We’ve all wondered about this from time to time. Is mouthwash as important as brushing and flossing, or is it just something extra?
How We Got Mouthwash Products
It all started when a Dutch scientist named Antoni van Leeuwenhoek discovered bacteria and that bacteria existed in the mouth. Eventually, a German company created the first commercially available mouthwash in the 1800s. Now you can buy all types of mouthwashes at the drug store. But just because the mouthwash products exist, does this mean they are helpful?
Bad Breath Coverups or Effective Germ Killers?
Over the years there has been disagreement, even in the dental profession, about whether mouthwashes are actually effective. Some of that is because there are so many mouthwash products available using so many different ingredients that it makes it pretty hard to say that either all mouthwashes work or all of them don’t work. In 2010, the FDA sent letters to major mouth rinse manufacturers because of anti-gingivitis claims in their ads and on their products. Some people may have heard this news and believed that the FDA was saying the products didn’t work. Instead, the FDA stated that the products contained a chemical known to prevent tooth decay, but there wasn’t research available to show that they also could battle gingivitis.
Since then, some research has been done and it is now pretty clear that mouth rinses can be a beneficial part to your oral health routine. A 2013 study confirmed what mouthwash manufacturers had been claiming for years. Using a germ-killing mouthwash twice each day can reduce the likelihood of plaque and gingivitis. In fact, the results were pretty impressive, reducing plaque by 25% and gingivitis by 20%, compared to brushing and flossing. The study results were published in General Dentistry, the peer-reviewed clinical journal of the Academy of General Dentistry.
Selecting the Right Mouth Rinse
Clearly, mouthwashes can be helpful in killing harmful bacteria and they can also be helpful for providing fluoride. The trick when shopping is that you have to make sure you are getting the right type of rinse. Mouthwashes can fall into three or four categories. There are fluoride mouthwashes, which can help reduce cavities just like drinking fluoridated water or having fluoride treatments at the dentist. There are anti-microbial washes, which kill germs and are the type mentioned above. Then there are mouthwashes that say they help with dry mouth and those that are supposed to freshen your breath.
For good oral health, both fluoride and anti-microbial washes can be helpful. Fluoride rinses are especially useful with children, especially since many kids are drinking less fluoridated tap water than in years past. Fluoride mouth rinses don’t take long, so they can easily be added to the bedtime routine after brushing and flossing. The American Dental Association recommends waiting until a child is at least six years old before starting a fluoride mouth rinse, to prevent accidental swallowing. The ADA also approves this type of mouthwash, so you can check the bottle for the seal or visit the website for a complete list.
Germ Killing Mouthwashes
Germ-killing mouthwashes can be beneficial to both children and adults, but they should never be used as a substitute for brushing and flossing. Again, the ADA has an approval process for this type of mouthwash as well. It is a pretty long list, but you can also always look for the seal on the bottle.
In general, mouthwashes can be a positive addition to your oral health routine. If you are interested in learning whether a specific type of mouthwash might be most beneficial, ask Dr. Schraw at your next dental appointment or contact our office.