Mouth Rinse: How Can it Benefit Me?

Mouth rinse is a great way to freshen your breath and help you maintain a healthy smile. Mouth rinses do not replace regular toothbrushing but can be a helpful addition to your oral care. However, mouth rinses do target a wide variety of conditions. So let’s discover what mouth rinse can do for you and how to choose the right one.

Key takeaways:
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    There are two main types of mouthwash — cosmetic and therapeutic.
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    Therapeutic mouthwashes help prevent gingivitis, reduce bacteria, treat periodontal disease, and prevent tooth decay.
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    Mouth rinses are available over the counter or by prescription, depending on the condition being treated.
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    Mouth rinses can treat various common oral conditions depending on the ingredients.
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    Check with your dental care provider before allowing children under six to use a mouthwash.

Types of mouth rinse

Mouth rinse is often referred to as mouthwash or oral rinse. Mouth rinse is available over the counter at most retail stores or by prescription from your dentist. Rinses can help with gingivitis, tooth decay, and plaque control. They also support periodontal health and freshen breath. Mouth rinses fall into two categories: cosmetic or therapeutic.

Cosmetic mouth rinse

Cosmetic mouth rinses usually provide temporary benefits. They help freshen breath, reduce stains, and improve the overall appearance of teeth. However, these rinses do not help with bacteria control or oral diseases. Cosmetic rinses may contain one or more of the following ingredients: flavoring agents for taste, astringent agents to help deodorize your mouth, and whiteners to lighten your teeth.

Therapeutic mouth rinse

Therapeutic mouth rinses provide clinical benefits for oral conditions. These rinses can help prevent or treat things such as gingivitis, periodontitis, cavities, dry mouth, sensitivity, and aphthous ulcers. Therapeutic rinses may contain one or more of the following ingredients: antibacterial agents, fluoride, plaque-fighting agents, alcohol, essential oils, peroxides, and other chemical agents. Therapeutic rinses must also be FDA-approved.

Common ingredients in mouth rinses

Mouth rinses contain quite a few ingredients. The most common ones are discussed below.


It helps fight tooth decay by strengthening the enamel and reducing sensitivity. In some instances, fluoride can even re-mineralize small cavities called incipient lesions. Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral. There are many over-the-counter fluoride rinses available. However, your dentist may prescribe a higher concentration of fluoride mouth rinse in some circumstances.

Mouth rinse brands:

  • ACT Anticavity Kids;
  • ACT Total Care Anticavity;
  • Listerine Total Care Anticavity;
  • Crest Kid’s Anti Cavity;
  • CloSYS Silver Fluoride Mouthwash.


These inhibit or inactivate bacteria in the mouth. This helps manage things like gingivitis, periodontal disease, and even cavities. Because bacteria cause most diseases in the mouth, antimicrobials are one of the most important ingredients to consider.

Mouth rinse brands:

  • Colgate Peroxyl Antiseptic Mouthwash;
  • TheraBreath Healthy Gums;
  • Parodontax Active Gum Health Mouthwash;
  • Crest Pro-Health;
  • Listerine Zero-Alcohol Mouthwash;
  • Listerine Antiseptic Mouthwash.

Astringent salts

These are typically in cosmetic rinses; therefore, they only temporarily mask mouth odors.

Mouth rinse brands:

  • CloSYS Sensitive Mouthwash;
  • Biotene Dry Mouth Oral Rinse.

Odor neutralizers

These inactivate compounds are called volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs). VSCs are responsible for bad breath and a bad taste in the mouth. Odor neutralizers are effective because they do more than mask the smell.

Mouth rinse brands:

  • TheraBreath Fresh Breath Oral Rinse;
  • Colgate Total 12-hour Protection Alcohol-free Mouthwash;
  • Crest Scope Get Fresh.

Essential oils

Help to freshen your breath and kill harmful bacteria/fungi. Cinnamon, peppermint, eucalyptus, thyme, clove, and anise are the most common essential oils.

Mouth rinse brands:

  • Tom’s of Maine;
  • CloSYS Unflavored Alcohol-Free Oral Rinse;
  • Young Living Thieves Fresh Essence mouthwash;
  • Listerine Ultra-care, Listerine Total Care;
  • Listerine Cool Mint;
  • Colgate Max White Mouthwash.


Alcohol helps kill harmful bacteria and helps with the taste of rinses. However, many rinses can contain up to 25% alcohol by volume. Higher alcohol content can dry the oral tissues and cause a burning sensation while rinsing. There are many non-alcohol rinses available as well.

Mouth rinse brands:

  • Listerine Total Care Zero;
  • Colgate Total Pro-Shield Mouthwash;
  • Crest Pro-Health Advanced;
  • Crest Pro-Health Multi-Protection;
  • CloSYS Unflavored Alcohol-Free Oral Rinse.


This helps reduce the appearance of stains. Two types of peroxides are commonly used: hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide. Both provide whitening benefits and can help reduce harmful bacteria.

Mouth rinse brands:

  • Crest ProHealth Advanced Mouthwash;
  • Colgate Optic White;
  • Essential Oxygen Organic Rinse;
  • Listerine Healthy White Anticavity Fluoride Mouthwash;
  • ACT Whitening.


These help by reducing sensitivity in the teeth. Teeth contain microscopic pores called tubules. Desensitizers essentially coat and plug those pores so the tooth does not feel painful stimulants like hot and cold. Fluoride is one of the most beneficial ingredients to stop dentinal hypersensitivity. Prescription fluoride mouth rinses are available with a higher dose of fluoride than over-the-counter versions.

Mouth rinse brands:

  • Listerine Sensitivity Mouthwash;
  • ACT Total Care Sensitive Formula Mouthwash;
  • Tom’s of Maine Whole Care Mouthwash;
  • Sensodyne Pronamel Mouthwash.


These help with dry mouth (xerostomia). Many things, including medications, can cause dry mouth. A dry mouth is due to not enough saliva production. Saliva is a natural buffer and moisturizer. Over-the-counter and prescription mouth rinses are available.

Mouth rinse brands:

  • Biotene Dry Mouth Management Oral Rinse;
  • ACT Dry Mouth;
  • SmartMouth Activated Dry Mouth Mouthwash;
  • Oral7 Dry Mouth Mouthwash;
  • TheraBreath Dry Mouth;
  • Salivea Dry Mouth Mouthwash;
  • Biotene Moisturizing Oral Rinse.

The ADA seal

Many dental care products are awarded the ADA seal. This seal means the American Dental Association has tested for toxicity, effectiveness, quality, and safety. The process of obtaining an ADA seal is comprehensive. Each product must have scientific evidence to back up its claims and benefits. However, the ADA seal is not required on oral care products.

Therefore, products with or without the seal may be equally effective. Companies choose whether to have their products evaluated by the ADA. However, earning the ADA seal is beneficial because it ensures that the product has been tested and approved to be healthy, safe, and effective.

Prescription mouth rinse

Prescription-only mouth rinses contain stronger active agents than rinses available over the counter. Therefore, prescription mouth rinses are often more effective at treating common issues like dry mouth, cavities, oral infections, mouth sores, and some periodontal problems. Here are some of the most common prescription mouth rinses.

  • Fluoridex. This rinse contains 0.63% stannous fluoride. It helps to repair demineralized enamel, inhibit bacterial activity, prevent cavities, and strengthen enamel. However, stannous fluoride may cause topical staining in some patients;
  • PreviDent. This rinse contains 0.2% neutral sodium fluoride. It helps to repair demineralized enamel, inhibit bacterial activity, prevent cavities, and strengthen enamel;
  • 3M Peridex Chlorhexidine. This rinse decreases certain oral bacteria. It is primarily prescribed to treat inflammation, bleeding, and gingivitis, and after specific oral procedures. However, this rinse typically causes staining, can alter the taste, and may increase calculus formation. Therefore, Chlorhexidine rinses should only be used for a limited time. Usually, it is prescribed for 2-4 weeks only;
  • Magic Mouthwash. This is most often used to treat mouth sores. Sores are common with certain bacterial infections, fungal infections, viral infections, and cancer treatments. It usually contains lidocaine, an antibiotic, an antihistamine, a corticosteroid, and an antifungal; therefore, a pharmacist typically compounds. Typically, the instructions for use usually require rinsing for two minutes every 4 hours;
  • NeutraSal. This rinse is designed to mimic your natural saliva. This rinse is commonly used for patients with little to no natural saliva production. Because saliva helps neutralize acids in the mouth, bacteria and fungi tend to overgrow without proper saliva flow. This increases the risk of cavities, gingivitis, periodontal issues, and fungal infections like thrush.

Special considerations

There are many options for mouth rinses available to treat a wide variety of issues. It’s hard to find one mouth rinse that can do everything. Consider these helpful tips when choosing the right rinse:

  • Focus on one or two main issues you want to treat;
  • Look for the ADA seal;
  • If you're looking to treat multiple issues, see if you can find one product to do so;
  • Determine if you want a cosmetic rinse or need a therapeutic product;
  • Consult your dental care provider if you have questions or need help choosing a rinse;
  • Mouth rinse is an effective addition to oral care, but it does not replace proper brushing and flossing;
  • Using mouthwash after brushing is most beneficial. That's because many mouthwash ingredients can be diluted or rinsed away once you brush your teeth and rinse out the toothpaste. Furthermore, several ingredients are most beneficial if left to continue working after spitting.

Children and mouth rinses

While mouth rinses can be beneficial for adults, different requirements apply to children.

Infants to six years old

Mouth rinse is typically not recommended for children under the age of six. That's because kids under six may not have the ability to rinse and spit well. Most rinses have instructions to keep out of the reach of small children because.

Accidentally swallowing larger amounts of mouthwash can cause sickness — which is why most rinses have instructions to keep out of the reach of small children. Specifically, fluoride rinses pose the biggest risk if too much is accidentally swallowed.

In case of accidental swallowing, have the child drink milk immediately and call poison control. Milk helps because it binds with the fluoride particles to prevent absorption.

Children six years and older

Many mouth rinses are available for older kids. However, these rinses generally don't contain alcohol to eliminate the "burn" and commonly only target cavities and gingivitis. As in adults, mouthwash does not replace proper brushing and flossing for kids.

Sometimes kids will try to mask their poor brushing habits with a mouth rinse. Be sure to stress the importance of good oral hygiene with your kids. Adding mouthwash to a child's oral maintenance routine provides additional protection against cavities and gingivitis.

Tips for using a mouth rinse

Each mouth rinse has its own specific set of instructions, so each carefully. However, here are some generally helpful tips:

  • Rinse for 30-60 seconds. Spitting too soon doesn't let the rinse do its job, but over a minute is more than adequate;
  • Use after brushing. While this is somewhat controversial, many ingredients can be washed away once you brush your teeth and rinse the toothpaste out of your mouth; many ingredients are most beneficial when left to continue working after spitting;
  • Avoid eating or drinking for 30 minutes. This allows the mouthwash to provide benefits after spitting it out;
  • Be consistent. While some rinses can provide immediate relief, many take time before to produce the desired effects;
  • Consult a dentist for children under the age of six. Many kids under six years old can't spit well.

Mouth rinses provide many benefits to help maintain good oral health. However, mouthwash does not replace brushing or flossing. When combined with proper oral care, mouthwash complements and helps support healthy teeth, removes harmful bacteria, improves gum health, and reduces sensitivity. Your dental team may have other recommendations as well. Mouthwash may be just the added benefit you need to keep your smile happy.


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