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20 June 2017

Lord Of The Rinse: Choosing The Right Mouthwash For You

Did you hear the one about the guy who asked his dentist about using mouthwash, and the dentist told him to go online and ‘Gargle’ it?

I’m often asked about this topic and thought it was time to write a blog*. There are so many varieties of mouthwash and rinses on the market, it’s no wonder people get confused and in the end, choose something based on packaging.

Hopefully after reading this you’ll find choosing a mouthwash is easier and leaves you with a good taste in your mouth! ☺

Do mouthwashes work?

Yes. But be aware that different mouthwashes do different things. There are mouthwashes out there that are purely ‘cosmetic’ and do not provide any antiseptic benefit; and there are those that provide antiseptic benefits.

Should I use a mouthwash?

I am pro-mouthwash for most adults. Teeth occupy only 20 to 25% of the total surface area of the mouth, and other surfaces within the mouth may harbour bacteria that remain largely untouched by brushing and flossing. So it makes sense to use a mouthwash to provide additional benefit.

Which mouthwash should I use?

I recommend a fluoride-containing mouthwash for people with a history of developing cavities or for those at high risk of developing cavities in the future. I recommend Colgate NeutraFluor 220 Alcohol Free mouthwash.

For people with gum related issues (gingivitis), I recommend an anti-plaque or anti-gingivitis rinse such as Listerine.

If you want an all-round mouth-rinse, I would recommend the Oral B Clinical or Multi Protection or Listerine Total Care.

There are times when I would prescribe a more specific, tailored mouthwash for high-risk clients or post-surgery. If you feel you might fall in this category, speak to me at your next visit.

Alcohol or alcohol free?

Over the past few years there have been many theories circulating that alcohol in mouthwashes causes cancer. My opinion is that this issue has been blown out of proportion. Most recent studies state that alcohol in mouth rinse solutions is not regarded as a risk to health and is not expected to cause cancer if used as directed.

However, I recommend that mouthwashes containing alcohol should be avoided in certain groups of people: young children, pregnant and nursing women and those who suffer from a dry mouth. For an alcohol-free option, Listerine’s alcohol free variant is called Listerine Zero.

When should I use a mouthwash?

Each mouthwash has its own specific directions on the bottle. Generally, these instructions are based on clinical evidence and should be followed. For example with Listerine, if you are not using it twice a day, you most likely won’t achieve the full benefit.

Can kids use mouthwash?

If your children are under six years old, they should only use a mouthwash that is prescribed by a doctor or dentist and only under your direct supervision. Commercial mouthwashes, even those designed for children, should not be swallowed.

Older kids, say between 6 and 12, can benefit from mouthwash (especially the fluoride-containing, anti-cavity variety), but they should only use it under adult supervision, just to be safe. If you’re worried that they may not understand how to swish and spit out mouthwash, they can dip their toothbrush in mouthwash and scrub for a bit.

Kids with braces can benefit from fluoridated mouthwash that can protect their teeth from cavities and can also wash away bits of food that are stuck hard-to-reach places.

The wash-up

Mouthwash is not a substitute for great home dental care. Continue to take great care of your teeth by brushing and flossing regularly and avoiding excessive snacking. Add the appropriate mouth rinse as an additional measure.

Here are some helpful links for your information. And feel free to discuss with me at your next appointment.


*Special thanks to Ms Siobhan Kenny, oral healthcare consultant with Johnson & Johnson, who helped with research material and content for this blog.

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