water, rather than wine, juice, or soda. Seek proper dental advice from Dr. Fondriest regarding your swishing habit to prevent further damage to your teeth.

If you have questions or concerns about swishing, Dr. Fondriest can discuss a treatment that’s right for you. Aside from providing dependable family, general, and restorative dentistry services to our community, Dr. James Fondriest also holds respected academic appointments at the Pankey Institute in Key Biscayne, FL, and the Spear Institute in Scottsdale, AZ, and he is an adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Prosthodontics at the University of Florida Dental School. At Lake Forest Dental Arts, Dr. Fondriest combines his impressive array of experience with modern technology and caring, compassionate, knowledgeable staff, and we proudly serve the Chicago metropolitan area including the North Shore and Northwest suburbs. To schedule a consultation, call our office today at (847) 234-0517.