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.

© 2017 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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Choosing Mouthwashes and Mouth Rinses

Mouthwash and fluoride mouth rinse are two different products. Here are some of the differences:

  • Antibacterial mouthwashes – these mouthwashes are more effective in controlling plaque than fluoride rinses, and also freshen breath.

  • Fluoride rinses – these rinses coat the teeth with fluoride to strengthen teeth to prevent tooth decay and cavities. They also freshen breath.