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Mouthwash: Good, Better, Best, Store Brand?

A walk down the oral care aisle of the supermarket or drugstore yields a rainbow of brightly colored bottles of mouthwash….all making fantastic claims.  Minty fresh breath, whiter teeth, anti-bacterial, plaque buster, tooth and gums strengthener, their labels call out to shoppers! TV commercials promise that these dental rinses will bring beauty and dating success with a quick gargle.

So what truth can a consumer sink his or her teeth into?  What can mouthwash really do and which is best? There are two kinds of mouthwash: purely cosmetic or therapeutic.  

Cosmetic mouthwash gives a lovely tingle and a burst, however short term, of minty breath, but doesn’t control bacteria.  Therapeutic products, which can be purchased from the aisle or with a prescription from your dentist, covers myriad other conditions.  According the the American Dental Association (ADA), therapeutic dental rinses (mouth wash) can:

Reduce and control:

  • plaque
  • gingivitis
  • bad breath
  • tooth decay
  • dry mouth (products especially formulated for this)
  • bacteria

While using a mouthwash does not replace brushing and flossing, it does have its place in a solid oral health regime.  The ADA suggests using a brand that has earned their ADA Seal of Acceptance. This will be marked on the bottle. It means that the product “has been tested by an independent body of experts” who check the claims of the manufacturer against solid scientific testing to be sure that it actually does what it says it will do.  Drs. Parver and Axelrod recommend a mouthwash made without alcohol as it is less damaging to sensitive tissues in the mouth and throat. Dr. Parver has extensive experience with pediatric dental care. She suggests that children under age six, with their tendency to swallow this product, rather than “swish and spit,” should not use a mouthwash at all.

Close-up Of Young Man Pouring Bottle Of Mouthwash Into Cap