Shubhra Krishan June 2, 2015
As a kid, I was taught to gargle after brushing, using lightly salted water. My mother added an element of fun to it by asking me to think of the germs in the mouth as enemies out to destroy teeth. The act of gargling, she said, would flush out any remaining villains.
Some four decades later there came a Japanese study that tossed up the health benefits of gargling. During this study, 400 volunteers were studied for 60 days during cold and flu season. Some of them were asked to gargle thrice a day, while the rest followed their usual oral routine.
At the end of the study, researchers noted a 40 percent decrease in upper respiratory tract infections among those who had gargled regularly.
Although the exact reason why gargling helps oral health is not clear, scientists do know that a lot of the bacteria that causes bad breath and infection reside in the back of the throat. The New York Times quotes Dr. Philip T. Hagen, editor in chief of the “Mayo Clinic Book of Home Remedies,” pointing out that the saline solution loosens thick mucus and draws excess fluid from inflamed tissues in the throat.
How to Gargle Correctly:
Use warm water. Plain tap water is fine.
Use just a little salt. About 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon in 8 ounces of water, suggests Mayo Clinic.
Make sure you don’t swallow the salt. Keep the salted water burbling in the back of your throat for 25 to 30 seconds at a time, then spit out.
If you find salt unpleasant, try gargling with mint or lemon flavored water, or just plain water.
New to gargling? It helps to tip your head as far back as you can, and open your mouth wide.