Adding an appropriate mouthwash to your dental hygiene routine can be a simple and effective way to improve your overall dental health. Mouthwash helps reduce plaque, control bad breath, and prevents tooth decay and gum disease. There are many types and brands of mouthwash available over-the-counter to choose from, and some are even prescribed. With all the choices out there, how do you possibly choose one?
It’s important to note that while many of the mouthwashes you find on the shelf at your local drugstore may be advertised for cosmetic purposes, some of them actually contain bacteria fighting substances like fluoride and peroxide. However, if your dentist has told you that you are at risk for tooth decay or gum disease, you will want to use a prescribed mouthwash with stronger bacteria fighting substances.
Benefits of Using Mouthwash
There are two categories that mouthwashes fall into: cosmetic, which temporarily combat bad breath and contain fluoride or peroxide to help manage bacteria, and therapeutic, which contain stronger substances that control or reduce bad breath, gingivitis, plaque, and tooth decay.
Cosmetic mouthwash usually contains fluoride and sometimes peroxide. In liquid form, the rinse can reach all around your teeth, even the nooks and crannies your toothbrush can’t reach. It has been proven that fluoride strengthens tooth enamel, in turn protecting against decay. Fluoride can even reduce miniscule lesions on teeth where a cavity might develop.
Therapeutic mouthwash contains ingredients to control and reduce plaque. Plaque is a sticky substance full of bacteria that sits on the surface of your teeth and other parts of your mouth. Studies have shown that therapeutic mouthwash decreases plaque more significantly than brushing and flossing alone.
Active ingredients in a therapeutic mouthwash may include:
- Cetylpyridinium chloride to prevent the development of bacteria that cause gum disease
- Chlorhexidine to treat gingivitis by reducing inflammation, swelling, and bleeding of the gums
- Essential oils to help prevent cavities by reducing bacteria deep in the gums
- Fluoride to strengthen tooth enamel, allowing it to be more resistant to tooth decay
- Peroxide to penetrate the surface layer of a tooth in order to remove unsightly stains
Which mouthwash is right for me?
When perusing the mouthwash aisle at your local drugstore, be sure to look for the American Dental Association (ADA) seal on the label. This means that the product has not only been evaluated, but proven effective by renowned dental experts. With prescription mouthwash, you must follow your dentist’s directions carefully. Mouthwash benefits most people, but it should not be used for children under six years of age, as they may accidentally swallow the liquid.