There are few things like minty-fresh mouthwash to leave you with that satisfyingly squeaky clean feeling on your teeth. But is mouthwash a necessary step for proper dental hygiene, and how do you go about selecting the right one?
Listerine Mouthwash is available to target a number of oral health concerns, with products such as Listerine Original, Total Care, Smart Rinse, Teeth Defence, Cool Mint, and Tartar Control.
Leaves mouth fresh
Plenty of options
Can produce a burning sensation
Colgate Savacol is an antiseptic mouth and throat rinse that can help assist with gingivitis that’s been medically diagnosed.
Can effectively treat gum problems
Can cause brown spots on teeth
Can cause burning and stinging
Bottle is difficult to open
Latest review: Have tried multiple mouth wash products but the purple coloured total by Listerine is the only one I've found to be gentle but still STRONG Highly recommended It doesn't need diluting - like some do
Latest review: Website says it works but I see no difference. Didn't work at all. For 16 dollars a tube may as well just light a match to your money. I certainly would never recommend this product to anyone. False
Latest review: I have been having terribly dry lips and mouth and put it down to wearing a mask. But even without a mask my mouth was getting drier and my tongue feels rough to the point of thinking I had major
Latest review: My dentist recommended Oral Seven mouthwash for me. I use it diluted, in the morning after brushing my teeth. I have an auto immune disorder that has left me with no saliva whatsoever. Looking after
Latest review: I just love this mouth wash as it is so nice to get away from all the other way too harsh mouth washes that sting and feel uncomfortable for minutes after using i have many reservations about using
Latest review: I like the White Glow range and this Mouth Wash is great - it is Anti Bacterial and whilst not as good as Cepecol it is good and wont cost you a fortune. Itis pleasant tasting and doesnt burn your
Latest review: This has helped me so much. I get a dry mouth from medications which is bad. Therabreath has changed my life. It really is a miracle. As long as you keep a good dental hygiene routine with regular
Latest review: Listerine for kids so good love this product has helped my daughter from not getting any teeth pulled & from having stinking breath l will recommend this product to everyone the smell is very yummy
Latest review: I should have kept using this but I moved on to a high flouride toothpaste instead - bad move. This helped my teeth tremendously and doesn't taste too strong or bitey like other mouth washes do. I
Latest review: This mouthwash altered the pH of my tongue, causing my tongue to grow a thick layer of white 'carpet' on it. (I'm now treating the tongue issue with prescription lozenges). I also dislike the taste
Latest review: Have used this product twice mainly due to its really strong flavor (I prefer this) but as a whitening product I cannot say it makes any difference. Its not cheap but I liked the container which is
Latest review: Can someone give me an easy way to open this... it tells you how but I don't have much strength and am thinking of taking it back to the store to get them to open it!! Read the reviews and other
Latest review: Used product 2-3 days in a row and got swolen and inflamed glands in face. Looked like a chipmunk. 2 days later without use face is back to normal. Product is toxic in my
Latest review: This review is actually about colgate Peroxyl(which l can't find anywhere to review) recommended by a dentist. I got all side effects,including blisters on lips,black and furry tongue(yuk)stinging
Latest review: This product should be removed from the shelves. This product caused severe burning of the throat, tongue and gums. This product is made in CHINA and consists of raw alcohol (99%) with a touch of
What does mouthwash do?
The range of mouthwashes on supermarket and chemist shelves is so broad that it’s almost dizzying to have to decipher what a mouthwash does.
Most all-purpose mouthwashes will claim to kill bacteria and germs, freshen breath, target plaque and gingivitis and help fortify tooth enamel against decay.
This is an impressive series of claims, however whether a mouthwash does this depends on a number of factors, not least of which whether it is a cosmetic or medical/ therapeutic mouthwash.
What doesn't mouthwash do?
It's important to note that rinsing with mouthwash should never be a substitute for twice-daily brushing, and flossing.
Mouthwash won't do its part to prevent plaque, as the circular motion of toothbrush bristles and flossing is necessary to remove the food particles, sugar and acids that build up on teeth, and lodge themselves in-between teeth, at the end of each day.
Mouthwash also can't remove tartar - the hardened plaque that’s already built up on teeth, and this can only be properly done by a dentist.
While some people occasionally or regularly use mouthwash as a substitute for brushing, this isn’t recommended for good oral hygiene. Regular brushing for at least 2 minutes a day is necessary.
Additionally, avoid looking for a kids mouthwash until your child is over 6 years of age. Children under 6 often still swallow, instead of spitting out toothpaste and mouthwash. The addition of alcohol, chemicals or other harsh ingredients in mouthwash can result in adverse side effects in young children, such as nausea.
Types of Mouthwashes
Broadly speaking, there are two types of mouthwash - cosmetic and medical, also known as therapeutic.
Cosmetic mouthwash can be described as perfume for your mouth - temporarily freshening breath and leaving your mouth feeling clean. However, in terms of oral health benefits, cosmetic mouthwash does little to protect your teeth or keep them clean (despite promises of ‘round-the-clock’ protection).
However, for many people, swishing with a capful of mouthwash is a familiar and essential part of their daily oral hygiene routine. If your routine wouldn’t feel complete without this, using a cosmetic mouthwash shouldn't do any harm, as long as you choose containing helpful rather than harmful ingredients (such as alcohol, ethanol, and hydrogen peroxide).
These mouthwashes are more beneficial from an oral health standpoint, as they are specifically designed to help control and alleviate the symptoms of certain conditions. However, it’s still always best to consult with your dentist beforehand about which mouthwashes are best to help treat a certain condition.
If you have gum disease, choosing a mouthwash for gingivitis with active antimicrobial ingredients may help. In an alcohol-free mouthwash, the antimicrobial ingredients will often include cetylpyridinium chloride and chlorhexidine.
Chlorhexidine works to target the specific bacteria that cause gum disease, without killing good bacteria too, like alcohol would. Well-known mouthwashes with chlorhexidine include Savacol, which is also an antiseptic mouthwash.
However, while chlorhexidine and cetylpyridinium chloride can provide effective relief from gum disease, they’re often not a viable long-term solution. Both these agents can produce brown staining on teeth. It’s best to have mouthwashes that contain these ingredients prescribed by a dentist, and check in regularly to ensure you won’t experience any side effects from prolonged usage.
As a natural alternative, essential oils can also be an effective antimicrobial agent.
Tooth decay happens as the result of enamel (the outer protective covering on your tooth surface) being worn down over time. This may happen due to a number of factors, including poor dental hygiene and consuming foods and drinks high in acid and sugar content.
Choosing a fluoride-rich mouthwash can help protect teeth against further damage. Fluoride is a fortifying mineral for teeth, but should not be swallowed, as it can be toxic - and children under 8 shouldn’t use it at all, as they are at risk of developing fluorosis if it the mouthwash is swallowed.
While most everyday cosmetic mouthwashes promise the elimination of bad breath, some may actually make it worse.
This is because alcohol is commonly added to antibacterial mouthwash as the agent to kill bacteria and germs. The problem with this is that alcohol kills all bacteria - including good bacteria in your mouth, which help aid in digestion and provide nutrients for good bacteria in your gut.
These good bacteria contribute to maintaining the overall good health of your oral microbiome - the healthy ecosystem in your mouth. Removing these good bacteria with alcohol can actually make your breath smell worse.
Instead of choosing a mouthwash with alcohol in it, choose a mouthwash with an alternative antimicrobial agent that targets odour-causing bacteria. Some examples are chlorhexidine and cetylpyridinium chloride - however this may have unwanted side effects of tooth staining, as described above. Essential oils are a natural antimicrobial agent that can freshen breath, and so are oral probiotics.
If you experience dry mouth syndrome, it's best to avoid mouthwash with alcohol in it at all costs, as alcohol is drying to the mouth. Other chemicals may be drying, too, so it may be beneficial to . Otherwise, sometimes dry mouth can be caused by bacteria on the the tongue, and antibiotics may need to be prescribed.
After dental surgery
Your dentist will be able to recommend the best mouthwash for you (if you should be using any at all). However, avoid mouthwashes with alcohol, especially for tooth extraction. Your tooth socket will be exposed, and alcohol will dry it, causing irritation. Some mouthwashes containing benzocaine may help to reduce pain, as it’s a topical local anesthetic. Some antiseptic mouthwashes, when prescribed by your dentist, can also help kill infection.
Stained or discoloured teeth
Some mouthwashes claim to whiten teeth, but it’s important to note that this is a slow method of . A small quantity of hydrogen peroxide in mouthwash may be added, but because this is an indirect method of teeth whitening, it can take up to 12 weeks to see results, rather than 2 weeks, which is the case for many home teeth whitening kits using gel.
If you also experience tooth decay, it’s best to avoid a mouthwash containing hydrogen peroxide, as this can be abrasive for your enamel, causing it to thin, and worsen the decay.
Alternatives to mouthwash
If you're finding it difficult to find a natural mouthwash, or a cosmetic mouthwash that doesn't contain alcohol or other unwanted chemicals, there are a few natural alternatives to chemical-heavy rinses that you you can make or take at home. These include:
- Oral probiotics: This can help reduce odour-reducing bacteria, and restore the balance of good bacteria, which also fights bad breath
- Oil pulling: An old Ayurvedic health practice that involves 'swishing' coconut oil in the mouth for around 20 minutes, and which can naturally 'pull' out bacteria and other toxins from the mouth
- Salt water mouth wash: Useful in the short-term after a dental surgery, such as a tooth extraction, as salt naturally disinfects. However, long-term, it can soften teeth enamel
- Baking soda mouthwash: Also known as sodium bicarbonate mouthwash, this involves mixing half a tablespoon of baking soda with water, and adding a pinch of sea salt. As it's gentler than most readymade mouthwashes, baking soda mouthwwash can be effective when used on mouth sores, sensitive teeth, and a sore throat.
Compared to daily brushing and flossing, mouthwash isn't an essential step in everyone's oral care routine. Many brands offer cosmetic mouthwashes that help make your mouth smell and clean fresh, temporarily. Other mouthwashes are designed to help treat oral conditions, and these should be selected im consultation with a dentist.
Avoiding harsh ingredients such as alcohol or hydrogen peroxide may be necessary to safeguard the health of your mouth. Other active ingredients such as chlorhexidine may be effective for short-term use only, due to long-term side effects. Overall, careful inspection of the ingredients in any mouth wash, and discussing them with your dentist, is likely to be the most helpful approach when selecting a medical mouthwash.