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Should I Be Using Mouthwash Everyday?

With so many dental products available at stores, a common question that many of our patients ask us is:

     "Should I be using a mouthwash every day?"

     "There are so many different types.  Which one is right for me?"

It’s absoutely true that there seem to be dozens of different types of mouthwashes in all sorts of colors and flavors that all promise to have different benefits including freshening breath, preventing cavities, killing germs, whitening teeth, and more. But which one is right for you?

Not everybody needs a daily mouth rinse.  For many patients good toothbrushing (with a fluoride toothpaste) and daily flossing, along with regular dental checkups and a healthy diet, is all that is needed to maintain healthy teeth and gums. 

However, there are several situations where patients may benefit from specific types of mouthwashes.  For example, an alcohol-free fluoride rinse may be helpful for patients who have a higher risk of tooth decay.  This includes patients with a history of dry mouth, patients who have had a high rate of cavities in the past, and patients who have difficulty cleaning their teeth because of poor dexterity or have appliances such as braces that make it difficult to brush and floss well.  Some examples of alcohol-free fluoride rinses are: Listerine Total Care Zero, Crest Pro-Health Complete, and Act Anticavity/Restoring.

Other patients who suffer from gingivitis and periodontal disease can sometimes benefit from mouthwashes that are designed to kill bacteria in the mouth that can lead to bleeding and inflammation of the gums.  However, it is important to realize that some of these types of mouthwashes (which are also made by Listerine and Crest) contain alcohol, which can have some side effects such as drying or irritation of the tissues in the mouth.  For these patients it is a good idea to have a conversation with your dentist or dental hygienist to come up with the best routine based on your specific needs.

A basic alcohol-free mouthrinse such as Listerine Zero can be used to freshen breath, but often halitosis can be cause by other issues such as diet, GI health, poor brushing and flossing technique, and gum disease. 

In the end, the most important steps to maintaining a healthy mouth are a healthy diet, consistent and effective brushing (with a FLUORIDE toothpaste) and flossing, along with regular dental checkups and cleaning.  Make sure to ask at your next checkup if you would benefit from the use of any over-the-counter mouthwashes and we’ll let you know if it’s something that could help in your daily routine!

Dr. Yoon is a dentist in North Andover, MA who provides comprehensive general dental care for children and adults.

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