If you are walking down the aisle of your favorite supermarket, selecting a mouthwash can be very confusing. There are fluoride-containing rinses, whitening formulations, anti-plaque, alcohol-free, gingivitis fighting, etc., etc. Some rinses are over-the-counter while others require a prescription. You may be asking “Do I need a rinse at all”?
I think it’s best to divide rinses into three categories as suggested by Dr. Michelle Henshaw, Assistant Dean of Boston University School of Dentistry.
Breath- Freshening Rinses – These rinses may reduce bacteria to a limited degree, but contain ingredients mostly designed to neutralize odors.They taste and smell pleasant, basically “reducing bad breath”. These rinses do not actually improve your oral health. The main ingredients in these rinses are chlorine and zinc, which reduce the sulphur–containing compounds produced by bacteria in the mouth. These are fine if you do not have tooth decay or gingivitis.
Fluoride Mouth Rinses – A fluoride mouth rinse is used when we want to strengthen the enamel, which is the hard outer layer of the tooth. The rinse coats the teeth with a protective film .This is particularly important for patients who are prone to cavities due to a diet high in sugar, or for those who have dry mouth. It is also good for those people who live in areas with non-fluoridated water. John Featherstone, Ph. D., a professor of preventive dental science, points out that anti-bacterial components are not easily compatible with fluoride, making it difficult to have an all-in-one mouthrinse. Most toothpastes have enough fluoride (check the label) so that the fluoride rinse may not be for you.
Anti-Plaque or Anti- Gingivitis Mouth Rinses – These rinses are most easily identified when they have the ADA seal of approval on the label such as blue Listerine. Listerine and other products that contain thymol, eucalyptol, methyl salicylate, and menthol fall into this category. These have the best bacteria-fighting components. For those patients who have gum diseases these rinses can be an excellent adjunct to home care.
A prescription mouth rinse which is commonly used during or following periodontal(gum) treatments is Chlorhexidine Gluconate, under the brand name Peridex or Periogard. This rinse must be prescribed by your dentist and used only for a limited time, but is very helpful in reducing bleeding, redness and puffiness of the gums.
Many of these mouth rinses contain alcohol. A very useful non-alcohol containing mouth rinse is Biotene. This rinse is very good for patients suffering from dry-mouth, which is quite common as many prescription drugs that patients must take for the treatment of other illnesses cause dry mouth.
The right mouth rinse can be a very good addition to your regular oral hygiene routine, particularly at nighttime to protect your teeth and gums while you sleep. Ask us which mouth rinse is right for you!