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Mouthwash

Mouthwashes are used for a variety of reasons:

  • to freshen breath
  • help prevent or control tooth decay
  • reduce plaque (a thin film of bacteria that forms on teeth) 
  • prevent or reduce gingivitis (an early stage of gum disease) 
  • reduce the speed that tartar (hardened plaque) forms on the teeth or to produce a combination of these effects.

Most mouthwashes are available without a prescription. Your dentist can advise you whether you need a mouthwash and what kind of mouthwash to use depending on your oral health needs.

There are two types of mouthwashes:

  • Therapeutic mouthwashes. These can help reduce plaque, gingivitis, cavities, and bad breath. Those that contain fluoride help prevent or reduce tooth decay.
  • Cosmetic mouthwashes. These may temporarily control or reduce bad breath and leave the mouth with a pleasant taste, but don’t deal with the causes of bad breath, kill the bacteria that cause bad breath; or help reduce plaque, gingivitis or cavities.

If you have difficulty brushing and flossing, a mouthwash may provide additional protection against cavities and gum disease. When selecting a mouthwash look for products that carry the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance, which have been tested for their safety and effectiveness.