Most patients could easily recite the rules for good hygiene, even if they don’t always follow them: brush after meals, use fluoride toothpaste, floss daily, etc. The benefits of brushing and flossing are commonly stressed by dentists, with the goal of motivating patients to take their oral care seriously. However, mouthwash is an item not typically mentioned in regard to general dentistry, and yet a large number of people use it to at least some extent. This may lead patients to wonder about its effectiveness, and indeed, there is room for discussion as to whether mouthwash should be used at all. To better understand the potential benefits of mouthwash and who may be a good candidate for its use, refer to the following information provided by our Rockville dental practice.
Why Use Mouthwash?
When patients brush and floss diligently, visit their dentist for professional cleanings, and are not predisposed to gum disease, they will likely be able to maintain excellent hygiene without taking additional measures. For these patients, mouthwash may make little to no difference, since decay and disease are already kept in check. On the other hand, patients who have difficulty controlling gum disease or have a history of cavities may stand to benefit from the addition of mouthwash into their daily hygienic routine. When used properly, a good mouthwash can:
- Strengthen teeth
- Reduce the spread of gum disease
- Kill harmful bacteria and remove plaque
- Promote fresh breath
It should be noted, however, that these benefits are only secondary to brushing and flossing, and may only be deemed necessary when patients are struggling to maintain good dental health.
Who Should Use Mouthwash?
Patients with recurrent decay or gum disease are most likely to benefit from the incorporation of mouthwash into their daily hygienic routine. Likewise, patients who have difficulty brushing or flossing at every angle, such as those with braces or crowded teeth, may benefit from rinsing with mouthwash. Regardless, the best way to determine if you should use mouthwash is by speaking with your dentist. After an exam and discussion about your oral care, your dentist can assess whether your teeth and gums could use extra hygienic measures.
Choosing the Right Mouthwash
If you and your dentist decide that mouthwash should be incorporated into your routine, it’s important to choose one that is both effective and minimally harmful. Unfortunately, many brands contain one or more ingredients that can be counterproductive to your dental health. A good preliminary measure is to look for a rinse that is approved by the American Dental Association (ADA), although even these products can waver in quality. For the best results, look for a mouthwash that meets the following criteria:
- Alcohol-free: Many popular brands utilize alcohol, but this ingredient actually does little to protect your teeth. In fact, alcohol dries out the mouth, which in turn promotes gum disease. Some studies even suggest that long-term use of alcoholic mouthwash increases the risk of oral cancer, although the findings are not definitive.
- Chlorohexidine-free: Chlorohexidine is often used as an antiseptic ingredient, but it can ultimately lead to staining. Try to avoid this ingredient if you want to preserve the color of your teeth.
- Fluoride: If you want your mouthwash to strengthen your teeth, it needs to contain fluoride. Otherwise, it will only reach the surface of teeth and gums.
- High pH: Low pH levels, or acidity, can erode tooth enamel. Look for a mouthwash with a pH of 7 of above.
Schedule an Exam
If you are considering incorporating a daily rinse into your hygienic routine, speak first with your dentist. By discussing your concerns and the current state of your dental health, you can learn which mouthwash is right for you or if you even need one at all. Schedule your next exam and cleaning with us to keep your smile healthy and bright.