Mouthwash – how do you choose?

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How do you choose which mouthwash to go for? The supermarket aisles are packed with the stuff… all the pretty colours!

Should they contain fluoride? Are they safe for children? Some contain alcohol… does that matter? And more importantly, do these products even work?

Mouthwashes generally aim to do three things:

Make teeth healthier

Mouthwashes that contain fluoride aim to strengthen the outer enamel of teeth so that they are more resistant to dental decay… you can read more about how exactly that happens here.

For most people, this type of mouthwash is not needed. Fluoride is great for teeth… but most of us get the right amount to our tooth surface by brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste.

Dental professionals usually recommend fluoride mouthwash only to patients who are at a higher than usual risk of tooth decay. These include patients who are wearing orthodontic braces, those you have difficulty in maintaining oral hygiene or those who have a high level of tooth decay and/or many large fillings.

Young children should always be supervised in the use of fluoride mouthwashes to ensure that it is not swallowed. For this reason, it is not usually a good idea for youngsters to be using fluoride mouthwash on a long term basis.

The key here is to ask advice from your dental team about whether you or a family member would benefit from a fluoride mouthwash.

Kill oral bacteria

Your mouth is teaming with life! You can learn a bit more about how this was discovered many years ago here.

The “oral flora” is a feature of a healthy mouth and includes many species of both bacteria and fungi. But there are times when these usually harmless bugs can become a problem.

For example if you have a mouth ulcer. To allow your body’s natural defences to heal the ulcer, it helps to keep the area as clean as possible. Another example is if you have had surgery to your mouth e.g. a wisdom tooth extracted.

Chlorhexidine mouthwash (“Corsodyl”) is especially good for this purpose, usually used twice a day. It is available over the counter at pharmacists and also comes in a gel form.

But it is not recommended for routine every day use as it can cause staining of your teeth.

Other types of bacteria may be lurking around your mouth if you have gum disease. These may be deep under the gum line and can contribute towards bad breath.

Antiseptic mouthwashes such as Chlorhexidine and Listerine™ may be useful for controlling these unwanted bacteria.

However gum disease needs to be actively managed by your dental team… mouthwash alone is not going to “cure” gum disease.

Make mouths feel fresher

Many of us like to use minty mouthwashes several times a day e.g. after meals or after a drink of coffee.

Sluicing around with a suitable oral rinse not only makes your mouth feel fresher, it also helps to dislodge any bits of food from the nooks and crannies which if left, may contribute towards bad breath.

This is where the alcohol content of some mouthwashes has been called into question. Alcohol is a risk factor in oral cancer so the question is, “Can regular use of an alcohol-containing mouthwash cause cancer?”

There is a link between poor dental health and oral cancer, but research suggests that the link with alcohol-containing mouthwash is unclear.

That said, if you are using a “freshening” mouthwash several times daily, it is probably a good idea to choose an alcohol-free variety, especially so for children and people of some faiths.

But it is worth repeating: fresh breath will be short-lived if there are underlying dental problems contributing to the problem, so attending your dentist for your regular check-ups (and following the advice given!) is the best way forward.

To conclude:

  • Ask your dental team for advice on whether a particular mouthwash is appropriate for you. Keep your routine check-ups and follow the advice that your team is giving you
  • If you are wearing fixed orthodontic braces, use a daily fluoride mouthwash
  • Chlorhexidine (Corsodyl) mouthwash is useful in the short term for ulcers or after oral surgical procedures
  • Avoid alcohol-containing mouthwashes if you use an oral rinse several times a day
  • Antiseptic mouthwashes will not “cure” halitosis due to gum disease… professional treatment will also be required
  • Always follow the instructions on any mouthwash used

About Cleveland Orthodontics

Our specialist-led practice has been established since 1996 and provides brace treatment to people of all ages from across the North East, including Middlesbrough, Yarm, Stockton-on-Tees, Billingham and Redcar.

We offer NHS orthodontic treatment for children and a range of modern white and “invisible” braces for adults of all ages such as Invisalign. FREE consultations are available… you can either telephone for an appointment on 01642 243 020 or book through our website.