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To Rinse or Not to Rinse: The Truth about Mouthwash

Dentist Mt Olive

We all know the fight against tooth decay and gum disease means brushing and flossing, but what about rinsing? There are entire shelves in the pharmacy dedicated to a wide array of brightly colored mouthwash. Clearly, it’s another tool we need in our arsenal, right?

The short answer is: it depends. According to the American Dental Association, mouthwash may be a useful addition for some people, but not everyone. It won’t necessarily affect your dental health if you’re already following healthy practices. So what makes sense for you?

Choosing a Mouthwash

First, understand that there are two kinds of mouthwash: cosmetic and therapeutic. Each serves a different purpose.


Cosmetic mouthwashes can temporarily freshen breath, but doesn’t contain ingredients that combat bacteria. That means they don’t actually cure bad breath— they just mask it. They also do nothing toward preventing tooth decay or gum disease.

Cosmetic rinses can be helpful in washing away loosened plaque or food trapped between teeth that brushing alone doesn’t reach. Though rinsing with water can have the same effect.


Therapeutic mouthwash contains ingredients that control or reduce issues like bad breath, tooth decay, gingivitis, or plaque. Look for active ingredients like:

  • Cetylpyridinium chloride (fights bad breath)
  • Chlorhexidine (fights plaque and gingivitis)
  • Essential oils (fights plaque and gingivitis)
  • Fluoride (fights tooth decay)
  • Peroxide (whitens teeth)

Many therapeutic rinses are available over the counter, but some, like those containing chlorhexidine, are only available by prescription. Proper daily brushing and flossing will take care of most of these issues for you if you don’t have a more serious problem.

How Do I Know What I Need?

If you simply enjoy the clean fresh feeling of a post rinse mouth, or want a boost of confidence in your breath before an important meeting, a good cosmetic rinse will serve you well. If you think you might need something more therapeutic, check in with a professional. Your dentist can let you know if you need a rinse to combat specific problems, and can recommend or prescribe one that’s right for you.

How About for Kids?

Mouthwash is definitely not for children under the age of six, as accidental ingestion can be harmful. However, your dentist may recommend a therapeutic rinse for children over six to help with cavity prevention, or in rare cases they may recommend something for younger kids. Either way, always read labels and follow directions carefully.

Final Takeaway

In any case, be aware that while mouthwash may benefit proper dental hygiene, it should in no way replace it. Brushing twice a day, flossing, and regular dentist visits are still the only way to keep your smile healthy.

And finally, when buying over the counter, always look for a mouthwash that has the ADA Seal of Approval. The seal means the product has been tested and proven to be safe and effective.

For good direction on whether to rinse or not to rinse, talk to your dentist and get an assessment. Set up an appointment by contacting Advanced Family Dental & Orthodontics in Mt. Olive today.

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Have any questions or comments for us? Need to schedule an appointment? Send us a message and we’ll get back to you shortly! If you have an emergency or need to reschedule an appointment, please call our office at: (217) 666-0009