Warm Salt Water Rinses: Why They Work

bigstock-Spoonful-of-baking-soda-and-gl-52653640I have always recommended warm salt water rinses after clients have had a particularly difficult cleaning appointment to soothe the tissues and promote healing. Recently however, a number of my clients decided to start salt water rinsing daily and the results have been phenomenal. Given that this was the only behavioral change that we could find to explain the results, I decided I had better do a little more research into salt and its healing properties.

For thousands of years, people have used salt and water to heal the body. Egyptians recorded its effectiveness on wounds. Hippocrates, The Father of Medicine made use of remedies containing salt after noticing the therapeutic qualities of seawater on the injured hands of fishermen. Roman doctors dispensed drinks and ointments made with salt and during the Renaissance period doctors recommended salt baths for skin diseases and itching.

It would appear that salt water rinses are good because they alkalinize the mouth (opposite of acidify, which is what the bacteria create) and the alkalinity helps decrease the bacteria count because they like an acid environment. Additionally, salt water is astringent and speeds wound healing through reducing inflammation and contracting the tissues.

In a British Dental Journal Study published in 2003, it was determined that the heat of the solution produces a therapeutic increase in blood flow to the affected area that promotes wound healing and that the isotonic (balanced inside and outside the cell) environment created prevents destruction of the cells migrating into the area that are trying to repair the wound.

While most of us typically would grab the table salt, now knowing what I know about the differences in salt, I would advise clients to choose anything but as the natural chemical structure has been altered through processing and the many additional benefits of pure salt have been lost.

Once again, some of the old tried and true remedies are still around for good reason.
Give it a try! I’d love feedback. Here on my blog, you’ll get commentluv. This is a plug-in that gives you the opportunity to leave a link back to your own site when you leave feedback.

Until next time,




35 thoughts on “Warm Salt Water Rinses: Why They Work

  1. “While most of us typically would grab the table salt, now knowing what I know about the differences in salt, I would advise clients to choose anything but as the natural chemical structure has been altered through processing”

    Salt is sodium chloride. If you alter the chemical structure it isn’t salt any more.
    Table salt will normally have *more* sodium chloride in the container per dry weight unit than unrefined salt as the impurities such as magnesium and calcium salts have been filtered out.

  2. Hi Tom,

    I totally agree with your comment about what is chemically left after processing but in response would like to point to what additionally is missing after processing that is so important! Please see the excerpt below by Lena Sanchez and if you wish to research further the link to the full article is included at the end.

    In Health


    “What is on most tables as salt no longer resembles salt of those long ago days. Salt is now mainly sodium chloride and not actual salt. The common commercial table salt used by most people for cooking has only 2 or 3 chemical elements. Seawater has 84 mineral elements, referred to as electrolytes, that were originally found in salt. Our body requires a balance of at least 74 elements for total health. A healthy body’s blood plasma should consist of those very same 74 elements identical to virgin seawater.

    Common table salt consumed by most is deficit of at least 71 elements and containing health altering byproducts from the processing, which means our body is becoming weaker, imbalanced and more susceptible to diseases.

    Table salt produced by the early pioneers was of excellent quality and contained those unadulterated elements. But man wasn’t satisfied with that and went looking for something more convenient ended up decimating salt’s true elements of health.

    Real Kosher salt is most usually an additive-free coarse-grained salt, used by Jews in the preparation of meat. It is also used by gourmet cooks who prefer its texture and flavor. Contains the 74 elements necessary for our body!

    How did we get to this point with salt?

    While most salt starts out as salt, it doesn’t usually end up as salt. Normal table salt begins as a saline liquid or crystal solution. Then after processing and kiln drying at temperatures in excess of 400 degrees, its natural state is changed and nearly all trace minerals are lost. Then in processing chemicals are added such as Silico Aluminate, Potassium Iodide, Tri-calcium Phosphate, Magnesium Carbonate, Sodium bicarbonate, and yellow prussiate of soda just to name a few. These are added to bleach the salt, prevent caking, and aid in free-flowing so your salt will flow free even on rainy days. But what are they doing to your body with that process?

    Sadly, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) usually let companies leave their processing aides off of their ingredient lists, as long as the material is being used in a small-enough concentration to fit their specifications. Yet when you consume refined table salt in large quantities you are consuming large quantities of those processing chemicals and lost 71 minerals and trace minerals.

    Did you know that two of the inorganic chemicals used in processing salt is also used to make many consumer related products, such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic? I don’t know about you but I really don’t want to eat any part of PVC… FDA says it’s okay.

    Other additives are anti-caking agents such as calcium silicate, magnesium carbonate, calcium carbonate, and other compounds. They are insoluble in water, which not only prevents them from forming clumps in humid environments (thus keeping the soluble crystals of sodium chloride separate), but explains why water becomes slightly cloudy when salt with these additives is dissolved in it. These are all odorless and flavorless substances and contribute nothing to our body but what do they do once inside our body… We can only guess as studies have not been done to tell us…

    How do I get around this whole problem?

    I use sea salt, no aluminum or contaminants as it is simply salt dried and ground as it comes from the sea. Read labels as this is slowly changing in favor of noncaking salt… Real salt flavor results in your taste buds but without the contaminates from the extraction process as in regular table salt, and they don’t have to add iodine as it is naturally occurring”.


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  4. i read a post on todaysdentistry.com that says salt in the long term can be bad because of its acidic properties tending to erode the enamel, in this article it clearly says the alkaline nature of salt is beneficial…..what’s true

  5. Hi Tony and thanks for your comment! I read the article that you mentioned on Today’s Dentistry site and I can appreciate the confusion you have after reading this!
    While it is true that salt water is acidic in nature, my understanding from researching the topic is that it helps to kill the acid-producing bacteria, thereby creating a more alkaline environment, resulting in a healthier mouth. I do not promote the long-term use of any rinses as I do feel it upsets the delicate balance of good and bad oral bacteria. It is only meant as a temporary measure to combat specific problems.
    Hydrogen Peroxide and certain Essential Oils are also beneficial for short-term rinsing in the mouth and they too are quite acidic and should only be used on a short-term basis also.


  6. Discalimer: Not a medical professional here, but I do have some training in Biology, Chemistry and Human Anatomy and Physiology.

    Pure salt water should be roughly neutral. As pH is simply an inverse measurement of the Hydrogen cation concentration of the solution and table salt is composed almost entirely of Sodium Chloride and Iodine (in iodized salt). Therefore adding pure salt to the water (in theory mind you) should not change the pH of the water. Additionally, salt kills bacteria by forcing water to flow out of the cell (via a process called osmosis), drying it out. This process works even when the salt is added to water, so long as the concentration of salt is higher than the concentration of salt in the bacterium.

    Keep in mind however, regarding pH, that I said “pure” salt meaning pure Sodium Chloride, this does not take into account other chemicals which may or may not end up in salt…. those very well may change pH.

    EDIT: A note about Hydrogen Peroxide: it is generally damaging to tissues. I’m not sure how much is discussed about it in dentistry circles, but Peroxide can be rather abrasive and, while it does serve to kill bacteria in the mouth, may slow down recovery time of in-mouth wounds. And yes… Hydrogen Peroxide can be very acidic. (It is not a bad idea to use Hydrogen Peroxide though if you don’t have anything else.)

    Have a good day everyone.

  7. Hi Brandon,

    Thanks so much for your explanation on why “salt” works. Many of these natural therapies are new to me as a dental professional and I still have a great deal to learn so thanks so much for helping me with this.

    In Health

  8. Your postings are very helpful… thank you! A couple of weeks ago I made the mistake of eating a mouthful of fresh-off-the-stove shrimp without waiting for it to cool a bit. From that, I have had a very sore tongue. I made a similar mistake several years ago and was prescribed an oral solution for healing of the tongue. I cannot recall the name of the medicine, but it was a swish-and-swallow solution. Can you possibly provide the name of such medication?

  9. Hi Jerry,

    Unfortunately, I am not sure of the product you describe! Amosan, is a routinely prescribed oxygenating mouth rinse that actually releases hydrogen peroxide in the mouth, but it is not to be swallowed!

    What did you use it for in the past?

    I would love to know what the product is if you find out!

    In Health


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  11. Hi there! I read through bits and pieces of your article and the comments on it, so you or someone else may already have answered these questions. But here they are: should a warm salt water rinse be used on a long-term basis as a rinse or should it not? Will the salt somehow damage the enamel on my teeth? And which salt is the best to use? Someone said sea salt, but I wanted to know what you thought.

  12. Hi Rachel,

    Unless there is a problem, I do not recommend rinses, salt water included. If it is determined that it is needed, I advise that it is only for a short period of time.

    I prefer Himalayan Salt as I believe that it is a purer form than sea salt that may be affected by water pollution.

    In Health


  13. Thanks for the informative article. I was wondering about the salt rinse and its effects. The comment on table salt was unfortunate. It’s really not relevant to the good information you present and it’s not right from a drug formulation point of view. Lena’s lengthy comment essentially says that “natural” is better because it’s natural without real reasons. That’s a typical approach for ‘natural’ items. Note that those other ‘beneficial’ items in sea salt include lead, cadmium, mercury and pretty much everything else in the periodic table.. but mostly just sodium and a little magnesium and calcium traces. No true difference and no real benefit. A pinch bit of baking soda with the table salt assures non-acid pH.

  14. Wow Marc, thanks for your insights on sea salt and the tip on how to use baking soda to change the PH of table salt.

    This is the same reason why I recommend a baking soda tooth powder for daily cleaning of the teeth.

  15. Started brushing once a week with A very soft brush, sea salt and baking soda about a month ago. I’m 59 and for the past 10 years I have to have a cleaning every three months. Recently, Circumstances have prevented my cleaning but time to research. I am shocked and amazed–no more bleeding gums. My teeth feel as clean as after the hygienist (in my mind). My gums look healthy and not tender at all. I was very interested in your research.

  16. Hi Gwenn,

    So glad to hear that what you are doing is helping…Yeah!

    Healthy salt is a miracle, not the bad guy that common table salt is with almost everything beneficial processed out of it!

    In Health


  17. Hello. I just had a perio abcess and just went to the periodontist yesterday. They did a deep cleaning procedure on half of my mouth and I am going back in a week for them to do the other half. They told me to help keep my deep pockets free of bacteria that I should use a warm kosher or sea salt rinse twice daily (1/4 teaspoon of salt to 12 ounces of warm water) for the rest of my life. What do you think about using the rinse long term? Also, will it affect my blood pressure?

  18. Hi Bonnie,

    I am not so sure that salt (healthy salt)is the bad-thing that it has been made out to be with regards to blood pressure and encourage you to do your own research, seek holistic-professional advice and listen to your body.

    I only recommend a therapeutic protocol, such as rinsing with warm salt water if there is a problem, so I would continue to re-evaluate whether it is necessary at continuing care appointments.

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  20. Hi Kathleen

    Where would I get Sea Salt – at what kind of store



  21. Hi. You can purchase sea salt at your local grocery store. My periodontist has me rinsing with 1/4 teaspoon to 8 ounces of warm water. Make sure it is fully dissolved. I first brush for four minutes with just water; then for two minutes with toothpaste; followed by flossing; and then finally rinsing with the salt water solution for approximately 45 seconds. My dentist has seen much improvement in my gums.

  22. You can get sea salt from most stores. Including costco.. and kosher salt as well.. they are the only 2 salts I use in my house…

  23. Hi Bonnie,

    How exciting that a Periodontist has you using a salt water rinse, and more importantly, that your dentist has seen improvements!

    I often recommended brushing without anything on a toothbrush as well, as it is the mechanical action of the toothbrush bristles that actually remove food debris and bacteria. Toothpaste has more of an aesthetic and/or therapeutic function.

    May I ask what toothpaste you are using?

    In Health

    Kathleen Bernardi RDH

  24. I’m so glad i came across your article Kathleen,

    I currently have a very sore throat and large holes in my tonsils which i think deposits food and makes a breeding environment for bacteria. And now the back of my throat is swelling red (i can see through the pictures i took using my cam) and just asking, is a tablesalt good enough to reduce the swelling?

    And i am confused wether the concentration of the salt in the water must be higher than in the cells or the opposite, to force water out of the cells?

    Thank you

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  26. “Did you know that two of the inorganic chemicals used in processing salt is also used to make many consumer related products, such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic? I don’t know about you but I really don’t want to eat any part of PVC… FDA says it’s okay.”

    Hi Kathleen,
    This reasoning for why table salt is “unhealthy” doesn’t make sense to me. The simple fact that some chemicals found in pvcs are found in table salt is irrelevant to whether or not they have negative effects on health. If the FDA has approved them it is because they have been scientifically tested and found to be objectively safe. As a medical professional you should understand that. In addition, natural salt is not healthy or beneficial simply because it contains the same elements that make up our bodies. A healthy person should already have sufficient amounts of these elements and a salt mouth wash is a stupid way of supplementing the maybe 4 or 5 elements out of those 71 that
    could potentially have a benifit if the person was lacking them. My shit contains a lot of great elements but I already flushed it so I guess you’ll just have to lick my ass

  27. Dear Nich,

    I acknowledge your arguments regarding safety and necessity and would like to address them.

    There are many things that the FDA/Health Canada have determined to be safe and I for one wish that we could trust all of these findings, but I don’t; there are too many corporate interests involved. My credo today has become…less is more! Whole foods and simple, as-natural-as-possible therapies.

    Regarding your comment that a healthy person has no need of the multitude of elements found naturally in salt I say: Once upon a time maybe, but not today! Our soils are deplete and we as a human species are overfed and undernourished.

    In Health,
    Kathleen Bernardi RDH

  28. its really works. have tried a fewtimes. though table salt may b diffrent to the salt back in the day. it still works. also on a side not. a few months ago my Dog scratched his face causing it to bleed and get infected. warmwater with a some salt in and dome cotton applied to the effected area healed the wound in 2/3days.

  29. Matthew 15:11 and Mark 7:15 says that nothing outside a person can defile them by going inside … it’s what comes out that defiles them.

    107:34 A fruitful land into a salty waste because of the evil of its inhabitants.

    The swish and swirl remedy? … what does God our Father say? It’s become my personal remedy simply because it’s the only One I trust and through Him, found truth. And what an awesome journey it has so far been. He also has A LOT to say about salt.

    God Bless you Kathleen…your words spoken from the heart and inspired me to leave for you this:
    Colossians 4:6
    Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

    Matthew 5:13-16
    “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

  30. Dearest Denae,

    Thanks so much for adding your salt wisdom to the conversation and may God Bless you too!

    In Health

  31. It is the wisdom of God about the salt. I wanted to ask you how many times is it safe to swish with grey Celtic sea salt?

  32. I had a teeth problem for morthan two months and went hospital for medical treatment, First doctor was recommended that the teeth need to refill, the second doctor was also recommended teeth extraction I left the hospital because of confusion, after two weeks I visited another hospital and had the same confusion, I kept patient for teeth refilling but I am having pain for almost Seven days, I still went back for complaints But One said I should rinse my mouth with Hydrogen peroxide and the other doctor said I should use salt.Pls, which one is preparable that Salt or Hydrogen peroxide and the duration for the use.Thanks

  33. Hi Kamal,

    In my opinion, hydrogen peroxide should be used more for a short duration and for more of an acute problem and salt water for a gentler, longer-term option. Why could they not both be used separately for the same issue?

    In Health

    Kathleen Bernardi RDH

  34. Salt water rinses after each meal has moved an 8 pocket to a 6 in 4 weeks. An irrigator is needed with this problem, directing the solution into the pocket. I wish I’d known this before. The previous comment about the periodontist’s recommendation of salt water rinse is spot on.

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