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Choosing a Mouthwash

If you’ve walked down the dental care aisle at the store, you may be overwhelmed by all the mouthwash choices. Which one is right for you? Well, it all depends on what you want from your mouthwash. Though all mouthwashes (and even just swishing with water) remove some plaque and germs left after you’ve brushed and flossed, if your mouthwash doesn’t have one of the ingredients discussed below, it’s probably doing little more than that.

Regular or Alcohol-Free?: Alcohol in mouthwashes seems to have no real benefit. Study after study shows that alcohol-free versions work just as well. The alcohol can dry your mouth or burn your cheek/gum tissue. Alcohol-free might be better, especially if you have dry mouth from another source or are a recovering alcoholic.

If you have dry mouth, you may want to look for a product that is made for dry mouth. One example is Biotene which contains enzymes that are the same ones your salivary glands produce to moisturize your mouth.

If you’re after cavity protection from your mouthwash, you want one that contains fluoride. The most common ingredient is sodium fluoride which kills germs and strengthens your teeth against acids.  Some examples of this type of mouthwash are ACT or Listerine Total Care. You may also want to use this type of mouthwash if you live in an area with unfluoridated water. You should avoid rinsing, eating, or drinking for about 30 minutes after you use a fluoride rinse.

If you’re looking to improve your gum health, you have two options. One is the essential oils in Listerine which seem to help reduce the amount of plaque and germs. Not all Listerine products contain essential oils, so ask your dental professional if the one you are considering contains it. The other option is cetylpyridnium chloride which is found in Crest ProHealth and Colgate Advanced ProShield. Cetylpyridum chloride also reduces germs and inflammation of your gums, though results for this ingredient varied by brand. There is also a prescription mouthrinse with the active ingredient chlorhexidine gluconate (CHG) which has the same action. It also binds to soft tissues so it keeps working even after you’ve finished rinsing. For this reason, we recommend not eating or drinking for about 30 minutes after using this rinse. Some CHG formulas can create an orangish stain on the teeth. This stain can be removed by your dental professional, but some people don’t like how it looks.

If you’re looking to reduce stains or whiten your teeth, look for a rinse that contains peroxide (about 2% is average). Some examples of this type of moutwash are Crest 3D White or Listerine Whitening (which is one of the ones that does not contain essential oils).

If you’re looking for a more organic rinse, there is one by Coldstream Naturals which has antioxidants to fight free radicals and baking soda to neutralize acids and scrub away plaque.

You can learn more about mouthwashes in this link from the patient education section of my website: Mouthrinses  Hopefully this will help you to pick a rinse that will do more for you than just freshen your breath!


Dr. Jennifer Robb is a general dentist with an office at 1612 Cooper Foster Park Rd., Lorain, OH 44053. Call 440-960-1940 to schedule your appointment. We’d love to add you to our dental family!