Are All Mouthwashes the Same?

A mouthwash or rinse, can be a helpful part of your oral hygiene routine. Some can help you fight off the accumulation of plaque and other bacteria inside your mouth. Mouthwashes are not meant to replace brushing or flossing, but to be used in addition to help keep your mouth cleaner. The American Dental Association does not specifically recommend the use of any mouthwash, but does admit that there can be benefits to using one as a part of your daily routine. There are many different brands of mouthwashes available, both over the counter and through a dentist’s prescription.

Wall of Mouthwash (Photo credit: jchwhite)


These can help cover up the odor of bad breath for a short while, but they do not eliminate the germs or bacteria that cause bad breath. They also don’t offer any protection against plaque build up or tooth decay. Some contain teeth whitening agents, which can make your teeth look brighter, but provide no real health benefits.


While you are likely already getting a good amount of fluoride from your water supply, there are mouthwashes available with extra fluoride. Fluoride can help prevent cavities and other forms of tooth decay and even strengthen your teeth.


These are mouthwashes specifically designed to kill the bacteria in your mouth in order to help heal and prevent infections. Antiseptic mouthwashes usually contain chlorhexidine gluconate. This bacteria is a chemical, which in high concentrations can actually stain your teeth and gums if used for an extended amount of time, which is why these mouthwashes are usually available by prescription only.


These custom mouthwashes, sometimes-called magic swizzles are available by prescription only. Dentists will include a variety of ingredients such as antibiotics, anesthetics, anti-inflammation medicines, and even antacids in a manner tailor made for a particular patient’s specific oral care needs.

There are also several types of mouthwashes that contain a mixture of antibacterial, anti-cavity, and breath freshening agents. These are often marketed as “total care” mouthwashes. While the American Dental Association does not insist that regular use of a mouthwash is essential for proper oral care, they have endorsed a list of mouthwashes that they believe are safe and effective. Ask your preventative dentist or hygienist which type of mouthwash is the best choice for you.


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