While you’re very familiar with idea of brushing your teeth twice a day, that “two minutes, twice daily” doesn’t tell the whole story.
If you’re only brushing your teeth and forgetting to floss and use mouthwash, then there’s more you can do to keep your teeth and gums healthy and clean. Think of it this way: it’s the same as taking a shower and not washing your hair—ever.
A comprehensive oral health routine is essential to prevent cavities, gum disease and tooth loss. Just like toothpaste, the number of mouthwash options available can be surprising, and you may not know what to do with it! Below, we will breakdown the most popular types of mouthwash and provide tips of the trade to ensure you are getting your teeth as clean as possible.
Mouthwash with fluoride
We’ve discussed this before (and you’ve probably heard it at your appointments), but fluoride is a naturally–occurring chemical ion found in rocks, soil, and water; however, it doesn’t actually exist on its own in nature! To harness its benefits, we discovered how to create it though a scientific process. Harnessing the ion was a major scientific achievement, and its benefit has been so widespread that fluoride was also added to water and toothpaste in the 20th century.
If you see a mouthwash that contains fluoride, you might automatically think this is the best option since fluoride has been proven to protect your teeth and strengthen your enamel.
More is better, right?
Unfortunately, no. Too much fluoride can still lead to dental fluorosis. Dental fluorosis is a cosmetic issue that causes streaks, spots or pits to develop on the surfaces of the teeth. While adults are less likely to suffer from an overuse of fluoride, it is important to discuss the amount you are using with your dentist.
Mouthwash that contains fluoride is recommended for those who live in areas where the water is not fluoridated and to those prone to cavities. This type of mouthwash has been shown to strengthen enamel and help fight against acids that can attack your teeth. To reap the full benefits of fluorinated mouthwash, it’s important to not eat or drink for at least 30 minutes after use.
If there is a “number–one” name in mouthwash that we all think of, it’s probably Listerine. Traditionally, this antiseptic or antibacterial mouthwash contains alcohol and is known to stop bacterial growth, particularly in those with mouth infections.
Antibacterial mouthwash can also be used to reduce inflammation of your gums and cheeks, as well as to prevent infection and irritation.
Though, while antiseptic mouthwash can help prevent issues like gingivitis, it also has been shown to have negative side effects. While this type of mouthwash kills the bad bacteria, it can also kill good bacteria living in the mouth that serve as your body’s first line of defense against bad pathogens. The alcohol in the mouthwash can also dry out your mouth, which can increase your risk of oral health diseases that thrive in dry, warm environments. Due to these risks, many brands today (including Listerine) make their product alcohol-free.
Natural mouthwashes boast many of the same therapeutic benefits of traditional mouthwashes, they’re just comprised of all–natural ingredients. These products, such as Tom’s, do not contain alcohol or fluoride. Natural mouthwash is recommended for those with sensitive teeth and gums since it is void of harsh chemicals and can prevent unnecessary discomfort.
In addition to commercially–made products, some people choose to make their own natural mouthwashes. Many of these homemade products contain ingredients such as salt that has been proven to reduce inflammation, baking soda and essential oils.
Just to “freshen up”
In addition to mouthwashes that provide a therapeutic benefit, there are some products on the market whose sole purpose is to freshen your breath. If you have ever had a garlic–filled lunch and don’t have anywhere to brush, these mouthwashes can help mask any unseemly odors.
Sometimes referred to as cosmetic mouthwashes, it is important to remember these do not offer any true oral health benefit.
Mouthwash is an integral part of your daily oral health routine. However, just as all of our dental needs are unique, so are each of our reactions to different types of mouthwashes. If you experience pain or discomfort from one type of mouthwash, it’s important to discuss it with your dentist to determine if there is a gentler product on the market that could work for you. Mouthwash doesn’t have to be a pain; make sure to choose the best one for you!