Some of us may remember the days when our choices in mouthwash came down to Scope and Listerine. It was all about fresh breath, and oral hygiene was an afterthought. As any trip to the drugstore will show you, mouth rinses have gotten way more sophisticated–and there are more choices than ever. With dozens of products with whitening, extra fluoride, and gum health in mind, mouth rinse now goes way beyond minty fresh breath. But do you really need a daily mouth rinse?
What Are The Benefits of A Daily Mouth Rinse?
Remember when a controversial 2012 study made waves by suggesting that using an antiseptic mouth rinse was as good as flossing? Most dentists agree that we still need to floss. But in many cases, a mouth rinse can promote oral health as a complement to brushing and flossing. But today’s mouth rinses often target specific issues. Are you looking to keep your teeth healthy with extra fluoride, manage bad breath, prevent dry mouth or focus on gum health?
According to the American Dental Association, there are two types of mouth rinse: therapeutic and cosmetic. Therapeutic mouth rinses contain ingredients to kill bacteria. They can reduce and control plaque, gum disease, bad breath and tooth decay and are available either by prescription or over the counter. A cosmetic mouth rinse temporarily prevents bad breath and leaves a pleasant taste. Therapeutic mouth rinses can help boost oral health when combined with other good practices, but it helps to identify your concerns and talk with your dentist before making a choice.
How Can A Therapeutic Mouth Rinse Improve My Oral Health?
Therapeutic mouth rinse–either prescription or over the counter–can help with the following conditions in adults:
- Dry socket (a painful condition that can occur when you get a permanent tooth removed, causing a blood clot to form)
- Dry mouth
- Bad breath
- Plaque buildup
- Tooth decay
Some of the active ingredients in therapeutic mouthwashes include:
- Cetylpyridinium chloride, an antiseptic that kills bacteria and can prevent bad breath.
- Chlorhexidine, an antiseptic that can help control gingivitis (available by prescription).
- Essential oils, including eucalyptol, menthol (derived from mint), and thyme to kill germs.
- Fluoride to prevent tooth decay.
- Peroxide for whitening and controlling canker sores.
Does My Child Need A Daily Mouth Rinse?
For most kids, daily brushing and flossing and a healthy diet are enough for good oral health. However, your dentist may recommend a rinse for kids who need extra fluoride protection. The ADA does not recommend mouth rinses for children under 6 unless directed by a dentist because the risk of swallowing mouth rinse is higher than any likely benefit. Another reason to use mouth rinse in children with caution is the potential for fluorosis. If kids are exposed to too much fluoride, it can cause discoloration of the enamel. However, there are some situations where your dentist may recommend a mouth rinse for your child:
- If your child is getting orthodontic treatment, a daily rinse can help remove food particles beneath braces and prevent decay and discoloration.
- Your dentist may recommend a fluoride rinse if your child has weak enamel or is at a higher risk of decay.
- If your child struggles to use a flosser, a mouth rinse can provide an extra layer of protection.
If your child uses a mouth rinse, be sure to follow these guidelines:
- Make sure the mouth rinse doesn’t contain alcohol. Choose an ADA-accepted rinse designed for children.
- Practice swishing and spitting, so your child gets the hang of using the rinse without swallowing.
- Keep mouth rinse out of reach of young children. Today’s appealing flavors are motivators but might make young children want to drink the product.
- Talk with your family dentist if you have questions about choosing a mouthwash for your children.
What Should I Look For When Choosing a Mouth Rinse?
First, look for the ADA seal of acceptance. This indicates that the manufacturer has proven safety and efficacy and has demonstrated that the product works as advertised.
Talk with your dentist about your needs. If bad breath is your main concern, your choice will be different than if gum health or whitening is a priority. Your dentist is familiar with the pros and cons of major OTC products and can also prescribe stronger rinses for ongoing problems like dry mouth and chronic bad breath.
At Hall Family Dentistry, we’re happy to talk with you about mouth rinse–and all things related to excellent oral hygiene. We can help you find the right rinse amidst a range of choices that can be overwhelming. But remember, as high-tech as rinses may get, there’s no substitute for diligent brushing and flossing–and showing up at the office twice a year for routine care.