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.