You know that you’re supposed to brush your teeth after eating and to floss at least once a day. But there are other products in the dental-care aisle that you feel a tad less sure about. One of those products might be mouthwash. Mouthwash comes in a variety of flavors and types, often in jewel-toned liquids. Depending on the state of your teeth and gums, using a mouthwash on a regular basis can give your oral health an extra boost.
Types of Mouthwash
Generally speaking, there are two types of mouthwash: therapeutic or cosmetic. Therapeutic mouthwashes are designed to help protect your mouth against common issues, such as gum disease or tooth decay. They can also help fight the causes of bad breath, such as bacteria or chemicals that create an unpleasant odor. You can find therapeutic mouthwashes for sale at drugstores. Some are available by prescription only. Prescription mouthwashes should be used under the direction of your dentist, as they often contain stronger ingredients that need to be carefully monitored.
Cosmetic mouthwashes can help with bad breath, but only on a superficial level. Using one might put a pleasant taste in your mouth, but the mouthwash itself won’t kill bacteria or fight the source of the bad breath. You might think of a cosmetic mouthwash as being similar to a breath mint or stick of sugar-free gum. It freshens your breath, but only for a little while.
What’s in Mouthwash
The ingredients in mouthwash depend in large part on what the product is designed to do. Cosmetic mouthwashes will generally contain ingredients such as flavorings, water and coloring or dyes. They may or may not contain alcohol, which can help kill some bacteria, and may also have a few drawbacks.
A mouth rinse that’s designed to protect against cavities and decay will more likely than not contain fluoride. Even if a mouthwash contains fluoride, it’s designed to be used alongside of brushing with fluoride toothpaste, not instead of toothpaste. Mouthwashes that are designed to help prevent or treat periodontal disease often contain antibacterial ingredients.
Chlorhexidine is an ingredient found in certain mouthwashes that are intended to fight gum disease. Typically, mouth rinses containing chlorhexidine are only available by prescription and are usually only used for a limited amount of time. While the ingredient helps kill bacteria that cause gum disease, it also leads to stains on the teeth with prolonged use. If your periodontist has prescribed a mouthwash with chlorhexidine, it’s usually recommended that you avoid eating foods or drinking beverages known to stain the teeth, such as coffee or red wine, while using it.
Who Shouldn’t Use Mouthwash?
Mouthwash isn’t for everyone. While many people can see the benefit of using a mild therapeutic mouth rinse or even a cosmetic one, some people need to avoid mouthwashes completely. Among those who should avoid using a mouth rinse are children under age six.
Young children should avoid mouthwashes for practical and cosmetic reasons. One practical reason for avoiding the product is that most very young children are unable to properly rinse their mouths. They are more likely to swallow a mouthwash, which can be a problem if it contains alcohol or fluoride.
Another reason why young kids should steer clear of mouthwash is that the fluoride found in certain types of mouth rinse can actually cause trouble for their developing teeth. Those under the age of six, or kids whose permanent teeth are still forming below the gumline, are at risk for fluorosis. While fluoride helps protect the teeth against cavities, before a certain age, high levels of fluoride can actually cause changes to the surface of the teeth. Spots, stains and a pitted texture are common signs of fluorosis. The condition only causes cosmetic changes to the teeth, but those changes are permanent.
Some adults might need to avoid using mouthwashes, too. If you suffer from dry mouth, using a rinse that contains alcohol can make the problem worse. Some rinses can also irritate sores in the mouth or make teeth more sensitive.
While many people can use mouthwash without any difficulties, if you have any concerns, it’s a good idea to speak with your dentist or periodontist about your options. In Miami, periodontists Dr. John Paul Gallardo and Dr. William Lamas might recommend using a mouthwash after treatment for gum disease or if you have another issue with your mouth. To learn more about your options, call their office for an appointment today: (305) 447-1447.