Are There Real Benefits of Gargling with Salt Water?

My dad religiously gargles with salt water every day.

Every single day

He’s that disciplined about it.

It’s not surprising since there are real, proven benefits of gargling with salt water.

Here are just a few of them.

Benefits of Gargling with Salt Water

1. It kills microbes

Remember osmosis from science class?

Salt water is concentrated and sets up a diffusion gradient across bacteria, yeasts, and other microbes. So, essentially, salt water can dehydrate and kill these microbes.

This is one of the main benefits of gargling with salt water.

Here’s the proof: a study from 2017 found salt water rinses reduced dental plaque and oral microbial counts. The bacteria in the study were Streptococcus mutans, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans and Porphyromonas gingivalis.

Porphyromonas gingivalis and Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans are linked to gingivitis and periodontitis.

They cause your gums to become inflamed, swollen and painful, leading to gingivitis. If gingivitis isn’t treated, your gums may pull away from your teeth causing them to become loose. That’s periodontitis.

No thank you! Kill ’em all!

2. It reduces plaque

You already saw in the 2017 study, salt water gargling reduces tooth plaque. But, that’s not all. Gargling reduces tongue plaque too… and bad breath and oral candidiasis.

This 2014 study, out of Korea, looked at the benefits of teeth brushing and using saline mouthwash. It found both decreased the number of oral bacteria, oral tongue plaque, halitosis (bad breath), and even dry mouth!

3. It reduces the risk of tooth decay

The oral bacteria, Streptococcus mutans, uses sugar to produce lactic acid and a sticky substance. That acid affects tooth enamel (think of all those toothpaste commercials) and the substance sticks to teeth, forming plaque.

The combination of plaque and acid leads to tooth decay. Luckily, salt water gargling kills the bacteria. It also neutralizes the acid too since salt water is alkali!

Whoop! It has a dual action to fight tooth decay!

4. It removes tonsil stones

The mechanical action of gargling also adds to the benefits of salt water.

Vigorous gargling dislodges food bits from between your teeth that oral bacteria love. It also brings ups and pushes out tonsil stones hiding within the folds of your tonsils.

Those stones contain bacteria and cause bad breath. So, getting them out will most certainly improve your oral health.

5. It heals and relieves pain

Gargling with salt water can relieve pain from toothaches, canker sores and ulcers.

In fact, this 2016 study found rinsing with salt water improves gingival fibroblast wound healing.

What does that mean? Well, the connective tissues in your gums heal much faster when you gargle with salt water.

Warm salt water also encourages blood to flow closer to the surface of your gums and skin. This also promotes healing.

6. It prevents upper respiratory tract infections

I suffer from respiratory tract infections often. It’s all that Saharan dust that makes its way to the Caribbean. Thankfully, salt water gargling (and a good ole sea bath) helps my symptoms.

There’s also evidence for these benefits of gargling with salt water.

This 2005 study from Japan found salt water gargling was effective enough to prevent upper respiratory tract infections in healthy people. And, even when an infection did occur, gargling eased the symptoms of the infection.

7. It lowers rheumatoid arthritis risk

Did you know oral hygiene is linked to your joint health?

Shocking right!

Remember I mentioned a 2017 study earlier that looked at the effects of salt water on the bacteria, Porphyromonas gingivalis? Well, that bacteria is linked to rheumatoid arthritis!

So, killing the bacteria not only reduces your risk of gingivitis and periodontitis, it also lowers your risk for developing rheumatoid arthritis.

So… there are real benefits of gargling with salt water!

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How to Gargle with Salt Water

Here’s a great salt water gargle recipe: mix half a teaspoon of salt to an eight ounce glass of warm water. Stir to dissolve.

To gargle, simply:

  • Take a small mouthful of the solution and swish it around your mouth for ten to thirty seconds.
  • Spit.
  • Also, take a small mouthful, tilt your head back and force air out of your throat, essentially gargling. Aim to do this for ten or more seconds, but don’t aggravate your neck muscles.
  • Spit.
  • Repeat.

You will feel the benefits of gargling with salt water immediately. It is safe to use and can be repeated whenever you need. You can do this more often when you have a sore throat or a cold. It works!

Can gargling with salt water be harmful?


Salt water isn’t harmful to the body, even if you swallow a little while gargling. If you gargle multiple times a day, you may experience dry lips. But coconut oil or lip balm are quick fixes to any dryness or chapping.

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  1. How interesting it can also help with sore throats, I had absolutely no idea before reading this! Have a lovely weekend 🙂 x

  2. I’ve only done this when I’ve had a sore throat. Interesting that there are all of these benefits!


  3. It can kill bacteria. But certain types of bacteria are actually beneficial, similar to how gut health depends on certain bacteria types to be present. Will salt water gargling negatively impact on the good bacteria too? I’m really curious!

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