As part of a good oral hygiene routine, a mouthwash can be used to help keep your teeth and gums healthy. Such rinses are designed to help further clean the mouth after you brush and floss. As a liquid, it can reach some places that toothpaste cannot.
However mouthwashes alone are not a substitute for proper toothbrushing. If you think using one is a short-cut to healthy teeth and gums (without needing thorough brushing and flossing), think again!
Fluoride mouthwashes are excellent in helping prevent tooth decay. Antiseptic rinses reduce bacteria that causes gum disease and also decay. Some mouthwashes do both jobs. There are also specialized rinses on the market that are the best mouthwash for specific jobs such as reducing sensitivity.
Benefits of a Good Mouthwash:
- Oral rinses may contain fluoride. Fluoride is the number one weapon you can use to best prevent tooth decay. There are different strengths of fluoride for differing needs
- Can help reduce sensitivity
- May contain germ-fighting (antiseptic) ingredients. These will help in the fight against gum disease. Will also help relieve pain from impacted wisdom teeth. Will help keep the mouth clean after extraction, thus reducing problems. Chlorhexidine is the ‘gold-standard’ as it is the best mouth rinse in this regard
- Can help with oral hygiene in those with limited dexterity or where proper brushing is difficult, e.g. when fixed orthodontic brackets are in place
- Some products can help numb the pain from mouth-ulcers
- Can mask bad breath (read more), in the short term
- May help healing if used before and after and oral surgery
- Quick and easy to use.
Possible Drawbacks Their Use:
While mouthwashes do help with making your teeth and gums healthier, there are some potential drawbacks to be aware of:
- Those containing chlorhexidine can stain the teeth and can disturb your taste if taken long-term
- Long-term use of those that contain alcohol may dry out the mouth and kill ‘good’ bacteria. This may also irritate the gums over time
- They are not a substitute to proper brushing and flossing! They only work well after the teeth are physically cleaned.
Alcohol in Mouthwash
Alcohol is present in some rinses in order to:
- Disguise the bad taste of some ingredients
- Improve the antiseptic effect
- Help with the cleaning performance.
The amount of alcohol is small however, and should not give cause for concern if the instructions on the label are followed. However such products should be kept out of the reach of children.
If you are concerned about using alcohol-containing mouthwashes, there are alcohol-free alternatives available. Some people do find alcohol in rinses to cause a stinging pain when they use them. Alcohol can also lead to drying out of the mouth, so if you have Xerostomia, it is generally recommended to avoid such products.
How To Use Mouthwash
- Follow the advice on the label, in terms of how much to use and for how long to rinse
- Basically, you need to gargle it around for the specified time, after brushing and flossing
- Get advice from your dentist in terms of best mouthwash for you to use
- Do not drink it!
- An oral rinse is not suitable for use in children under 7 as they may swallow it.
Some Of The Best Mouthwash Brands
Here are some of the more well known brands, with a few review notes.
Click on the relevant image if you want to get the product’s latest price from Amazon
Listerine is a top dentist recommended mouthwash. This total care product ticks a lot of boxes in terms of cleaning performance. Fights gum disease and decay. Listerine Antiseptic (not that pictured, is ADA-approved). However, a lot of people find the alcohol content to be too harsh for them, causing a stinging sensation when using. If you can tolerate this, it’s a great rinse. If not, look elsewhere..
BreathRx specialise in anti-bacterial rinses that aim to fight gum disease and bad breath. With a lot of favorable consumer reports, many are happy with the results of this alcohol-free product. Note that it doesn’t contain fluoride so is not designed to fight cavity formation.
Another popular product, this Rembrandt offering is alcohol free and contains fluoride. It is a hydrogen peroxide mouthwash, added to fight the plaque bacteria that cause gingivitis. So it seems great, just don’t expect much in terms of whitening your teeth (as the concentrations of peroxide are not sufficient to do much brightening). What is the best whitening mouthwash? – There isn’t one! NO rinse is able to really improve the shade of your teeth. You will need other whitener treatments for that!
This ACT restoring rinse is a well-priced product primarily aimed at fighting tooth decay.
Scope is another basic oral rinse aimed at reducing bacterial growth, but it doesn’t contain the fluoride needed to fight decay.
Crest Pro-health is a decent product, in terms of fighting bacteria. Shame it doesn’t include fluoride to make it a better all-rounder.
Biotene is the top dentist recommended mouthwash for those who suffer with dry mouth. Those with this problem are more at risk of oral disease, so using an oral rinse is highly recommended. Also a good product for those with gum diseases.
Corsodyl, pictured, contains chlorhexidine digluconate, a strong antiseptic. Chlorhexidine-containing rinses have been described as the ‘gold-standard’, the best mouthwash for gingivitis, periodontital disease and other gum problems.
Available in the USA as Peridex (amongst other brand names), these rinses are very commonly prescribed by dentists to help with a range of problems.
They are, however, not suitable for long term use (unless otherwise directed) as they can cause staining and disturb taste sensation.
As you can see, getting the ideal rinse for you depends on your needs:
- Struggling with bad breath – try Breathrx (note that trying to mask halitosis with long-term use of a rinse is not recommended. Get to your dentist for advice)
- At risk of cavities – get any fluoride rinse
- Fighting gum disease – try Chlorhexidine, Listerine or a hydrogen peroxide-containing product
- Have dry mouth – give Biotene a try.
Daily use of an oral rinse is generally recommended as part of your oral hygiene routine. Using one after you brush has many benefits, and for some patients is essential for their oral health. However, even the best mouthwash is not a replacement for proper brushing and flossing properly! It isn’t a short-cut!