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Oral Health Buzz

Common Questions About Mouthwash

Anne Maria Wynter

Even if you're an old pro at brushing and flossing your teeth, you may not be quite as savvy about mouthwashes, their benefits and the proper way to use them. Mouthwash novices, take notice: This oral care product can provide an extra boost of protection for your gums and teeth. Keep reading to find out more before you add this refreshing step to your regular oral health care routine.

What are the Benefits?
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), mouthwashes can reduce gingivitis, slow down the formation of tartar on your teeth, prevent tooth decay and freshen your breath. Different mouthwashes use different elements to accomplish these tasks, but the common ingredients include antimicrobial agents that kill bacteria in your mouth, fluoride that repairs damaged enamel and astringent salts that cover up bad breath.

Even though brushing and flossing should be your primary methods of fighting against gum disease and cavities, mouthwashes can offer additional protection, and they may be especially beneficial for people who have trouble with brushing and flossing.

Which Comes First?
When it comes to the order of oral care, it doesn't matter whether you use a mouthwash before or after you brush and floss. Instead of focusing on what to pick up first when you're standing at the bathroom sink, simply make sure you're using the proper technique and doing a thorough job of all three.

While various mouthwashes come with different instructions, it's usually best to keep the mouthwash in your mouth for at least 30 seconds and swish it thoroughly to ensure that it comes in contact with all of your teeth.

Can Kids Use Mouthwash?
Young children can be at risk for swallowing their mouthwashes instead of spitting them out, so the ADA warns parents against letting kids age six and younger use mouthwashes with fluoride. However, fluoride mouthwashes can help fight cavities, so it remains a beneficial product for most older kids and adults.

If you're worried that your child will swallow the mouthwash the first time he uses it, let him practice swishing with water. Once he gets used to keeping the liquid in his mouth without swallowing it, you can switch to the real thing. To make sure he's swishing and holding it in his mouth for the correct period of time, it's helpful to supervise his oral care routine or, better yet, brush, floss and rinse alongside him so he can copy your good habits.

Learn more about mouthwashes in the Colgate Oral Care resources.

Source: Flickr - Zdenko Zivkovic

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