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Benefits and Risks of Mouthwash

Mouth rinses, also known as mouthwash, provide a fresh, crisp feeling after use. Many help to prevent cavities and plaque buildup. But for some people, they may be masking the symptoms of an oral health disease or condition. With some conditions such as periodontal (gum) disease, bad breath, and a unpleasant taste in your mouth are indicators that something is wrong.

Mouth rinses are considered cosmetic, therapeutic, or a combination of the two. Your dental professional can tell you whether a mouth rinse is right for you.

Cosmetic Rinses

  • Are sold as over-the-counter products

  • Help remove oral debris before or after brushing

  • Temporarily suppress bad breath

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  • Diminish bacteria in the mouth

  • Refresh the mouth with a pleasant taste

Most dentists are skeptical about the value of over-the-counter plaque-fighting mouth rinse products. Studies have shown that they minimally reduce plaque.

Therapeutic Rinses

  • May be prescribed by your dentist

  • Help remove oral debris before or after brushing

  • Temporarily suppress bad breath

  • Diminish bacteria in the mouth

  • Refresh the mouth with a pleasant taste

  • Contain an added active ingredient that helps protect against some oral diseases

Some mouth rinses contain high levels of alcohol—ranging from 18 to 26 percent. This may produce a burning sensation in the cheeks, teeth, and gums. If you experience an adverse reaction to a mouth rinse, stop using it and talk to your dentist right away. Some non-alcohol mouth rinses are available as alternatives. Ask your dentist.

“ADA Seal of Acceptance Program: Mouthrinses.” American Dental Association. www.ada.org/1319.aspx Accessed 2013.

“What are Mouth Rinses?.” Know Your Teeth, Academy of General Dentistry. www.knowyourteeth.com/infobites/abc/article/?abc=M&iid=781&aid=3804 Accessed 2013.

“Gum Disease.” American Dental Association. http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/g/gum-disease.aspx Accessed 2013.

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