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Do I really need to use mouthwash?

Keeping a healthy dental routine is important, but there can be a lot to remember. Brush twice a day, floss once a day, change out your toothbrush every three months, decide between an electric or manual toothbrush, pick a type of toothpaste with or without whitening, schedule a dentist appointment every six months, wear your rubber bands, don’t forget your retainer… Wheew! The list goes on. One more thing some people like to add to the list is mouthwash. But is it really necessary to add it to your daily routine?

What is mouthwash used for?

Mouthwashes are used for a variety of reasons, including:

  • to freshen breath
  • to help prevent or control tooth decay
  • to reduce plaque
  • to prevent or reduce gingivitis (an early stage of gum disease)
  • to reduce the speed that tartar (hardened plaque) forms on the teeth

What types of mouthwashes are there?

According to the American Dental Association, there are two main kinds of mouthwash to choose from: cosmetic and therapeutic.

Cosmetic mouthrinses may temporarily control or reduce bad breath and leave the mouth with a pleasant taste, but they don’t deal with the causes of bad breath. They don’t kill the bacteria that cause bad breath or chemically inactivate odor causing compounds. Also, none of the cosmetic mouthrinses helps reduce plaque, gingivitis or cavities.

Therapeutic mouthrinses, on the other hand, can help reduce plaque, gingivitis, cavities and bad breath. Some fight the bacteria present in plaque, a sticky film that forms on teeth and gums. Plaque bacteria create toxins that can damage the gums. Plaque that is not removed with daily brushing and flossing can cause gingivitis, an early stage of gum disease. If plaque is allowed to continue to accumulate, gingivitis can progress to advanced gum disease, called periodontitis. Plaque can also turn into tartar (or calculus), a hard substance that can only be removed during a professional cleaning.

Can a mouthrinse eliminate bad breath?

Therapeutic mouthrinses can help reduce bad breath. However, if you must constantly use a mouthrinse or breath freshener to hide unpleasant mouth odor, it would be a good idea to visit your dentist to see if there is some underlying cause that can be corrected.

Should you brush, floss or rinse first?

The sequence in which you brush, floss, and rinse makes no difference as long as you do a thorough job and use quality products. Check the mouthrinse manufacturer’s label for recommendations on how and when to use the product, and look for products that have the ADA’s Seal of Acceptance.

At what age can a child use a fluoride mouthrinse?

The use of fluoride mouthrinses is not recommended for children six and younger because they may swallow the rinse. Always check the manufacturer’s label for precautions and age recommendations and talk to your dentist. Clinical studies indicate that regular use of a fluoride mouthrinse (daily or weekly, depending on the rinse) can provide additional protection against cavities over that provided by a fluoride toothpaste.

So, do I need a mouthrinse?

Ask your dentist at your next appointment whether you need a mouthrinse, as it is often dependent on your individual oral health needs. Rinsing is not a substitute for brushing or flossing, however, if you have difficulty brushing and flossing, a mouthrinse may provide additional protection against cavities and periodontal (gum) disease. Contact us if you have further questions.

American Association of Orthodontists American Board of Orthodontics Oregon Dental Association DamonSmile Invisalign iTero
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