Salt water gargle is an easy, time-tested remedy for common ailments like a sore throat. The anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties of this solution are often used to fight upper respiratory tract infections.
The gargle is said to have certain medicinal values that help maintain oral health. It may also help heal canker sores, treat dry cough, relieve toothache and nasal congestion, and clear mucus. This age-old remedy is still recommended by dentists to alleviate throat pain and inflammation.
In this article, we have discussed the health benefits, preparation tips, and the potential risks of salt water gargle. Read on for more information.
Table Of Contents
Benefits Of Salt Water Gargle
Gargling and rinsing your mouth with salt water provide a range of health benefits.
1. May Ease A Sore Throat
A sore throat can be a result of bacterial or viral infections or allergic reactions. Gargling with salt water may help relieve the condition (1).
Salt water gargle works on the same principle as osmosis. It makes the environment in your throat inhospitable for the bacteria/virus. The solution flushes out the infection-causing microbes.
Salt water gargle can help prevent several infections and keep the mouth clean (2).
2. May Heal Canker Sores
Canker sores are small bothersome ulcers occurring in your mouth. They can be sensitive and quite painful. Accidentally biting the inside of your cheek, sensitivity to certain foods or hormonal fluctuations during menstruation can cause canker sores.
Salt water gargle can relieve the associated pain. It may also accelerate healing and recovery in infants and children (3).
3. May Prevent Upper Respiratory Tract Infections
Salt water gargle may help reduce upper respiratory tract infections, like flu, common cold, and strep throat.
According to one study, gargling with warm salt water thrice a day is an easy and cost-effective way to decrease your risk of developing an upper respiratory tract infection by 40% (4).
A study conducted on 338 Hajj pilgrims found that salt water gargle helped reduce the incidence of respiratory tract infections (5).
4. May Treat Dry Cough
Saltwater gargle works equally well in treating a dry cough as well as one filled with phlegm. Gargling with salt water works as an anti-tussive (it helps stop a cough) (6).
5. May Relieve Toothache
A toothache occurs due to the build-up of pus in the center of your tooth as a result of a bacterial infection. A saltwater gargle may relieve the pain by flushing out some of the fluid from the tooth.
You can rinse your mouth with salt water every few hours. Salt is a natural disinfectant that may help ease the swelling in tissues (7).
6. May Treat Dental Plaque And Prevent Gingivitis
Saltwater gargles may treat and prevent dental plaque and gingivitis. Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that forms on the teeth and along the gum lining. If left untreated for too long, it can harden into tartar and eventually develop into gingivitis.
Gingivitis is characterized by swollen, painful gums. It can also lead to more serious oral diseases and loss of teeth. The best way to prevent this is by gargling with warm salt water a few times a week. This helps remove the plaque build-up on your teeth (8).
7. May Clear Mucus And Relieve Nasal Congestion
Gargling with warm salt water may help thin out the mucus build-up in your respiratory tract and nasal cavity and expel it (9). This reduces inflammation and may relieve throat pain.
The warm salt water also flushes out the bacteria and virus, which may otherwise lead to congestion. Limited research is available at this point, and more studies are required to conclude. Anecdotal evidence shows that saltwater gargles may relieve nasal congestion.
8. May Maintain Natural pH Levels
There is limited evidence available in this regard. Anecdotal evidence suggests that salt water helps neutralize the acids in the throat produced by the invading bacteria and helps maintain a healthy pH balance.
A normal pH balance helps the natural bacteria in your throat and mouth to thrive. It also prevents unwanted bacteria from accumulating and causing infections.
9. May Eliminate Bad Breath
A warm salt water gargle can neutralize the acids in your mouth. It restores its natural pH level and flushes out oral bacteria. Anecdotal evidence suggests that salt water gargles may help eliminate bad breath.
10. May Ease Tonsillitis
Tonsils can get inflamed due to a bacterial or viral infection and lead to symptoms like sore throat, troubled swallowing, and a yellow-white coating on the tonsils (10). Gargling with warm salt water can help relieve the pain in your throat and ease some of these symptoms.
11. May Treat Bleeding And Swollen Gums
Bleeding and swollen gums are the first sign of bacterial gum disease. Rinsing your mouth with salt water can help reduce inflammation and fight the bacteria (11). Additionally, it can help flush out the bacteria from an abscess in your mouth that is causing the infection.
12. May Protect The Enamel
Salt water contains fluoride minerals that may stop or even reverse tooth decay. The fluoride in salt water prevents the loss of minerals from the tooth enamel and helps strengthen it.
It also neutralizes the acids in your mouth that attack and weakens the enamel on your teeth (12). Hence, a salt water rinse needs to be incorporated in your dental routine.
13. May Aid Gingival Wound Healing
Oral diseases like gingivitis cause the gums to weaken and become more susceptible to injury. Over time, the teeth also loosen from their place.
A study conducted in Thailand has found that rinsing your mouth with salt water could promote rapid healing of any wound in the connective tissues in your gums. It also restores gum health (13).
14. May Fight Candidiasis
Candidiasis is a fungal infection caused when the yeast Candida starts growing in the mouth, throat, or esophagus. This can lead to symptoms like white patches in your mouth and throat, a cottony sensation in your mouth, and pain while swallowing.
Salt has antimicrobial properties. Rinsing and gargling with salt water may help fight Candida infection (14).
Here’s how you can make salt water gargle at home.
How To Prepare Salt Water For Gargling
Preparing salt water at home for gargling is very easy. You just need to follow the procedure below:
- Add half a teaspoon of either table salt or sea salt to a cup of warm water. Stir until the salt dissolves completely.
- Ensure the solution is not too hot.
In the following section, we will look at how you can gargle with salt water effectively.
How To Gargle With Salt Water Effectively
- Take as much of the solution into your mouth as is comfortable.
- Gargle the salt water near the back of the throat.
- Rinse the water around the mouth, teeth, and gums.
- Spit out the solution.
The salt water solution is generally safe to swallow. But if you have any oral infection, it always is better you spit it out. Gargling with salt water twice a day is recommended for maximum effectiveness.
A person should gargle salt water solution for as long as possible. But before they do so, they must be aware of the possible risks of the process and the precautions to be taken.
Risks And Precautions
Though salt water gargling does not have any serious side effects, there are some ways it can affect you negatively:
- Gargling with salt water that has too much salt in it can lead to dehydration due to the elevation of plasma sodium levels (15).
- Swallowing too much salt water can be harmful as consuming excessive sodium can increase your risk of developing cardiovascular disease (16).
- Engaging in salt water gargling every day for a long period can soften the enamel of your teeth and gums due to its acidic content. Also, people with any medical condition or high blood pressure must consult a doctor before gargling.
- Always check how hot the salt water is before gargling to avoid burning your mouth.
- If you feel the salt water is too salty, dilute it by adding a little more water.
- Make sure the salt has dissolved completely before gargling. Undissolved grains of salt can grate against the lining of your throat and cause more pain instead of alleviating it.
Salt water gargle is a simple home remedy and an inexpensive alternative to modern-day medicated mouthwashes. It keeps the mouth clean and may help treat many common infections and allergies like flu, cold, cough, and sore throat.
It also alleviates pain and inflammation in the throat. This is an effective solution for post-dental operative procedures. However, excess usage of salt should be avoided if you are under any medications. Consult a doctor before its usage.
Expert’s Answers for Readers Questions
Should you rinse with salt water before or after brushing?
You can rinse with salt water either way. The salt water rinse will keep your mouth clean.
What is the ratio of salt to water to be taken for gargling?
You need a cup of water for half a teaspoon of table salt or sea salt.
- Ramalingam, Sandeep et al. “A pilot, open labelled, randomised controlled trial of hypertonic saline nasal irrigation and gargling for the common cold.” Scientific reports vol. 9,1 1015. 31 Jan. 2019.
- Huynh, Nam Cong-Nhat et al. “Rinsing with Saline Promotes Human Gingival Fibroblast Wound Healing In Vitro.” PloS one vol. 11,7 e0159843. 21 Jul. 2016.
- Abu-Naser, Samy S., and Mohammed A. Hamed. “An Expert System for Mouth Problems in Infants and Children.” (2016).
- Shimbo, T., et al. “COST-EFFECTIVENESS OF GARGLING FOR PREVENTION OF UPPER RESPIRATORY TRACT INFECTIONS: PIN19.” Value in Health 10.3 (2007).
- Emamian, Mohammad Hassan et al. “Respiratory Tract Infections and its Preventive Measures among Hajj Pilgrims, 2010: A Nested Case Control Study.” International journal of preventive medicine vol. 4,9 (2013): 1030-5.
- Satomura, Kazunari, et al. “Prevention of upper respiratory tract infections by gargling: a randomized trial.” American journal of preventive medicine 29.4 (2005): 302-307.
- Anyanechi, Ce, and Bd Saheeb. “Toothache and self-medication practices: a study of patients attending a niger delta tertiary hospital in Nigeria.” Annals of medical and health sciences research vol. 4,6 (2014): 884-8.
- Aravinth V, Aswath Narayanan MB, Ramesh Kumar SG, Selvamary AL, Sujatha A. Comparative evaluation of salt water rinse with chlorhexidine against oral microbes: A school-based randomized controlled trial. J Indian Soc Pedod Prev Dent. 2017;35(4):319–326.
- Kryukov, A. I., E. V. Nosulya, and I. A. Kim. “Nasal irrigation: opportunities and disadvantages.” Vestnik otorinolaringologii 83.6 (2018): 76-80.
- InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Tonsillitis: Overview. 2013 Mar 27
- Gholami, M et al. “Common Perceptions of Periodontal Health and Illness among Adults: A Qualitative Study.” ISRN dentistry vol. 2012 (2012): 671879.
- Kanduti, Domen et al. “FLUORIDE: A REVIEW OF USE AND EFFECTS ON HEALTH.” Materia socio-medica vol. 28,2 (2016): 133-7.
- Huynh, Nam Cong-Nhat, et al. “Rinsing with saline promotes human gingival fibroblast wound healing in vitro.” PloS one 11.7 (2016).
- Wijnker JJ, Koop G, Lipman LJ. Antimicrobial properties of salt (NaCl) used for the preservation of natural casings. Food Microbiol. 2006;23(7):657–662.
- Dmitrieva, Natalia I, and Maurice B Burg. “Elevated sodium and dehydration stimulate inflammatory signaling in endothelial cells and promote atherosclerosis.” PloS one vol. 10,6 e0128870. 4 Jun. 2015.
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