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Dental Tips
Williamsburg Dentist
• 
Jul 5, 2023

The Lowdown on Mouthwash

The Lowdown on Mouthwash

Ahh, there’s nothing like that tingly feeling of a minty fresh smile. That’s why many of our patients love using mouthwash—the zingier the better! But is mouthwash really necessary? Will it help or hurt your dental hygiene routine? And what do dentists look for in a good mouthwash? We’re answering all these questions and more in this mouthwash lowdown.

First off, let’s define a few terms. When patients ask about “mouthwash,” they’re usually referring to the big blue or green bottles of minty liquid available over the counter. That’s not to be confused with prescription rinses, like Peridex, which contain chlorhexidine. Your dentist might prescribe these to reduce gum inflammation and treat gingivitis.

Do Dentists Recommend Mouthwash?

Most dentists agree that using mouthwash can be a helpful supplement in your dental routine—with a few caveats. No mouthwash can replace the importance of manually removing plaque and bacteria from your teeth and gums. And for that, you need to brush and floss. As long as you're not replacing regular brushing, flossing, and hygiene visits with mouthwash, go ahead and enjoy a minty swish as part of your nighttime or morning routine.

When used in conjunction with brushing and flossing, mouthwash can have benefits like reducing cavities and preventing plaque buildup. It’s also important to look carefully at the label of your favorite mouthwash as not all options are made equal. (More on that below.)


Children under six should avoid using mouthwash altogether. For kids, using mouthwash poses a risk of swallowing fluoride. Plus, exposing young teeth to too much fluoride can contribute to fluorosis. For children over six years old, parents should still monitor their kids’ mouthwash use to ensure proper use.

How to Choose a Mouthwash

If you’ve ever stood in the aisle of your grocery store trying to choose a mouthwash, you know there are dozens of options available. You’ll see claims from fresher breath and stronger teeth to cavity prevention. The bottom line? Make sure you look for an option that’s alcohol-free.

While the alcohol in some mouthwashes may make your mouth feel cleaner due to that characteristic sting, it actually does the opposite. Alcohol dries out your mouth, reducing your saliva production and creating the perfect atmosphere for bacteria to thrive. Over time,  mouthwashes with alcohol become an obstacle to excellent oral health.

If you’re not sure if your favorite mouthwash passes the test, look for the ADA Seal of Acceptance. This mark indicates that the company has provided data to the American Dental Association that backs up its claims. Of course, you can always consult with your dentist on the right option for you. Some mouthwashes are better suited to certain conditions, such as dry mouth or oral sores.

Do I Have to Use Mouthwash?

Generally speaking, mouthwash is not a necessary part of a great dental routine. While it can provide some benefits, thorough brushing and flossing combined with regular dental checkups are enough for the average patient. If you love using mouthwash, by all means, use it (keeping in mind the guidelines above!)  But, if mouthwash isn’t really your thing, that’s okay too, as long as brushing and flossing are your thing.

Of course, you should always follow your dentist’s recommendations for mouth rinses and mouthwashes, including prescription options. No two mouths are the same, so you should heed the advice of a doctor on your specific health over any general advice or solution.

If you have any questions, don’t be afraid to ask! We understand that navigating the terminology and marketing of all the dental products out there can be a bit confusing at times. We’d love to help. Your next dental hygiene appointment is a great opportunity to get your questions answered. Is yours on the calendar? Call us or contact us through our website to request an appointment. We can’t wait to welcome you to our Williamsburg office soon.

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