We’re all familiar with the anecdotal value of saltwater solution. And today, this easy and affordable home remedy has been scientifically proven to have many benefits to oral health. For starters, it’s great to gargle with to keep your throat healthy and to help relieve it when it’s sore and achy; it’s excellent to alleviate pain after a dental procedure and it helps heal your gums. But these are just some of its benefits. Saltwater solution has much to offer especially if we use it regularly and in the long term.
Saltwater solution possesses a host of incredible properties – it’s disinfecting, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidizing, and anti-septic, and promotes healing. This solution has been used for thousands of years, dating back to as early as 1600 BC. Some of the world’s oldest medicinal scripts mention the uses of saltwater solution – its use has been traced back to the Romans, Greeks, and Egyptians all of whom applied it to heal wounds, mouth sores, and other skin conditions.
Ancient Egyptians used it as a suppository, applied it as an ointment, and also administered it for oral use. They believed that salt could disinfect and dry out wounds. The Greeks added salt to honey and used the resulting mixture for topical use.
The saltwater solution offers manifold benefits but first, let’s establish what saltwater really means here. Saltwater here does not mean water from the sea. Instead, it is the clean, drinking water and table salt solution we prepare at home, the scientific term for which is saline. The difference between a saline solution and seawater is that of hygiene.
Benefits of a saltwater rinse
Saltwater rinse offers a cheap alternative to mouthwash and it’s just as effective in maintaining oral hygiene and health, says dental surgeon, Dr. Chris Kammer.
Saltwater rinse helps to effectively clean and heal wounds via a process called osmosis . When salt – sodium chloride (NaCl) to be precise – comes in constant with the liquid in cells, it acts as a dehydrating agent taking the liquid with it. And if the liquid is bacterial by nature, it will be forced out too thus successfully cleaning and disinfecting the skin’s surface.
This process involves the dehydration of damaged cells, where the saltwater solution works as an antibacterial, and eventually as an anti-inflammatory.
Saltwater solution is alkaline by nature and so saltwater rinses can temporarily increase the pH value inside the mouth. This promotes overall oral hygiene and inhibits the multiplication of bacteria.
1 & 2. Fights bacteria and reduces bad breath
There are many causes of bad breath but some of the most common ones come down to poor oral hygiene and the prevalence of bacteria. The food debris in our mouths transforms into bacteria, which then turns into dental plaque on our teeth and forms a bacterial biofilm on our tongue and gums. Saltwater rinse fights and physically washes away bacteria.
Bacteria can only grow and thrive in an acidic environment and since saltwater is alkaline, it prevents bacterial growth. Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS), Dr. Marc Lazare explains:
“Saltwater rinses work by increasing the pH- balance inside the mouth, creating a much more alkaline oral environment in which the bacteria are no longer able to thrive. The harmful bacteria prefer the acidic environment, so once that is neutralized, the mouth can become less inflamed and healthier.”
Saltwater rinses alongside a regular tooth-brushing routine can effectively reduce the formation of dental plaque and control oral microbial growth.
3 & 4. Promotes healing and protects from gum disease
Saltwater rinse is often prescribed by dentists after a dental procedure. That is because this solution possesses natural healing properties and it speeds up recovery. It can help alleviate symptoms of gum disease such as gingivitis by reducing swelling and inflammation. Alongside, it is also recommended to heal mouth sores and ulcers.
While saltwater rinse helps heal troubled gums it can also be used as a preventive measure. Gums flare up after dental plaque has built up to the point that it irritates the gums. Washing your mouth with a saltwater solution regularly keeps the bacteria from accumulating.
Saltwater rinse contains anti-oxidizing properties that can temporarily lessen or even relieve toothaches.
Mouthwashes are not as easily accessible, and for many with gum sensitivity or other issues, they can irritate. That is because some mouthwashes may have a high alcohol content and while their formula might be great for oral disinfection, it can irritate your gums or mouth lining. Saltwater rinse cleanses, disinfects, and removes bacteria while also being soothing.
5. Relieves sensitive teeth
About 40 million Americans have reported suffering from tooth sensitivity. Now while routine checkups at the dentist are crucial to treating dental issues, here’s what you can do in the meantime. Use the saltwater solution.
Salt is an effective antiseptic and helps relieve inflammation. To treat sensitivity, add about ½ to ¾ teaspoon salt to a glass of warm water and stir. Now rinse and gargle your mouth with this solution for about 30 seconds, then spit out. Repeat till you’ve rinsed 4 to 5 times or when the solution finishes.
When are saltwater rinses most useful?
By now, you know saltwater rinse can be useful for many oral problems but they may require using this solution differently.
Mouthwashes cannot be used in the first 24 hours following tooth extraction. However, after 24 hours you can rinse your mouth with saltwater solution gently enough to not disturb the freshly formed blood clot. You can do this several times a day to ensure your mouth stays clean and that you don’t spread any infection, especially in the affected area.
Gum infection, periodontal disease, and canker sores
Saltwater rinse can ease the symptoms of periodontal disease. And for that, it will require a more concentrated salt solution. Add one teaspoon of salt to a glass of warm water and swish in the mouth while it’s still warm.
This same proportion of salt and water can treat canker sores or mouth ulcers. Though it will sting initially, it helps the healing in the long run.
This saltwater rinse also helps heal gum diseases by removing excess fluid from the inflamed, swollen gum. While it will provide temporary relief, you must ultimately see the dentist to treat or remove the tartar, bacteria, or plaque that caused the issue in the first place.
Allergies and sore throat
Saltwater rinse cannot cure allergies but it can certainly help alleviate their symptoms. In case your throat is swollen or you have a heavy bout of flu, gargling with saltwater solution can bring you relief. Gargle for 15 to 20 seconds, then spit the water out. This will soothe your sore throat, wash away bacteria and help open your airways.
Studies have shown that saltwater gargles reduce the severity of allergies and respiratory infections, whether bacterial or viral. These infections can vary from simple colds and flu to more severe strep throat or mononucleosis.
You can gargle before or after brushing your teeth. Most importantly, make sure the water is warm since the warmth will make it soothing.
Be mindful of taking only the amount in your mouth that you can easily gargle. Now gargle around the back of your throat, then rinse in your mouth for about 15 seconds. Once done, spit out the salt solution.
How to do a saltwater rinse?
Now that you know the many benefits of saltwater rinses, it’s time we show you how to make this solution.
- Fill a glass with warm water. It is key that the water is warm since that is how it will soothe a sore throat. Plus, warm water is better at absorbing salt.
- You can use any type of salt available to you. It can be your regular table salt, rock salt, or Himalayan salt, for example. If you’re using coarse sea salt or kosher salt, make sure it has dissolved properly.
- You may add other ingredients like honey or hydrogen peroxide to give the solution additional healing qualities.
- Most medicinal saltwater recipes generally ask for 1 teaspoon of salt in a glass of water. But if you’re just starting out, mix about ¼ to ½ teaspoon of salt into every 8 ounces of water. Also, if your mouth is sensitive, keep the salt amount low for the first couple of days to avoid any stinging.
- We need to make sure that the water is sterile before making the solution. So first, boil your water, add salt, and stir. Then let sit until it cools down to being just warm enough. Now rinse and gargle. Once you’re finished your rinse, throw the remaining mixture away.
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- Suckling, Lee. (2016). Does Salt Water Really Heal Open Wounds? Stuff. https://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/79116292/does-salt-water-really-heal-open-wounds#:~:text=Salt%20water%20helps%20to%20clean,effectively%20helping%20cleanse%20the%20skin.