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What to Look for in a Mouthwash

Mouth rinse or mouthwash is a product used for oral hygiene. Antiseptic and antiplaque mouth rinse can kill the germs that cause plaque, gingivitis, and bad breath. Anticavity mouth rinses use fluoride or other ingredients to protect against tooth decay.

Given the wide range of ingredients on the market, picking the right mouthwash or mouth rinse-or even figuring out if you need one-can be perplexing. Always check the manufacturer's label for precautions and age recommendations and talk with your dentist about the use of fluoride mouth rinse.

Help with Bad Breath
Anticavity rinses with fluoride have been proven to fight up to 50 percent more of the bacteria that cause cavities. Studies show that most over-the-counter (OTC) antiplaque rinses and antiseptics do little more to combat plaque and gum disease than rinsing with water. But most mouthwashes do curb bad breath and freshen your mouth for up to three hours.

Your dentist may suggest a prescription-only mouthwash that includes extra ingredients to protect against dry mouth, periodontal (gum) disease or inflammation, cavities, or other problems. Some are fluoride rinses that fight plaque, cavities, or both. Don't rinse your mouth, eat, or smoke for 30 minutes after you use a mouthwash to avoid diluting the fluoride and rinsing it away.

Unwanted Side Effects
Watch out for unwanted side effects. Rinses with alcohol can cause a burning sensation in the cheeks, tongue, and gums. Some concentrated mouthwashes can lead to mouth ulcers, sodium retention, root sensitivity, stained teeth, soreness, numbness, and changes in taste sensation.
Using too much fluoride mouthwash or swallowing it can lead to fluoride toxicity. Fluoride mouthwash is not recommended for children ages 6 and younger because they may swallow it by accident.

If you experience irritation or other problems after using a mouthwash, discontinue use and talk with your dentist.

"Mouthrinses." American Dental Association. Accessed 2013.
"What Are Mouth Rinses?" Know Your Teeth, Academy of General Dentistry. Accessed 2013.

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