Mouthwashes are very helpful to freshen your breath and cleanse areas in your mouth that toothbrushes cannot reach. However, salt water rinses are generally cheaper and can be equally effective in improving your oral health and hygiene. Your dentist will also suggest a salt water rinse in special scenarios. 

Salt water rinses kill many types of bacteria via osmosis, meaning it removes the water from the bacteria. Hence they are a good guard against infection, especially after procedures.

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Aside from their disinfectant properties, salt water rinses can also be used to treat other oral problems like canker sores to allergies and toothaches. They can also have positive effects on your respiratory health, making them remedies for cold and flu season.

Using salt for mouth rinse is one of the easy and affordable home remedies for toothache. The rinse can also be used to ease oral discomfort. There are several benefits of this homemade solution. 

History of Salt Water for Medicinal Use

The medicinal use of salt dates back to 1600 B.C. In fact, the health benefits of salt have been recorded in some of the oldest medical scripts. It was said that salt could dry out and even disinfect wounds. In ancient Egyptian medicine prescribed anti-infective solutions which had salt as a base ingredient. 

These solutions were administered orally, applied as an ointment or used as a suppository (a solid medical device designed to be inserted into the rectum or vagina to dissolve). Greek medicine also had a mixture made of salt and honey to create a topical application to disinfect wounds and cuts.

The benefits are discussed below, along with the procedure to make and use them.

Health Benefits of Salt Water Rinses

According to the Oral Cancer Foundation the high alcohol content in most mouthwashes can irritate your mouth, particularly your gums.

Salt is a mineral composed primarily of sodium chloride or NaCl. Rinsing your mouth with a NaCl solution is an old remedy. It not only promotes healthy gums, but it encourages recovery from mouth ulcers as well. 

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Salt water rinses are considered safer alternatives as they kill the bacteria and keep your mouth clean. When plaque interacts with high doses of sugary foods and drinks, it creates acids that attack tooth enamel. Plaque build-up contributes to gum disease. In such a case, your dentist might suggest that you rinse your mouth using salt and warm water. This is because salt is known for its natural healing properties.

In addition to preventing bacterial growth, salty water rinses have several other benefits. These include promoting a safe recovery from dental procedures and reducing the amount of plaque in your mouth.

1 Salt water rinses stop the growth of bacteria in your mouth

Salt water rinses can help stop the growth of bacteria in your mouth. They help to cut down on the acidic environment that allows bacteria to thrive.

It is interesting to know that saltwater rinse works by increasing the pH- balance inside your mouth. It creates a much more alkaline oral environment which makes it difficult for the bacteria to survive. The harmful bacteria inside your mouth prefer an acidic environment. So once the saltwater neutralizes, your mouth can become less inflamed and healthier.

Where bacteria thrives, it gives rise to sickness. When you use a salt rinse, it becomes harder for the bacteria in your mouth to grow spores that generally thrive and breed in your mouth. And these bacteria spores could lead to a sore throat and sickness.

A study in 2017 proved that salt-water rinses effectively decrease your dental plaque and oral microbial count when used alongside routine plaque control.

2 Help in the healing process after dental procedures

Salt water rinses assists in the healing process, especially after you had dental procedures like tooth extractions.

This is because it promotes gingival fibroblast migration and an increased amount of extracellular matrix components which regulate your wound repairing activity. Saltwater does not irritate the soft tissues in your mouth and it will not burn or cause any mouth pain.

Did you know that salt water rinses can also prevent painful dry sockets (alveolar osteitis) that might occur after an extraction? 

3 Respiratory health benefits

A 2019 research found that saline water gargling as well as nasal irrigation – may be helpful in providing protection against the common cold. Similarly, another study confirmed that saline water gargling could be effective in reducing upper respiratory infections within two to three days. 

The researchers also suggested that it can provide potentially safe and effective intervention for individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 after contracting the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

4 Fights bad breath

If you are sensitive to traditional alcohol-based mouthwashes, salt water rinse is a cheap and natural alternative for fresh breath.

The oral bacteria that the salt water will help fight off can be responsible for everything from gingivitis to bad breath. Swish with salt water, especially after lunch or your coffee break, and enjoy a fresh breath. Many are not able to bear the intense sting of alcohol-based mouthwashes and hence prefer salt water mouthwash.

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In addition, salty water rinses help remove particles of food that are stuck in between your teeth. If left there for long, those particles could irritate and even inflame your gums. That could lead to more cavities and more trips to your dentist.

When Should You Use Salt Water Mouth Rinses?

As you might have noticed, salt water rinses have multiple benefits but should be used differently depending on what they are used for.

1 After tooth extraction

You should wait for a complete 24 hours after tooth extraction before using mouthwash. Try to swish rinse very gently so as not to damage your blood clots. You can do them several times a day, especially after eating, to ensure that your mouth stays clean. The salty water will remove the bacteria from the aching area, thus preventing further infection.

2 Periodontal disease

Salt water rinses can be very useful for people living with periodontal disease. To make your own rinse, simply put one teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water. Then rinse your mouth with the warm saltwater.

3 Toothache

For a toothache, the salty warm water will instantly aid in soothing the pain temporarily until you are able to visit your dentist. 

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4 Gum infection

Salt water rinses might be beneficial with gum infections, as it draws our excess fluid in your infected tissues. But for gum disease treatment, your dentist might remove the bacteria, plaque, or tartar that caused the infection.

5 Sore throat

Gargle with salt water for about 30 seconds, then spit it out, and repeat the steps. It will soothe your sore throat and wash out the harmful bacteria.

6 Canker sores

The rinses can cause your canker sores to sting, but they are still good to use. Simply put a teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water, and rinse with warm salty water for a while for better results.

7 Allergies

Remember, salty water rinse would not cure an allergy but can help alleviate some of its symptoms. If you have tonsils and your throat is swollen, gargling with saltwater can bring relief and reduce swelling.

Salt Water Rinse a Cost-effective Solution 

Salt, as you know, is one of the cheapest ingredients you can find at the store. As a result, you can easily add this versatile ingredient to your daily dental health routine.

From fresher breath to healing wounds faster – you can use a saltwater rinse just once a week to make a difference to your dental health. 

How to Make Salt Water Rinses

To make your own salt water rinse, you should follow these three steps.

1 Always use warm water because warmth gives more relief to a sore throat than cold water. Plus, the warm water will help the salt to dissolve into the water more effectively.

2 Use any type of salt available and consider ingredients like honey or hydrogen peroxide for additional healing and soothing properties. Most salt water rinse recipes generally call for 8 ounces of warm water and one teaspoon of salt. However, if your mouth is tender and the salt water rinses stings, then decrease the salt to a half teaspoon for the first few days.

3 Bring water to a boil, remove it from the heat, add salt, and stir well. Let the saltwater cool down to a warm temperature before rinsing with it. Once finished, you should discard the leftover solution to avoid contamination.


As you have seen, salt water rinses can help to improve dental health in several ways. These include reducing bacteria and plaque and preventing infection following a dental procedure.

Although there are several benefits to using a salt as a mouth rinse, it should not replace your daily oral hygiene routine. You should take good care of your teeth – starting with brushing twice a day and interdental cleaning. Doing this effectively removes bacteria, plaque, and food particles that can get stuck between the gaps of your teeth. Before you use this at-home remedy, you should consult with your dentist to know more about how and when to use it.

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