Choosing a mouthwash can be a lot like deciding on a new cereal - the choices seem endless and can be confusing enough to forgo choosing anything at all. So how does one decide? And, really, aren't all mouthwashes essentially the same? Well, the fascinating thing about mouthwash is - they're actually not all the same, and deciding on one that will work well for you isn't merely a matter of choosing your favorite color. Let's cut through some of the confusion.
There are essentially two major categories of mouthwash (or, mouthrinse): cosmetic and therapeutic. A cosmetic mouthrinse is designed merely to act as a temporary breath freshener - that's it. It possesses no agents that aid in the prevention of plaque, nor does it protect against cavities or gingivitis. It's purely "cosmetic" as the name suggests. On the other hand, the therapeutic mouthrinse is the heavy lifter in the family and does help in each of these areas. Within the therapeutic category then, there are two types that work to solve a particular oral health concern. To choose the right one, think about the following two questions:
Are you prone to cavities?
If so, choose a mouthwash that states it helps prevent cavities, as it will likely contain Fluoride. Fluoride helps protect your teeth by strengthening the enamel and making it more difficult for acids that cause cavities to affect your teeth. Such a mouthwash might also be a good choice if you're inclined to get cavities AND you primarily drink bottled water (which, unlike tap water, doesn’t contain any added fluoride).
Do you have gum disease?
If gum disease is your concern, choose a mouthwash designed specifically to control tartar and gum disease. The two go hand-in-hand, as increased tartar buildup allows gum disease-causing bacteria to spread and inflame the gums.
Unfortunately, there’s not a mouthrinse out there that addresses both sets of needs equally. Good cavity-fighting mouthwashes and their added fluoride can actually contribute to a gum disease condition, since fluoride is another mineral that can nurture accumulation on tartar on your teeth (tartar is simply mineralized plaque).
As you’re choosing a mouthwash, be sure to look for one that bears the ADA's Seal of Approval. This certifies that the claims made by manufacturers are true. Lastly, it goes without saying that your dentist is in the best place to recommend a mouthrinse for you. Since your dentist deals with teeth each and every day, and knows which products will work best with your personal dental issues, be sure to ask for a recommendation at your next scheduled appointment. With any luck, the next time you're in the mouthwash aisle, you'll walk directly to the product that works for you without a single moment's hesitation, and can escape the store equally as fast.