Feel like your oral hygiene could use an extra boost? Whether you’re looking for an extra clean feeling in between brushings, trying to improve your cavity prevention, or hoping to avoid gingivitis, a mouthwash could be useful.

But with the staggering number of rinses on the drugstore shelf, how can you possibly pick the one that will work best?

First off – it’s best to check in with your dentist before making changes to your oral hygiene routine. But if you’d like a little mouth rinse primer before your next dental exam, we’ve put together some straightforward tips below. Find the dental health concern that fits, and see which rinse is typically recommended.

Whether you use mouthwash or not, you’ll want to schedule an exam every six months to best prevent cavities and gum disease. Why not set yours up today?

Do I Even Need to use a Mouthwash?

Important to remember: mouthwash is not a substitute for brushing and flossing. Rather, it’s meant as an addition to your standard oral hygiene routine.

Mouthwash covers areas of the mouth that a toothbrush and floss don’t necessarily reach, like the gums and other soft tissues. If you struggle with gingivitis or periodontal disease, or experience dry mouth, rinses can be especially helpful. Other popular reasons for using mouthwash can be found below.

No matter what type of mouthwash you use, be sure to follow your dentist’s or the manufacturer’s instructions. Always choose rinses that have the ADA Seal of Acceptance – this shows that the rinse is safe, effective and has been thoroughly researched.

Who Should NOT Use Mouthwash?

Rinses are not recommended for children (those under 6 years of age). This is because young kids have not yet developed swallowing reflexes that prevent them from swallowing the mouthwash while it’s in their mouths. Swallowing different mouthwashes can lead to nausea, vomiting and even intoxication (if the rinse contains alcohol), so this is unsafe.

Children older than 6 can use mouthwash, but you should be sure to select one that is indicated for children’s use. These rinses are typically fluoridated and alcohol-free. It’s also important that you supervise your kids while they’re using the rinse so that they don’t swallow it (especially if it’s tasty).

  • Cost – Electric brushes cost significantly more than manual toothbrushes. They also need to be charged regularly
  • Difficulty traveling – Electric toothbrushes are trickier to travel with than manual brushes for a few reasons, including their size and the need to charge them (which can be even more difficult if you’re traveling internationally and dealing with a different outlet than those in the U.S.).
  • Difficulty replacing heads – You still need to replace your electric toothbrush heads regularly – and making sure that you have the appropriate new heads on hand requires a bit more planning than just grabbing a new brush off the drugstore shelf.

Basic Types of Mouthwash

Keeping things simple, there are two types of mouthwash:

  • Cosmetic – This type of rinse serves to temporarily improve breath and create a pleasant taste in the mouth. But it does not have any therapeutic benefits – it does not kill bacteria that cause bad breath, it simply introduces a different taste.
  • Therapeutic – Therapeutic rinses do impact oral bacteria or introduce healthy nutrients to the mouth. The active ingredients aim to improve concerns like bad breath, gingivitis, plaque and cavities. Some of the ingredients they may include:
  • Cetylpyridinium chloride – Reduces bad breath
  • Chlorhexidine – Helps control plaque and gingivitis
  • Essential oils – Also helps with plaque/gingivitis control
  • Fluoride – Prevents decay
  • Peroxide – Whitens teeth

Prescription rinses are available and are typically stronger and aim to improve a specific health concern; but some therapeutic rinses are also available over the counter.

The Perfect Mouthwash For:

Patients Prone to Tooth Decay

Some of us are more likely to develop cavities than others. While there are a variety of tactics you can take to protect your teeth, a fluoridated rinse can be beneficial. Fluoride strengthens tooth enamel to further develop your smile’s protection against oral acids. Those with deep fissures in their teeth find a rinse especially helpful, since the liquid can access tight spots better than a toothbrush.

Patients Looking for Fresh Breath

If you don’t have chronic bad breath (which merits professional attention) but are looking for a daily pick-me-up, look for a rinse that freshens breath. These typically contain chlorine or zinc, which freshen your breath without being too harsh on your tongue or sinuses like rinses which contain alcohol.

Patients Hoping to Combat Oral Bacteria

If you have halitosis, plaque buildup, gingivitis or gum disease you could benefit from changing the bacterial environment in your mouth. Antibacterial rinses help accomplish this. These mouthwashes tend to contain more alcohol, which kills harmful bacteria present in the mouth.

Before choosing an antibacterial mouthwash, check in with your dentist to be sure that you select one that will be safe to use.

Patients with Gum Disease

Before we recommend a mouthwash, we need to note that if you have gum disease, simply using a mouthwash will not resolve the problem. Those with periodontal disease should seek the help of a dentist as soon as possible, before disease worsens.

Once you have sought professional help, ask your dentist about which rinse they would recommend to help manage gum disease and prevent it from returning. They may prescribe a rinse that will help reduce redness, swelling and bleeding that can accompany gum disease.

Looking for help picking out your perfect mouthwash? Just get in touch.

Dr. Kim Dr. Kim

Dr. Kim Okamura

I'm Dr. Kim Okamura and this blog is a product of my love of dentistry. I dedicate it to all the patients I have served so that they may better understand my craft. The information here will give you and others the power to maintain and protect one of your most priceless gifts ... your SMILE.