9 REASONS TO USE MOUTHWASH
- You may want to use mouthwash to:
- Prevent or control tooth decay
- Minimize plaque
- Prevent or treat gingivitis
- Combat tarter formation
- Alleviate dry mouth
- Reduce sensitivity
- Numb oral ulcer pain
- Assist post-surgical healing
- Freshen breath
There are legitimate reasons to add mouthwash to your daily oral hygiene regimen, but there are also some downsides to mouthwash.
3 WAYS MOUTHWASH CAN HURT YOUR MOUTH
Sometimes, using mouthwash can hinder, rather than help your hygiene efforts.
Mouthwashes that contain the antibacterial agent chlorhexidine, when used long-term, can interrupt your taste and stain your teeth. Be sure to check the list of ingredients on the mouthwash you choose.
Alcohol is another antiseptic agent found in many mouth rinses. It kills bacteria, helps clean your mouth and covers up the unpleasant taste of some of the other ingredients. The downside is that it can also irritate tissues, lead to dry mouth and kill off the beneficial bacteria in our mouth. You can be inadvertently setting yourself up for tooth decay and gum disease.
Another way mouthwash can set back your efforts toward a healthy mouth is when it is used in place of, rather than in addition to regular brushing and flossing. Mouthwash only achieves its claims when used after the mechanical actions of toothbrush and dental floss.
According to the ADA, mouthwashes are divided into two main categories: therapeutic and cosmetic.
The ingredients in these mouthwashes kill bacteria that cause gum disease, tooth decay and bad breath. If fluorideis one of the ingredients, the mouthwash can actually help strengthen your teeth. Please note: most therapeutic mouthwashes can be purchased over-the-counter, but some of these require a prescription due to the ingredients included.
These rinses will help alleviate bad breath and an unpleasant taste in your mouth temporarily. Aside from the mechanical action of removing particles from your mouth, they do not protect you from getting gum disease or cavities. Cosmetic mouthwashes are available over the counter in any grocery or drug store.
Not only does mouthwash help rinse away any residual food particles or bacteria left behind by flossing and brushing, it can also boost your confidence when talking to people up close. Just knowing your breath smells clean can help you shine!
HOW TO CHOOSE A BRAND?
Knowing that mouthwash should be part of your oral care routine is one thing, but knowing which is the best mouthwash of the many on the market is another thing altogether. There is a seemingly endless variety of mouthwashes to choose from. Should you select mint or antiseptic flavor? Is it better to use one with or without alcohol? Do mouthwashes that claim to be all natural still work as well as conventional varieties? Of the dozens of mouth rinses on the market, you are probably familiar with some of the following:
- Arm & Hammer
- Miracle Mouthwash
- Store brands (Kirkland, Kroger, Safeway, etc.)
- Tom's of Maine
And there are many more, too! What's more, there are considerations aside from brand familiarity. Which one is the best mouthwash? Which one has the best value? Which ingredients are safe? Is anyone regulating these things? Can my kids and I use the same kind? What about my braces, dentures, dry mouth or recent oral surgery? By the time you are standing in front of the mouthwash shelves at the store, you may have so many questions and concerns that you end up doing one of two things. You either throw your hands up and go with the least expensive one, or you continue with your other shopping and leave it for another day.
WHY NOT DIY?
With the frustration over the choices on the market and the current trend of "going natural", you may be tempted to DIY your mouthwash routine by using salt water, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide or oil pulling.
Salt water and baking soda rinsing can be added to your oral hygiene regimen, but it should not replace mouthwash. It helps kill bacteria by creating a slightly alkaline environment in your mouth, and soothes inflamed tissues associated with toothaches and oral surgery. The drawback is that it does not kill as many germs, or provide the length of protection that commercial mouthwashes do.
Hydrogen peroxide does kill germs by releasing oxygen on contact with tissues, but it is important to choose a concentration of 3% and below to prevent damage to your mouth's mucosa. Its strong flavor is also a drawback for many and it should not be swallowed.
Oil pulling is popular in the DIY community of late, but it should not be used instead of conventional mouthwashes. Read our article on oil pulling for more information.
FOR SPECIAL CONDITIONS, ASK YOUR DENTIST
If you have special concerns about your oral health, talk to your dentist about the best oral hygiene regimen. Recent surgery, dry mouth and rapid tartar buildup can all be addressed in partnership with your dentist. You may both also decide on more frequent office visits to keep your condition(s) well managed.
FLUORIDE IS A MUST FOR ANTICAVITY POWER
Of the dozens of name brand mouthwashes available, this ranking is limited to those that contain fluoride. Why? Fluoride is the number one ingredient for mouth health. After we eat and drink, the acids left behind (and generated by bacteria) can eat tiny holes in the enamel covering of our teeth. These tiny holes are a gateway into your teeth for cavity-causing bacteria and even more serious decay. Fluoride helps fill in these holes and protect your teeth. Mouthwashes not containing fluoride are not even in the running for first place on this list. The top six fluoride-containing mouthwashes on the market are:
- CariFree CTx3 Fluoride Rinse
- ACT Total Care Mouthwash
- Arm & Hammer Truly Radiant Bright & Strong Rinse
- Crest Pro-Health Advanced Active Strengthening Mouthwash
- Colgate Total Advanced Daily Repair Mouthwash
- Listerine Total Care Zero Alcohol
ACT, CREST AND CARIFREE ARE OUT OF THE RUNNING
ACT Total Care Mouthwash was in the running until users complained that slightly squeezing the bottle resulted in mouthwash spilling all over the counter. Crest Pro-Health Advanced Active Strengthening had the right ingredients, but users complain that it tastes artificial and too sweet. CariFree CTx3 was on the opposite end of the spectrum, with a strong taste so strong that it makes some people's mouths burn and their eyes water.
In addition to containing fluoride, a refreshing taste and leaving the mouth feeling clean, the top three brands on the market are all endorsed by the American Dental Association. None of them contain alcohol and they all received great reviews from actual users.
CONTESTANT #1 ARM & HAMMER TRULY RADIANT BRIGHT & STRONG
This brand contains a 0.02% fluoride concentration, tingling mint flavor and baking soda to fight bad breath. Underlying the predominant mint flavor is a saline taste that some users liked. Users also like the bottle design which features a longer neck for ease of pouring.
CONTESTANT #2 COLGATE TOTAL DAILY REPAIR
With identical fluoride concentration to Arm & Hammer's entry, this brand also has a refreshing mint taste, which lasts nearly two hours after rinsing.
CONTESTANT #3 LISTERINE TOTAL CARE ZERO ALCOHOL
Listerine is a long-time favorite for raw germ-killing power, but most of this brand's options contain alcohol. Their one non-alcoholic variety is in the running because of its similar fluoride profile, lack of artificial sweetener aftertaste, and ease of use.
DRUM ROLL PLEASE...COLGATE TOTAL DAILY REPAIR WINS!
Colgate Total Daily Repair beat out its competition with its fluoride content, ease of use, taste and clean mouth feeling. It has a medium fluoride concentration compared to other mouthwashes, at 0.02%. This is a concentration safe to use twice per day without risking fluorosis, the condition that causes those hyper-white patches on teeth from too much fluoride intake. The bottle was easy to use without spilling the mouthwash, users enjoy its mild minty flavor, and report a clean mouth feeling up to 1.5 hours after use.
In comparison, Arm & Hammer's saline hints are not a plus for everyone, and the Listerine option yields a raw mouth feeling for some people.
USE YOUR MOUTHWASH THE RIGHT WAY
Even if you do not select our top mouthwash choice, be sure to always use mouthwash according to the manufacturer's directions for the best results. Never use it in place of your toothbrush and floss, and maintain a regular schedule with your dentist to ensure the healthiest mouth possible.