When it comes to good dental and oral health, you probably know the basics. You should floss and brush twice daily and visit your dentist for a professional cleaning at least once every six months.
But is that enough? Could your oral care routine be better?
What to Look for in Mouthwash
Adding a mouthwash or rinse to your daily oral and dental care regimen can really make a difference in the health of your teeth and gums. The problem is that there are a huge number of mouthwashes out there to choose from, and they’re not all created equal. Looking for the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance is a good first step, but it won’t tell you the exact effects of the mouth rinse.
Use our guide below to help you decide which type of mouthwash is right for your oral care needs.
Where to Start?
Why do you even need a mouthwash? The answer is because brushing and flossing are key but mouthwash could be an added benefit. Flossing gets in the spaces between teeth to remove food and plaque, and brushing removes these particles and cleans the surfaces of your teeth. However, there are still spaces between and around your teeth and gums that will always be neglected. This is where a good mouthwash comes in. Since it is a liquid, using a mouthwash after brushing and flossing can help clean every nook and cranny in your mouth.
An effective mouthwash also works by killing harmful bacteria. The alcohol found in most mouthwashes has a powerful antiseptic effect. However, alcohol-containing mouthwashes are not the right choice for everyone. If you have teenagers or children in your household, or simply can’t tolerate the burning sensation that often comes with using an alcohol mouthwash, you have other options.
There are alcohol-free antiseptic mouthwashes available. These usually contain a safe, bacteria-killing substance, such as hydrogen peroxide or cetylpyridinium chloride, instead of alcohol. Talk to your dentist for more options and recommendations of alcohol-free alternatives.
Bad Breath? No Problem.
When mouthwash was first invented, its only purpose was to combat halitosis, or bad breath. To this day, most mouth rinses on the market offer breath-freshening effects. But to effectively control bad breath, you need to get to the root of the problem. Simply masking bad breath is not enough.
It’s important to keep in mind that bad breath is usually caused by bacteria buildup in the mouth. If you suffer from halitosis, consult with your dentist. They can give you tips on better oral care techniques to kill odor-causing bacteria, including recommending a good antiseptic mouthwash that will eliminate harmful bacteria and correct your bad breath problem at its source.
Rinses that Whiten, but Do They Protect Teeth?
If you’ve shopped the dental care aisle recently, you’ve probably noticed a number of whitening rinses available. These mouthwashes may promise whiter teeth over time with daily use at home, but their true whitening power varies – and none of them come close to the results you’ll get with professional tooth whitening treatments at your dentist’s office. More importantly, many of these rinses are purely cosmetic and do nothing to promote oral health.
In order to be part of your dental care regimen, a mouthwash should have antiseptic properties. In other words, when used properly, it should kill the bacteria in your mouth. If you choose to only use a whitening rinse, read the label carefully or ask your dentist to be sure your rinse is also antiseptic.
If a therapeutic mouthwash is what you’re looking for; that is, a mouthwash aimed at controlling issues such as tooth decay, plaque, and gum disease and not just freshen your breath, you should look for a mouthwash with certain active ingredients.
Active ingredients in a good therapeutic mouthwash include:
- Fluoride–this helps to strengthen tooth enamel and reduce your risk of tooth decay
- Chlorhexidine: used to combat gingivitis and prevent the buildup of plaque
- Peroxide: used to whiten the surface of teeth
- Cetylpyridinium chloride: this is added to help fight bacteria that cause bad breath
- Essential oils: used to control plaque buildup on teeth
In the 1960s it was found that chlorhexidine could adhere to teeth to fight plaque for hours after being used. Prior to this, mouthwashes wouldn’t remain in the mouth to do any good against bacteria and plaque.
Sensitive Teeth Could be a Warning Sign
If you wince when eating ice cream, find drinking hot coffee painful, or dread the sensation of biting into an apple, you may have sensitive teeth. There are many types of mouthwashes out there marketed to people with this problem. While it’s true that mouthwashes containing fluoride can help strengthen teeth over time, you really need to talk with your dentist if you’re experiencing tooth sensitivity. Sensitive teeth may be a sign of a deeper disease and a dentist can offer you treatment options, including an appropriate mouthwash recommendation.
This is also true if you have bleeding gums, loose teeth, or other symptoms of dental or periodontal disease. Be sure to consult with your dentist if you have any of these signs as your dental professional can guide you to the correct mouthwash choice, including prescription options if necessary.