How to Make a Salt Water Rinse For Good Oral Health

How to Make a Salt Water Rinse For Good Oral Health

 Whitney DiFoggio MA, RDH
Written by Whitney DiFoggio MA, RDH
Medical Reviewed on Oct 18, 2023
byDr. Matthew Hannan DDS
🔬 Evidence Based
How to Make a Salt Water Rinse For Good Oral Health

Rinsing with a warm salt water rinse is one of the most common DIY home remedies for sore gums or after a dental surgery. It also helps with a scratchy throat if you have allergies or a strep infection. But why is a salt water rinse good for your mouth? 

Salt Water Rinse Benefits and Uses 

There are a few different reasons someone may use a warm salt water rinse. The most common is to help with soreness or inflammation in your mouth or throat. 

Sore throat? Gargle with salt water! 

Swollen gums? Rinse with salt water!

Salt has natural anti-inflammatory properties, so rinsing with a warm salt water solution can help to reduce swelling and pain anywhere inside your mouth. 

A warm salt water rinse can help speed up healing after oral surgery, such as a wisdom tooth extraction. Salt water helps to flush out debris and bacteria from the surgical site, which can help to prevent infection and promote faster healing.

Additionally, a warm salt water rinse can be beneficial for people who have gingivitis or gum disease, as the salt water can help to reduce inflammation or soreness. 

How to Make a Salt Water Rinse

If you’re new to making you own salt water rinse, you need at least two ingredients:

  • Warm water
  • Table salt (1 tsp.)

If you want to take things next level, you can also add:

  • Baking soda (2 tsp.)

You want to use warm water because it helps the salt dissolve in water more quickly. Adding salt to cold or room temperature water may take it a little longer than normal to dissolve. 

Here are your step-by-step instructions:

  1. Fill one glass (about 8 ounces) with warm tap water. Be sure to check the temperature so that it isn’t too hot. Just borderline warm is really all you need. There’s no need to use filtered or special water; getting it straight from the tap is just fine. 
  2. Stir 1 teaspoon of table salt into the glass, until all of the salt is dissolved.
  3. If desired, add 2 teaspoons of baking soda and continue stirring until the mixture is entirely dissolved. 

It’s best that you make your salt water rinse as needed, rather than ahead of time. Since most people are only using a salt water rinse for their mouth on a short-term basis, you won’t need very much to go around. 

Why Baking Soda? 

Adding baking soda to a warm salt water rinse can be beneficial for several reasons. It has a neutralizing effect on the acid produced by bacteria in our mouths, which can help to reduce the risk of swelling or infection, especially if your oral hygiene routine is a little “off” after having some type of oral surgery.  Baking soda can also help neutralize odors, making your mouth feel fresher if you’re recovering from some type of infection.

Together, the combination of salt and baking soda can help to keep your mouth clean for a faster recovery after oral surgery or dental treatment.

When To Use Saltwater Rinses

1. Toothache

Most toothaches are because of some sort of inflammation or irritation in your nerve. Taking an over-the-counter pain reliever and using a warm salt water mouth rinse can help ease your symptoms if you’re waiting to get into the dentist’s office.

2. Tonsil stones 

Some people can remove their own tonsil stones by gargling or pressing on their tonsils with a Q-tip. Since tonsil stones are a collection of debris in the back of your throat, regular rinses can help prevent flare-ups too.

Related: How To Get Rid Of Tonsil Stones

3. Sore Throat

A salt water rinse is great for the occasional sore throat. Whether you have allergies flaring up or symptoms of strep throat, gargling with the saline solution will help you feel better, faster.

4. Gum disease

Periodontal infections can make your gums really swollen and really sore. Even if you’ve recently had a deep cleaning, your gums may be tender once the numbing medication wears off. Using a salt water rinse for your mouth will help you get through the next couple of days after a scaling and root planing. But if you find you’re using it and haven’t seen the dentist lately, it’s past time to schedule a visit.

5. Canker sores 

You may think that putting salt on a wound is always a bad thing. But not if it’s a salt water rinse and you have a couple of canker sores in your mouth! You can soothe mouth sores with a salt water rinse.

6. Allergies 

If you have seasonal allergies, using a salt water rinse for your mouth can help loosen mucous in the back of your throat to prevent other side-effects. 

7. After tooth extractions or other oral surgeries. 

Whether it’s a gum graft, wisdom tooth removal, dental implant installation, or something else, a salt water rinse is a must-have for your first 2-3 days after the procedure. 

Health Benefits Of Saltwater Rinses

Regardless of when you’re using a salt water rinse for your mouth, there are three main health benefits that you’ll get out of it:

1. You’ll help stop the growth of bacteria. 

Salt water helps to stop the growth of bacteria by creating an environment that is hostile to their growth and survival. High salt concentrations can disrupt the membrane of bacterial cells, making it difficult for them to function and survive. This is why salt is often used as a natural preservative and disinfectant in food and other products.

2. You’ll improve the healing process after your dental procedure. 

Salt water rinses help improve healing after dental surgery because salt has natural anti-inflammatory properties and can kill bacteria, plus it limits how much swelling you experience after a surgical dental procedures. If you didn’t know, swelling is often the most common cause of post-operative discomfort. If you want to feel better faster, be sure to use a salt water rinse for your mouth as advised by your dental team. 

3. You’ll reduce your risk of respiratory infection. 

The warm water and salt can help to break up mucus in the back of your throat, reducing the chances of drainage working its way into your lungs. This can also help to reduce swelling in the nasal passages and airways.

Salt Water Rinse Side-Effects 

While rinsing with salt water can offer many benefits, it's important to be aware of potential side-effects for some individuals. 

Salt water can dry out your entire mouth, which can lead to an increase in other side-effects (such as sensitive teeth, tooth decay, or bad breath.)

If you have high blood pressure or other health conditions that make it hard (or impossible) to tolerate high levels of salt, it's best to avoid using a salt water rinse altogether. At the very least, consult with a healthcare professional before using it.

What Are The Benefits Of Using A Saline Solution?

Saline is basically just another term that people use for salt water. There are many benefits to using a saline (salt water) rinse, and here are a few:

  • Soothing sore throat: The warm water can help to alleviate pain or scratchiness. 
  • Reducing inflammation: The natural anti-inflammatory properties can help to reduce swelling in your mouth.
  • Killing bacteria: Salt is known for its ability to kill some types of bacteria and promote healing.
  • Improving oral hygiene: Saline rinse can help remove debris and bacteria from surgical or extraction sites to help you reduce your risk of infection.
  • Cost-effective: Saline rinses are relatively inexpensive and easy to prepare.

Should I Use A Salt Water Mouth Rinse Before Or After Brushing My Teeth?

Unless you’ve had oral surgery, it's generally recommended to use a salt water rinse after brushing and flossing your teeth. This is because brushing your teeth helps remove plaque and bacteria from your teeth and along the gums, while the salt water rinse helps reduce inflammation in your gums and other soft tissues. By rinsing with salt water after brushing, you can help rinse out any leftover particles and reduce the risk of infection. 

However…some people rinse with salt water instead of brushing and flossing. At least on a short-term basis. For example, if you’ve recently had a surgical procedure like wisdom tooth extraction, gum grafting, or dental implant placement. 

Can Salt Water Rinses Damage Your Teeth?

A warm salt water rinse can be a great way to soothe a sore throat or clean your mouth, but it's important to use it in moderation. While a salt water rinse can help to kill bacteria and reduce inflammation in the mouth, constant contact with a high level of salt may be hard on tooth enamel. If you use a salt water rinse too frequently or for an extended period of time, it can dry out your mouth, leading to a higher risk of xerostomia (dry mouth.) And we know that constant dry mouth will almost always increase the risk of tooth decay. To be on the safe side, it's best to use a salt water rinse no more than 2-3 times a day for a few days in a row and to follow up with a good brushing and flossing routine.

Talk With Your Dentist

It's always a good idea to talk to your dentist before using a salt water rinse, especially if you have any dental or health concerns. Your dentist can help you determine if a salt water rinse is the best option for you and can also provide guidance on how to use it safely and effectively particularly if it’s because of any type of swelling or infection. In most cases, dentists and dental specialists will recommend this DIY mouth rinse after major procedures or oral surgeries. But it’s best for temporary purposes. If you need something more long-term, be sure to see your dentist.

 Whitney DiFoggio MA, RDH
Written by Whitney DiFoggio MA, RDH"Teeth Talk Girl," is a registered dental hygienist. She started her dental health journey on YouTube, educating the public through videos.
Dr. Matthew  Hannan DDS
Medical Reviewed byDr. Matthew Hannan DDSDr. Matthew Hannan is a board-certified dentist and graduate of UT Health San Antonio School of Dentistry.
Last updated onOctober 18, 2023Here is our process

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