Since childhood, we’ve all been taught about the importance of brushing our teeth at least twice a day and flossing in the evening before we go to bed. However, the choice to use mouthwash is quite subjective, and the practise isn’t for everyone. But do keep in mind that while brushing and flossing are most important; mouthwash can reach areas between your teeth that toothpaste won’t get to, killing germs that cause decay and bad breath.
Mouthwash manufacturers don’t make it easy for consumers to choose the right brand. There are so many labels, it’s hard to decide which is best for you: antiseptic, fluoridated, sensitivity-reducing, restorative, anti-gingivitis, moisturizing, alcohol-containing, alcohol-free, whitening, brightening, etc.
As you continue to read, you’ll learn about the benefits of using a mouthwash, what to look for in a good product, and the most recommended brands to watch out for based on your oral-care needs.
Main Benefits of Using Mouthwash:
1. Better Plaque and Tartar Control: The antiseptic antibacterial ingredients in many “therapeutic” mouthwashes help to kill the bacteria responsible for plaque and tartar, helping to prevent gingivitis and periodontal disease resulting from poor tartar control.
2. Prevents and Controls Halitosis: It’s unknown just how many people there are out there who have halitosis. Worse, it’s a hard subject to bring up with those who do, since it’s a touchy and embarrassing subject, so they’re rarely told about their problem. There are inexpensive mouthwashes with ingredients that kill the bacteria responsible for this condition in the short term and/or long term (see “What to Look for” further down the page.)
3. Helps Treat Gingivitis Inflammation: Once gingivitis and gum disease set in, the only one that can help you treat it is your dentist. However, the inflammation caused by infection can be controlled more effectively by using a good mouthwash containing some or all of the following ingredients: chlorhexidine, methylparaben, hydrogen peroxide, benzalkonium chloride, triclosan, and hexetidine – all of which are designed to kill the “bad bacteria” that’s constantly forming in our mouths.
4. Strengthens Teeth: Fluoride has been long known to be essential for strengthening our teeth. However, it’s important to understand the potential side effects of long-term use (see Mercola.com article for more info.) While fluoride often gets most of the credit for the teeth-strengthening effects of mouthwash, the bacteria-fighting ingredients are really what protect and strengthen our teeth. Choose alcohol-free mouthwash if you want to reap the benefits from fluoride, as the two ingredients cancel each other out when used within 30 minutes of one another.
5. Whitens Teeth: Mouthwashes containing elevated levels of hydrogen peroxide (and sometimes sodium bicarbonate) can help to whiten tooth enamel. Crest is very popular for their whitening toothpaste, strips, and mouthwashes. Crest and other manufacturers always recommend using all their whitening products (i.e., toothbrush, toothpaste, and mouthwash) for maximum benefit, however there’s no data to support their claims. Whitening products do not work on stains to larger areas of exposed dentin where the enamel is gone.
Other Potential Benefits
Clinical formulations can used in certain mouthwashes to treat and prevent the following conditions:
• Oral Ulcers
• Oral Cancer
• Respiratory Tract Infection
• Sensitive Teeth
• Recovery From Oral Surgery
• Helps Prevent and Cure Tonsilitis
What to Look for in a Good Mouthwash
Note that some ingredients listed below will be marked as subjective and the choice whether you buy a product containing them will come down to your personal health and oral care needs.
• Alcohol (subjective): The jury’s out on alcohol in mouthwash, since it can dry out your mouth, aggravate ulcers and inflammation, and provides no antiseptic benefit (it’s used to mask the taste of ingredients in the mouthwash itself, not to kill germs.) Still, some people don’t feel like they’re getting value from their mouthwash without the “bite” of the alcohol as it hits their mouth!
• Fluoride (subjective): As already discussed, fluoride is another questionable ingredient, due to the debate over its efficacy in cavity prevention, and the potential long-term health dangers it can cause throughout the body.
• Phenol (subjective): Phenol is the main ingredient in antiseptic mouthwashes like Listerine. Phenol does kill plaque bacteria, but is less effective than Chlorhexidine in that regard.
• Tee Tree Oil (subjective): Tea Tree Oil helps to moisturize the mouth and has proven very effective at treating bleeding gums and mouth ulcers. It’s also believe that this ingredient captures bacteria while you’re swishing through a process known as emulsification, allowing you to spit it out once you’re finished swishing.
• Chlorhexidine: Chlorhexidine is a must-have if you’re looking for an effective mouthwash to treat and/or prevent any disease inside your mouth, including halitosis. It’s an anti-plaque and anti-fungal ingredient that also allows the other ingredients in the mouthwash to bind to the hard and soft tissues inside your mouth (called “substantivity”).
• Hydrogen Peroxide: Most popular for whitening teeth through its oxygenating effect, peroxide actually kills germs and the frothing action it creates helps to move hidden debris away from teeth. Look for “Hydrogen Peroxide”, “Peroxide”, or “Peroxyl” on the label. Non-whitening products should have 1.5% for effective cleaning. Whitening products will always have much more of this ingredient.
• Sodium Chloride: Sodium Chloride is nothing more than simple salt. Salt is great for killing bacteria, reducing inflammation, helping ulcers heal, and promoting the drainage of puss in the mouths of people recovering from oral surgery and infection.
Recommended Mouthwash Brands
TheraBreath is a powerful, alcohol-free mouthwash that can eliminate and ward-off bad breath bacteria. They use a proprietary oxygenating formula called OXYD-8, which has been clinically proven to fight bad breath for up to 24 hours. The holistic-designed TheraBreath has a very mild, pleasant taste and contains no sweeteners or other unnatural ingredients.
Listerine has alcohol and they’ve smartly left fluoride out of their formulation, as the two cancel each other out. Listerine’s been around for years, is trusted by dentists, and very popular among consumers. It has a cooling effect inside the mouth and leaves your breath feeling and smelling very fresh. This is a powerful mouthwash. If you like a mild taste, Listerine isn’t for you.
This product uses an alcohol free, clinical formulation to kill germs when you use it, and also leave a zinc-ion coating inside your mouth that’s activated “on-demand” as bacteria tries to begin forming again when you eat or drink. SmartMouth is recommended by dentists for the prevention and treatment of tooth decay, halitosis, and gum disease, and can be used with confidence after oral surgery.
ACT Restoring Mouthwash
ACT kills germs and helps restore vital minerals to your teeth. In fact, it’s one of a handful of mouthwashes that has clinical and dental-office-based evidence to support its restorative properties. It does contain both alcohol and fluoride, so don’t plan on any fluoride-containing benefits, if you believe the hype that ingredient. Like Listerine, ACT has a very powerful alcohol-ly taste to it.
Crest Glamorous Multi Care
This Crest product is the latest release in the company’s popular 3D White lineup. Shakira is one of their biggest endorsers, but don’t kid yourself into thinking you’ll automatically have a pearly white smile like hers after the first use! This mouthwash is perfect for maintaining your teeth after whitening procedures (at the dentist or at home.)
Biotene is very popular for people who suffer from dry-mouth symptoms. It’s alcohol-free and contains all the latest ingredients (including Chlorhexidine) which are needed to kill bad breath. This mouthwash also delivers a healthy dose of the company’s proprietary beneficial enzymes, used to restore and maintain PH balance inside your mouth.
Tom’s of Maine
Tom’s is entirely all-natural. The main ingredients use are mint and baking soda. Baking soda is the most effective bacteria-killing ingredient you’ll ever find in nature. This product is great for people who’re paranoid about the long-term effects of the many laboratory-made ingredients found in typical mouthwash products.
Nature’s Answer Periowash
Nature’s Answer Periowash takes all-natural a step further. The product delivers germ killing benefits, but also incorporates natural herbs, CoQ10, and folic acid to promote healthy gums. CoQ10 is also believed to help recovery from oral surgery and prevents dry mouth symptoms.
Each of the mouthwashes listed above are a great choice. Some will definitely cost more than others, but as they say “You get what you pay for.” And what you’re paying for is specific results, individual to you and your dental health and hygiene preferences.
• Listerine is very inexpensive and works just fine if you want your breath to be more kissably clean, but aren’t looking for any benefits beyond that.
• Crest is best when it comes to getting the highest quality whitening mouthwash.
• If you’re concerned about potentially harsh or damaging ingredients, choose either Tom’s of Main, or the Nature’s Answer product.
• If searching for an alcohol-free alternative to popular big box brands, but still want the benefits of laboratory-made, dental-health-promoting ingredients choose TheraBreath, SmartMouth, or Biotene.
• Use ACT if you frequently experience sensitivity, or your dentist has told you to use a restorative product on your teeth.