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Mouthwash Mysteries Revealed

Our Denver-area dental patients frequently ask me about mouthwashes. “Should I be using a mouthwash?” “Is the mouthwash I’m using a good one?” “Which mouthwash is best?”

Great questions. Here’s my take.

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Five ways you benefit from mouthwash.

Regular brushing and flossing are essential if you want to keep your mouth in tip-top condition between checkups. No mouthwash takes the place of these basics. However, many patients add a third step by rinsing with mouthwash. The extra 30-seconds to rinse has been shown to be beneficial for…

• Freshening your breath
• Helping reduce cavities
• Reducing dental plaque
• Prevention of gingivitis
• Lessening of bacteria

Not all mouthwashes are created equal. Here are some things you’d want to know.

Breath Freshening

Over-the-counter mouthwashes are generally designed to cover up bad breath. Chronic bad breath is often a sign of some form of gum disease. Mouthwash merely masks the symptoms and rarely addresses the underlying issue.

Cavity Prevention

Some mouthwashes include fluoride compounds designed to help reduce tooth decay. These days, many communities fluoridate the drinking water, making this additional ingredient unnecessary. However, if you live in a rural area, a mouthwash with fluoride may be an excellent choice. Fluoride can be toxic so be careful that you don’t accidentally swallow your fluoride rinse.

Plaque Reduction

Research going back to the 1980s has shown that in varying degrees, using a mouthwash can help reduce the formation of plaque. Mouthwashes containing alcohol seem to have slightly greater plaque reducing qualities. However, for some people, high levels of alcohol can be an irritant to both cheeks and gums.

Gingivitis Prevention

Gingivitis, which is just a fancy name for gum tissue that is inflamed, is a response to plaque that adheres to tooth surfaces, often below the gum line. When combined with brushing and flossing, mouthwash can help make tooth surfaces less susceptible to plaque attachment.

Killing Bacteria

Antiseptic mouthwashes are specially formulated to prevent bacterial growth and help treat infections such as canker sores inside the mouth. Are you especially prone to cavities or gum disease? Then look for this type of mouthwash.

And Finally…

If you tend to suffer from a dry mouth, you’ll want to look for an alcohol-free mouth rinse. Alcohol tends to be a drying agent and can make matters worse. There are many alcohol-free mouthwashes available, so simply read the labels.

And let’s not forget the taste! If you like the taste of the mouth rinse you choose, you’re more likely to use it on a regular basis. Buy small bottles and do your own taste testing. And finally, as a member of the American Dental Association, I look for a mouthwash with the ADA approval logo on the bottle so I know it actually does what it claims.

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