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Mouthwashes come in many varieties

Should you use mouthwash? Which one?

Mouthwashes fall into two basic categories: cosmetic and therapeutic.

The cosmetic rinses you find in your supermarket are usually formulated to temporarily freshen breath. Although they can aid in removing food particles, their primary purpose is to mask mouth odor.

Nonprescription therapeutic mouth rinses often contain fluoride for decay prevention or active ingredients to reduce dental plaque, tooth sensitivity or gingivitis, the early stage of gum disease.

Most fluoride mouth rinses on the market contain sodium fluoride, which provides extra protection against dental decay. Chlorhexidine is an active ingredient in some mouthwashes that has an antimicrobial effect and may prevent gingivitis. However, long-term use of chlorhexidine may stain teeth, alter taste sensation and cause recurrent ulceration of the oral tissues.

Your dentist may prescribe an antibiotic mouthwash to use after brushing and flossing to reduce bacteria in your mouth.

Desensitizing mouth rinses contain active ingredients such as potassium nitrate to reduce tooth sensitivity.

Benzydamine mouthwash may be helpful as a local anesthetic and can ease the discomfort caused by inflammation of the mouth lining resulting from chemotherapy.

For more information about which mouthwash is right for you, seek your dentist's advice.

Please contact the ADA if you have questions about this article.

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