Mouth rinses

Why would you use a mouth rinse?

Dental disease is caused by bacteria. Bacteria in your mouth that mix with the plaque and the food you that you eat that produce acid and weaken the enamel. The enamel is the hard outer surface layer of your tooth.

Cavities are caused by bacteria known as streptococcus mutans. Cavities happen when you have plaque and an acidic environment in your mouth.

Removing the plaque and bacteria and controlling the acid is key to reducing and href=””>preventing disease, gingivitis, and cavities also known as tooth decay.

You need to physically remove the plaque and bacteria on your teeth with your toothbrush. If you have been following me, you know I talk allot about toothbrushing. I feel you need to get brushing down before you add other products. You will eventually need to add something to get in between the teeth, whether it is floss, interdental brushes or a water pick. We will save the in-between discussion for another time.

Today we are going to talk mouth rinses. Mouth rinses are used for many different things occurring in your mouth for you and your loved ones. Mouth rinses can help reduce the bacteria in your mouth, prevent cavities, dry mouth and prevent or heal mouth sores.

You may need to test for what bacteria, you have in your mouth or the mouth of your family’s it could be crucial to picking the correct mouth rinse for you and your family. Again this is a discussion for another time.

Bacteria is familial, meaning it runs in the family mostly because we drink out of the same glasses, share utensils, and kiss each other. Although you won’t give someone the diseases in our mouth you can pass the bacteria back and forth.

Genetics and learned behavior play a role in the health of your mouth. Oral hygiene habits are important to not only the health of your mouth but your overall health as well. You need to take action, be consistent and know the health of your mouth. It takes less than 15 minutes a day to keep your mouth healthy.

Mouth rinses can reduce the bacteria and contain many different ingredients like Alum, Fluoride, chlorhexidine, green tea, oils, peppermint, tea tree, eucalyptus, Coconut oil the list goes on.

Therapeutic mouthwashes are available both over the counter and by prescription, depending on the formulation.

There are therapeutic mouthwashes that help reduce or control plaque, gingivitis, bad breath, tooth decay, and gum disease.

Active ingredients that may be used in therapeutic mouthwash include:

  • cetylpyridinium chloride;
  • chlorhexidine;
  • essential oils;
  • fluoride;
  • peroxide.

Cetylpyridinium chloride may be added to reduce bad breath.1 Both chlorhexidine and essential oils can be used to help control plaque and gingivitis.2, 3 Fluoride is a proven agent in helping to prevent decay.4 Peroxide is present in several whitening mouthwash’s. Therapeutic mouthwash is available both over the counter and by prescription, depending on the formulation.  For example, mouthwashes containing essential oils are available in stores, while those containing chlorhexidine are available only by prescription.

Children under the age of 6 should not use mouthwash unless directed by a dentist or supervised by a parent, because they may swallow large amounts inadvertently.

Listerine is one of the most common mouth rinses sold over the counter, there are over 20 different colors and flavors available.  There are so many, I am not sure I even know all of the options available on the market today…  tooth tonic, Colgate, Crest, Biotene, toms, the list goes on.

So how do you know what product is right for you?

It depends on your individual needs.

Are you preventing cavities, dry mouth, bad breath,  fighting gingivitis or worsen gum disease?

Do you know the health of your mouth? Are you experiencing bleeding?

Visiting a dentist can answer many of these questions. Knowing the health of your mouth is the first step to knowing which products can solve your particular problem.

Antibacterial mouth rinses are much more powerful and they can reduce bacteria that cause gingivitis and gum disease. Even at the most undetectable level. The most common prescription mouth rinse has chlorohexidine as the main active ingredient, it can cause staining of your teeth. Your dental professional may see the need for you to use this stronger mouth rinse and recommend one of these products, if staining is an issue, ask if they can recommend an alternative product.

Mouth rinsing can be great for oral health, but all mouth rinses are not equal. There are different rinses for different issues. If you have dry mouth you will want to stay away from rinses with alcohol, the alcohol can dry out your mouth even more. You will also want to stay away from a rinse that has a pH lower than 7.0. If the rinse is acidic meaning lower than 7.0, it can actually contribute to cavities instead of helping prevent them. The choice and order of the rinse you use will depend on your specific needs. I recommend testing not only the pH of your mouth but also the rinse, especially if you are using water. Some bottled waters are as acidic as drinking a soda pop. Make sure the rinse or water is neutral or more on the alkaline side of the scale especially if you are using it to prevent cavities.

How to use a mouth rinse

Follow the label for detailed instructions use as directed for dosages, frequency, time in mouth and warnings. If a dose is missed, use the rinse as soon as possible; doubling the dose will have no added therapeutic effect. Just chalk it up to life none is perfect.

For most mouth rinses:

  1. Start by measuring the recommended dosage amount into the cap or a cup. …
  2. Rinse vigorously for 30 seconds, making sure that the mouth rinse comes into contact with all areas of your teeth.
  3. Gargle for 30-60 seconds, in order to ensure that your mouthwash gets to the bacteria at the back of the tongue and mouth.
  4. Spit the mouth rinse out. Most do not want you to rinse or eat or drink for 30 minutes after. Just spit.

Using a mouthwash does not take the place of optimal brushing and flossing.

If the problem persists see your health care provider for further recommendations.

Happy swishing!


  1. Blom T, Slot DE, Quirynen M, Van der Weijden GA. The effect of mouth rinses on oral malodor: a systematic review. Int J Dent Hyg 2012;10(3):209-22.
  2. Van der Weijden FA, Van der Sluijs E, Ciancio SG, Slot DE. Can Chemical Mouthwash Agents Achieve Plaque/Gingivitis Control? Dent Clin North Am 2015;59(4):799-829.
  3. Araujo MW, Charles CA, Weinstein RB, et al. Meta-analysis of the effect of an essential oil-containing mouth rinse on gingivitis and plaque. J Am Dent Assoc 2015;146(8):610-22.
  4. Fejerskov O, Thylstrup A, Larsen MJ. Rational use of fluorides in caries prevention. A concept based on possible cariostatic mechanisms. Acta Odontol Scand 1981;39(4):241-9.