Facts about mouthwash

I was talking with a friend this morning about some recent research investigating whether mouthwash might have any effect on COVID-19. I sent her this review study, "The effectiveness of mouthwash against SARS-CoV-2 infection: A review of scientific and clinical evidence," by Ming-Hsu Chen and Po-Chun Chang, published in May 2022 in the Journal of the Formosan Medical Association. I'm not here to give any medical advice, so if you're interested, you can go read the study.

Our discussion of that study led us to wonder how widespread the use of mouthwash is in the United States. My friend said she assumed almost everyone who can afford basic dental hygiene uses mouthwash every day (she uses it every day, multiple times a day, as did her family growing up). I said I really didn't think that was true (I don't use it every day, or actually much at all, and neither did my family growing up, although we could have afforded to). We are both middle class people who grew up in middle class homes. And yet, we had very different realities and assumptions about other peoples' mouthwash practices, based on our own particular experiences.

So how many people DO use mouthwash? I had to go see if I could find any data! Here's what I found: a list of "19 Mouthwash Statistics That Will Take You By Surprise," compiled by a "leading branding agency" called Soocial (so take it with a grain of salt, although they do cite every statistic they present). I won't go through all 19—if you're interested you can go take a look—but here are a few I found illuminating:

  • The mouthwash market is projected to reach a value of $9,272.13 million by 2027.
  • The global industry for mouthwash grew at over 4% CAGR from 2016 to 2020.
  • 31.1% of people in Grampian, Scotland say they've never used mouthwash. One study published around a decade ago in the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Research found a significant number of people in the Grampian region of Scotland had never used mouthwash. A total of 38.1%, the majority of the respondents had never used mouthwash at the time of the study, while 17.5% said they used the substance, but often less than once per month. According to the report, only 25.1% of participants used mouthwash on a daily basis, and 19.4% said they used mouthwash every few days. Interestingly, the prevalence of use reduced with age, and women were more likely to say they used mouthwash than men.
  • 199.56 million people in the United States use mouthwash. A Statista Research Department survey into the use of mouthwash throughout the United States found around 199.56 million Americans (60.5% of the population) currently use dental rinse or mouthwash. The data was calculated and assessed by Statista based on Simmons National Consumer Survey information and US Census Data for the year 2020.
  • But only 16.62 million Americans were regular mouthwash users in 2020. A Statista Research Department survey found that 16.62 million Americans reported using mouthwash 14 times or more within the last week (this is about 5% of the total population). A large number of people are using mouthwash, but it is still a small percentage of the total population.
  • 49% of people say they don't use mouthwash regularly in the UK (Oral Health Foundation). According to a survey conducted by the Oral Health Foundation, around half of survey participants (49%), say they do not use mouthwash regularly. A further 36% of respondents said they never use mouthwash at all.

So, my hunch that most people in the United States don't use mouthwash regularly was correct–according to Statista Research data, only about 5% of the US population uses mouthwash the way my friend does (2x/day or more). I don't know what any of this means—I have no horse in this mouthwash race, no skin in this antiseptic game. I just find it fascinating how different our assumptions about daily habits are, and how clearly grounded they are in our own practices. I'm sure there are lots of similar daily habits that those who do them assume everyone else does and that they're just basic in every sense, but that really aren't.