How to Choose a Mouth Rinse That’s Right for You

by | Feb 21, 2015 | Southfield Dentistry

Hi everyone,

We call them mouthwashes, oral rinses or mouth rinses.  Either way, there are hundreds of oral hygiene products crowding our local drugstore shelves.  So how can we know which one is right for us?  Whether you want to freshen your breath, reduce plaque or control cavities, here’s some information that may help you pick the one mouthwash that serves your needs.


If you just want a bad breath fighter…

Basically, these mouth rinses freshen your breath and neutralize the bacteria-causing odors found in your mouth.  These products may also contain ingredients like zinc or chlorine dioxide.  Both ingredients stop the nasty-smelling sulphur compounds created by oral bacteria.   Often referred to as cosmetic oral rinses, some may contain additional ingredients that whiten teeth or reduce cavity-causing bacteria.

Pros: Besides being great breath fresheners, theses oral rinses are easy on the taste buds and come in different minty flavors.

Cons: Even if some contain cetylpyridinium chloride, an ingredient used to fight gum disease, these cosmetic mouth washes are not really effective at fighting gingivitis (vs. prescription antibacterial rinses prescribed by your dentist).

If you have persistent bad breath and use a mouth rinse on a regular basis you should check with your dentist to address any other underlying causes.

If you want to fight gingivitis or periodontitis…

Mouthwashes approved by the FDA for effectively fighting gingivitis contain the active ingredient chlorhexidine gluconate.  It’s a much stronger antibacterial ingredient that cannot be found in over-the- counter products.  These types of mouth washes can only be prescribed by your dentist.

Pros: Approved for treating periodontitis or gum disease by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Cons: Although quite effective in treating gingivitis and gum disease it can stain your teeth brown.  A qualified dentist can monitor the staining effects and keep them to a minimum.  These rinses should only be used for a short period of time and are typically prescribed to address particular short term situations.

If you looking for a mouth rinse that fights plaque….

These types of mouthwashes have antibacterial formulas.  This unique formula can be found in over-the-counter.  An example of these products would be Listerine which contains phenols, an antimicrobial compound found in Lysol.

Another type of therapeutic mouthwash is an antiseptic.  Antiseptic rinses claim to reduce your oral bacteria by 75 percent.  You might also see anti-plaque, anti-gingivitis, or antibacterial mouth rinses on the shelves as well.  Some antibacterial formulas also fight bad breath. These products also reduce oral bacteria that cause plaque or gingivitis just like an antiseptic mouthwash.  The main difference is that antiseptic mouthwashes contain a significant amount of alcohol which may worsen dry mouth in certain individuals and may or may not be marginally related to oral cancer like the alcohol we drink.

Pros: It’s a great way to fight bad breath and may provide marginal additional protection against plaque and gum disease.

Cons: Over-the-counter antiseptic mouth rinses have a high alcohol content which can be drying, so be sure to check the ingredients closely.  In some cases it can cause some additional irritation if you’re dealing with dry mouth or if you’re prone to oral lichen planus.   Oral lichen planus is a benign condition involving the lining of the mouth.  Thankfully it’s not contagious.  For most patients it doesn’t cause great discomfort but some people do experience soreness or a burning sensation.    The most common type of oral lichen planus is erosive or ulcerative and it’s characterized by oral ulcers and irregular patches of redness. It’s not unusual for patients to see this redness near the gum line.  It’s a good idea to have your dentist check these red patches to be sure to rule out the beginning of gingivitis.

If you’re looking for cavity protection or you don’t have fluoridated water or you just drink bottled water….

When looking for a cavity-fighting mouth wash, be sure it contains fluoride.  It has been proven to fight cavities by protecting the tooth enamel with a coating that makes it resistant to cavity-causing bacteria.  We highly recommend that you use an anti-cavity mouth rinse if you have braces or wear an orthodontic appliance.  For folks with a bad cavity problem there are prescription fluoride rinses and gels that contain a much higher level of fluoride.  However, be sure to keep in mind that a good mouthwash can never take the place of daily brushing and flossing, and it is not necessary to use a mouthwash to have a healthy, disease free mouth. Think of it as supplemental, and understand that these mouthwashes will not by themselves cure or prevent oral disease.  You still need to do those things we all know are effective: twice a day brushing, flossing at least once a day, a sensible diet and seeing your hygienist at least twice a year.

At Dr. Mark W Langberg, DDS, MAGD, we recommend that if you decide to use a mouthwash be sure to check that it has the ADA seal of approval on the label.  I also strongly advise that under the age of 6 not use mouth rinses since at that age they cannot keep from swallowing a potentially toxic solution.  It’s our job to keep your smile healthy throughout your life.  So if you have questions or concerns, please feel free call us at 248 356-8790.  Discover the difference a great dentist can make to your oral health!

Until Next Time,

Mark W Langberg, DDS, MAGD
Your Southfield Family Dentist
Tel: (248) 356-8790