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Mouthwash Guide: The Best Mouthwash in the US and How to Use It

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Are you looking for the best mouthwash for gum disease, ulcers, bad breath or dry mouth? Do you want to avoid specific ingredients like fluoride or alcohol—perhaps try a homemade mouth rinse? Or do you just want to know how and when to use mouthwash if you want the best effects?

how to use mouthwash
Are you making any mistakes?

Whatever your questions, we have the answers in this comprehensive guide to mouthwash. You can read about:

  • The best mouthwash brands in the US
  • The best kinds for specific needs
  • Ingredients to look out for or avoid
  • Recipes for natural homemade mouth rinses
  • How to use mouthwash correctly (and whether you really need to use it at all)

We hope this information helps you make the right choices for your oral hygiene needs. If you just want a quick answer about the best mouthwash for a certain purpose, the table below has our recommendations. You can read about all these and more in the rest of the article.

Mouthwash Best for
 style= TheraBreath Healthy Gums Best For: Treating gum disease Active ingredient: Cetylpyridinum chloride
Listerine Total Care Zero Best For: All-around mouthwash for bad breath Active ingredient: Sodium fluoride
Colgate Total Alcohol-Free Best For: All-around mouthwash for bad breath Active ingredient: Cetylpyridinum chloride
TheraBreath Fresh Breath Best For: Stronger bad breath protection Active ingredient: Chlorine dioxide
Sensodyne Pronamel Best For: Sensitive teeth, enamel protection Active ingredient: Sodium fluoride
Biotène Dry Mouth Oral Rinse Best For: Dry mouth Active ingredient: Cetylpyridinum chloride
Tom's of Maine Wicked Fresh Best For: Fluoride-free Ingredients: Sodium monofluorophosphate

Does mouthwash work and is it necessary?

We may as well address these questions first so you know whether it’s worth using oral rinses at all. You might be wondering “Is mouthwash good?” or “Is mouthwash bad for you?” but it’s not really that simple. There are many different kinds of mouth rinse which contain different ingredients to target different oral health needs. 

Benefits of mouthwash

best mouthwash for bad breath
We all know that mouthwash freshens breath

It’s well established that oral rinses are good for freshening breath, and if you choose a fluoride mouthwash then it can help strengthen your teeth, too. You might be advised to use an antimicrobial mouthwash for gum disease, or a special rinse for dry mouth.

So, a mouth rinse can be a helpful addition to your oral hygiene routine if you have one of these specific needs.

Can mouthwash be bad for you?

There are a few drawbacks to using oral rinses that you should be aware of before deciding whether to use it regularly:

  • It can make you think your teeth are clean when they are not. It is not a substitute for brushing twice a day and cleaning between teeth daily since it doesn’t do an effective job of removing plaque.
  • It can wash away fluoride and other beneficial ingredients in your toothpaste. Wait at least 30 minutes after brushing before rinsing your mouth, otherwise, the fluoride in your toothpaste won’t be as effective.
  • Regular use for bad breath may be masking a more serious problem. Halitosis (chronic bad breath) can be caused by rotting teeth, gum disease, and other medical conditions. Visit your dentist rather than trying to cover up the issue.
  • Antibacterial mouthwash can disrupt the good as well as the bad bacteria in your mouth. Certain bacteria are an important part of your immune system, and you may experience side effects from wiping them out on a daily basis.
  • Some people experience a reaction to certain ingredients. If it feels like your oral rinse is burning your tongue or making it sting, stop using it and try a different formula.

Is alcohol-free mouthwash better?

Many types of antiseptic mouthwash contain ethanol, a type of alcohol, which helps fight the plaque bacteria that cause tooth decay and bad breath. Ethanol also helps other ingredients blend together and acts as a preservative.

mouthwash for braces
Children and teens should use a non-alcoholic mouthwash

The alcohol content can be quite high, ranging from around 14% to 26% in different brands. Swishing a capful around your mouth won’t get you tipsy, but there are a number of reasons why you might want to avoid a mouthwash that contains alcohol:

  • Children will be using it
  • There are older children or recovering alcoholics in the household who might be tempted to deliberately ingest it
  • You don’t like the strong taste
  • It causes a burning sensation or sensitivity in the mouth
  • You find it makes your mouth dry
  • You’re worried about the possible links with oral cancer

Fortunately, there are plenty of good alcohol-free mouthwashes available as well. Many use CPC (cetylpyridinium chloride) as an alternative ingredient to fight plaque.

So, with all of this in mind, let’s look at some of the best mouthwashes available in the US for a range of oral health needs.

Best for…

There are a lot of oral rinse brands in the US to choose from. Big names like Listerine, Colgate and Crest dominate the market, but you’ll come across all kinds of other specialist brands, too. Further down we’ll give some more information on the different brands and what they are best for, but here you can find our recommended mouthwashes to tackle specific problems or requirements.

Best mouthwash for bad breath

Probably the most common reason for using mouthwash is to target bad breath. Pretty much all mouth rinses counteract bad breath in one way or another, whether by covering it up with a minty smell or by fighting the bacteria in the mouth that cause bad breath in the first place.

Before we talk about the best mouthwash for bad breath in the US, a word of warning. The best way to get rid of bad breath is by brushing your teeth properly twice a day and cleaning between teeth daily with floss or an interdental brush. This is the most effective way to remove the plaque bacteria which cause bad breath and tooth decay. Using a tongue scraper can also make a big difference to your breath.

man brushing teeth
Brushing properly is the best way to fight bad breath

If you are already doing this and you still feel like you need to use a bad breath mouthwash regularly, you should probably visit your dentist to check what’s causing your breath to smell. You might have gum disease, cavities, or some other medical problem that won’t go away just by using an oral rinse.

Read our full guide on the causes of bad breath and how to stop it if you want to know more.

That said, there are times when you need a mouthwash for bad breath caused by the coffee you just drank, or the tuna sandwich you had for lunch. Or perhaps you have an important meeting and want the confidence of knowing your breath is extra fresh. 

What to look for in a bad breath mouthwash

An antibacterial mouthwash can help combat bad breath by killing the plaque bacteria which cause bad smells in the mouth. Also look for a mouthwash without alcohol, since this can dry the mouth out and make it smell worse in the long run.

Listerine Total Care Zero and Colgate Total Mouthwash are two of the big-name brands which meet these criteria, so if you’re looking for an affordable bad breath mouthwash then these are a good place to start.

mouthwash for bad breath
This oral rinse will freshen your breath

TheraBreath makes a range of mouthwashes for bad breath which come highly rated by people who haven’t had great results with some mainstream brands, but their main one is TheraBreath Fresh Breath.

One satisfied customer says:

“Seriously, this stuff is a miracle! After 1 use, my husband’s breath was fresh, no after-odor.”

Not only effective on bad breath, this product is also vegan, gluten-free, and free from artificial flavors and colors.

The downside is the price—it’s more expensive than standard brands. Some people report only needing to use it once a day to keep their breath in check though, and if you haven’t had any luck with cheaper mouth rinses for bad breath then this could be worth a try.

fluoride mouthwash for bad breath
This bad breath mouthwash contains fluoride

If you’re looking for a specialized bad breath mouthwash that contains fluoride, try Mountain Falls Anticavity Fluoride Rinse. It has .05% fluoride to strengthen teeth and is formulated to freshen breath.

One user comments:

“This product checks all the checkboxes for me. There is fluoride (anticavity), cetylpyridinium chloride (antiseptic), a pleasant taste, no alcohol, and all at a good value.”

Best mouthwash for gum disease in the US

Has your dentist recommended you use a gingivitis mouthwash or an antibiotic mouthwash for better gum health? Or perhaps you’ve spotted the signs of early gum disease—swollen, red, sore, receding or bleeding gums—and want an intensive gum disease mouthwash to help reverse the problem.

The best mouthwash for gum disease will be a therapeutic mouthwash, one that contains active ingredients that will kill the plaque bacteria which are responsible for gum inflammation. In addition, it will help to protect teeth and gums from plaque buildup for up to 12 hours.

TheraBreath 24 Hour Healthy Gums

best mouthwash for gingivitis
Help fight periodontitis with this mouth rinse

TheraBreath Healthy Gums mouthwash is an effective solution for gum disease, or gingivitis, and may be one of the best mouthwashes for periodontal disease. It is formulated by certified periodontists to fight the bacteria that cause gum disease, and to sooth the symptoms that accompany it. Its active ingredient is cetylpyridinium chloride (CPC), which is approved by the FDA and has been clinically proven to actually kill the germs linked to gum disease and other periodontal issues. This oral rinse can be used for gingivitis to stop it from progressing to periodontitis, a later stage of gum disease. 

In a study highlighted by the ADA, the active ingredient in this oral rinse, CPC, and in other mouthwashes meant to treat gum disease, was found to result in 15.4% less gingival inflammation than those patients who were given just a placebo in a 6-month study. 

dental consulation
Speak to your dentist if gum disease persists

CPC is being used by many brands in the US as a much safer alternative to chlorhexidine gluconate (CHG), which until recently was considered the best way to reduce plaque and gingival inflammation. However, side effects such as staining and increased tartar formation have halted its widespread use in the US. 

Also note that gingivitis mouthwash is not a substitute for good oral hygiene. Gum disease will soon return if you don’t maintain good teeth-cleaning habits. If you regularly get gingivitis symptoms, consult your dentist. You might need to have a deep dental cleaning and receive some advice on how to take better care of your teeth and gums. Watch the short video below for some more information about gum disease.

Best mouthwash for canker sores

If you are prone to canker sores, then you are definitely looking for something that will help your mouth feel better, and fast. Colgate Peroxyl Mouth Sore Rinse cleanses and helps heal minor oral wounds including canker sores, irritation and burns. It can also help soothe gum inflammation due to dental procedures and wounds caused by braces or retainers. This debriding agent uses oxygenating action to remove oral debris, while 1.5% hydrogen peroxide leaves wounds clean. 

Some people have success using it for tonsil stones as well, which in turn leads to much fresher breath. 

One happy customer says:

“My canker sores were healing within a day of using it, and they were gone in just about 3. This is my new go-to for flare-ups.”

Best mouthwash for dry mouth

Dry mouth mouth rinse
Treat dry mouth with this Biotène rinse

Dry mouth occurs when you don’t produce enough saliva. This makes it easier for bacteria to build up, causing bad breath. Always use an alcohol-free mouthwash for dry mouth, since alcohol can dry the mouth out further.

Biotène Dry Mouth Oral Rinse has a special formula that immediately moisturizes the mouth for up to four hours. It can be used up to five times a day. Biotène mouthwash does cost more than most standard oral rinses, but most people find it makes a big difference to their symptoms.

One reviewer who suffers from chronic dry mouth says:

“Keeps my mouth well moisturised and lasts for a good few hours. The taste is pleasant which helps too.”

Biotène is also available as a spray, which is more convenient to use throughout the day.

For a more natural alternative, TheraBreath has a dry mouth variant with natural salivary stimulants.

Best mouthwash for sensitive teeth

mouth rinse for sensitive teeth
Fluoride helps rebuild enamel

If you’re looking for a mouthwash for sensitive teeth, choose one that’s alcohol-free and contains fluoride, which strengthens tooth enamel. Potassium nitrate, a desensitizing ingredient, is also included in many sensitive teeth mouthwashes.

Sensodyne Pronamel Mouthwash may be the best fluoride mouthwash for you, as it has one of the highest fluoride concentrations around, at 450ppm–that’s double all the other fluoride mouthwashes featured here. It’s designed to protect teeth from acids we consume every day in things like fruit, soda and wine.

The taste of this Sensodyne mouthwash is not overbearing and it’s a good supplement to their sensitive toothpaste range.

Best fluoride-free mouthwash

oral rinse without fluoride
Tom’s mouth rinse has no fluoride


Choosing a fluoride mouthwash means you get extra enamel protection—one of the main benefits of using a daily mouth rinse. However, for people who prefer to avoid fluoride, there are plenty of fluoride-free mouthwashes available in the US as well.

One popular fluoride-free mouthwash is Tom’s of Maine Wicked Fresh! It contains natural ingredients including soothing aloe vera. Its “wicked fresh” mint flavor will keep your breath smelling great as well.

Also worth considering are the range of oral rinses from Hello Oral Care, none of which contain fluoride or alcohol.

All the mouthwashes from these brands are vegan/vegetarian too.

Whitening mouthwash

Many brands include a teeth whitening mouthwash in their range, containing hydrogen peroxide or another whitening agent. Hydrogen peroxide is the same ingredient used in professional whitening treatments, but its concentration in whitening mouthwashes is so low its effects are minimal. You might notice a difference if you use a teeth whitening mouthwash every day for several months, but then again you might not.

For this reason, we don’t have a product to recommend as the ‘best whitening mouthwash’. If you want to noticeably whiten your teeth, try one of these more effective methods instead.

If it’s been a while since you had a cleaning with a hygienist, book yourself in for one. You might be surprised at how much brighter your teeth look after a proper cleaning.

Kids’ mouthwash

kids mouthwash
This kids’ mouthwash tastes like bubblegum

Can you use mouthwash for kids? Some brands, including Listerine and ACT mouthwash, make special kids’ mouthwashes with a child-friendly taste and fluoride to protect teeth against cavities. Although not an essential part of a child’s oral hygiene routine, your dentist might recommend using one for extra enamel protection.

Many ‘adult’ daily use oral rinses are also fine for children aged 6+, provided they don’t contain alcohol, but children shouldn’t use stronger, medicated rinses. 

It’s important that children don’t swallow mouthwash, so make sure they are supervised until you’re confident they will spit it out every time.

Mouthwash brands in the US

We’ve mentioned some of the best mouthwashes in the US for specific purposes. Now we’re going to look in more detail at noteworthy brands, their wider product ranges, and the things that set them apart.

Listerine

We’ll start with a very familiar name which has been producing oral rinses for well over a century: Listerine. Listerine mouthwash comes in a rainbow of colors, each variety offering a different benefit. Their basic range offers an affordable way to freshen breath and fight plaque, but it’s Listerine Total Care that we’d recommend as a multi-purpose fluoride mouthwash.

mouthwash without alcohol
alcohol-free oral rinse doesn’t burn

There are three main products in the Listerine Total Care mouthwash range, all offering fluoride protection and a number of other benefits. These are some of the best value mouthwashes on the market, in terms of the volume you get for your money, and are available in large bottles up to 1 liter in size to make them even more economical.

If you’re not a fan of the strong taste of traditional Listerine mouthwash flavors—which are a blend of four essential oils—then Listerine Total Care Zero could be worth a try. It’s alcohol-free and has a less intense flavor than their other varieties.

Listerine Total Care Listerine Total Care Zero Listerine Total Care Stain Remover
Color Purple Light purple Dark purple
Fluoride concentration 100 ppm 220 ppm 200 ppm
Other active ingredients Zinc chloride Potassium nitrate, no alcohol Hydrogen peroxide
Benefits All-around protection Strong protection, mild taste Hydrogen peroxide to remove stains
Cost

Listerine also produces Smart Rinse children’s mouthwash in berry and mint flavors.

Therabreath

bad breath mouth rinse
Mild mint flavor keeps breath fresh

We’ve already picked out Therabreath Healthy Gums mouthwash as one of the best for gum problems, thanks to its antimicrobial formulation containing cetylpyridinium chloride.

The TheraBreath line also includes mouthwashes for fresh breath, dry mouth, and general oral health. All of the formulas are free from artificial colors and flavors, alcohol-free and 100% vegan.

Crest

You can’t talk about oral health care in the US without mentioning Crest. This household brand offers a Crest whitening mouthwash, an alcohol-free mouthwash, a fluoride anticavity mouthwash, and the list goes on. But the most popular Crest mouthwash is Scope mouthwash. It covers all the basics by killing germs that cause bad breath and contains alcohol, but reviewers say the taste is pleasant.

Colgate

Antiseptic mouthwash
This antiseptic mouthwash can help soothe mouth sores

Colgate is a well-known toothcare brand in the US, with a range of mouthwash varieties on a par with Listerine oral rinses. Here are some with specific benefits:

  • Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief is specially formulated to seal teeth over time and protect against sensitivity.
  • Colgate Enamel Health contains fluoride to provide daily cavity protection. 
  • Colgate Peroxyl Mouthwash is a medicated product containing hydrogen peroxide. This antiseptic mouthwash is good for ulcers and mouth sores since it’s designed to relieve minor mouth and gum irritations and prevent infection, also making it a great canker sore mouthwash. Use for 7 days maximum.

ACT

ACT mouthwash is another common and highly rated mouthwash. And like other popular brands, you can find ACT mouthwash for kids, for teeth whitening, for dry mouth and for sensitive teeth.

Biotène

We mentioned Biotène mouthwash above as the best mouthwash for dry mouth, and that certainly is the brand’s specialty. Besides Biotène’s original dry mouth oral rinse, they also have a gentler mild mint formula

SmartMouth

SmartMouth mouthwash guarantees 24-hour bad breath prevention, with a minty taste and no aftertaste. It uses zinc ion technology that stops the production of germs that cause bad breath. This oral rinse is also safe for kids and diabetics. 

CloSYS

ADA mouthwash
ADA-accepted mouthwash for sensitive teeth

This ADA accepted mouthwash is for those who want all of the fresh breath and cleaning power but without the strong flavor. It reduces harmful bacteria that can irritate gums and cause bad breath, and is pH balanced, reducing acid levels that may harm enamel. It’s also alcohol-free and made for sensitive mouths, being naturally activated by saliva. 

You can also opt for CloSYS Ultra Sensitive mouthwash, which is unflavored, but comes with a flavor dropper in case you want just a touch of mint. And CloSYS Silver is developed specifically for adults 55 and older. 

Orajel

Orajel makes a mouthwash specifically for those who suffer from canker sores and other irritation and mouth wounds. Orajel also makes an analgesic and astringent mouthwash for toothaches, providing pain relief while cleaning your entire mouth. 

Sensodyne

Your favorite maker of toothpaste for sensitive teeth also makes a mouthwash for sensitive teeth. It is alcohol-free and contains fluoride to help strengthen enamel. 

Natural Mouthwashes

Now that we’ve gone over the major brands for oral rinses in the US, let’s talk about some more alternative options. Oral rinses with natural ingredients are becoming more popular as consumers are beginning to worry more about the possible negative effects that could be caused by key ingredients and chemicals used in popular oral rinses. So what’s the best natural mouthwash? Have a look at some of these popular natural mouthwashes by key ingredient.

Coconut oil mouthwash

Coconut oil mouthwash
Coconut oil freshens breath

We mentioned the Hello Oral Care line before as one of the mouthwashes that doesn’t contain fluoride. Well, they also make a mouthwash that has activated charcoal, fresh mint and coconut oil. Coconut oil is sometimes used for “oil-pulling“—a natural teeth whitening remedy, but in this mouthwash, it’s used for fresh breath. Reviewers note that this mouthwash results in long-lasting fresh breath and tastes good too. 

“Tastes good and makes your mouth feel fresh and clean for hours. No chalky aftertaste.”

Tea tree oil mouthwash

Tea tree oil has natural germ-fighting properties and is used as a natural remedy in many personal care and hygiene products. It’s also the key ingredient in Tea Tree Therapy mouthwash. Reviewers say it has a gentle taste and keeps breath fresh all day, with one saying: 

“Tastes great and leaves your mouth feeling hydrated and refreshed!”

Aloe vera mouthwash

aloe vera mouthwash
This natural mouth rinse contains aloe vera

For those looking for an organic aloe vera mouthwash, try this Blisque Organic mouthwash. It is made with aloe vera for its soothing and antibacterial properties. It also includes licorice root, clove bud and baking soda to help prevent cavities and eucalyptus to kill bad breath germs. Reviewers really appreciate that it leaves breath fresh while not containing any harmful ingredients. 

“I was looking for a more natural alternative for my mouthwash and came upon this one. I decided to give it a try based upon the ingredients, and I’m really happy I did!”

Xylitol mouthwash

Xylitol as an ingredient in oral care products is becoming increasingly popular. That’s because it has no effect on blood sugar and insulin levels, and tastes very much like sugar but has 40% fewer calories. It is also anti-adhesive, and non-fermentable, so bacteria that could lead to tooth decay and gum disease can’t use it in their metabolic processes, nor are they able to adhere to the cell tissue. In fact, according to this study featured on the NCBI’s website, it has been found a promising solution in reducing cavities. 

If you’re interested in trying a natural xylitol mouthwash, try Spry Oral Rinse. One satisfied reviewer says: 

“Has a good taste, and doesn’t burn like other mouthwash. I suffer from canker sores, since using this mouthwash they have been reduced in how many I get.”

If you like the idea of natural mouthwashes, you might want to check out our guide to bamboo toothbrushes, where you’ll find recommendations for eco-friendly ways to keep your mouth clean.

Prescription mouthwash

Prescription mouthwashes normally contain chlorhexidine gluconate and are not sold over the counter. The following is a list of the most common prescription mouthwashes. 

  • Peridex mouthwash
  • PerioChip mouthwash
  • Periogard mouthwash
  • Paroex mouthwash

These chlorhexidine gluconate mouthwashes are not meant to treat all kinds of gum disease, and should only be used as prescribed by your dentist. 

Magic mouthwash

The “magic mouthwash” recipe is a special formula for people who are undergoing chemotherapy and radiation therapy for cancer. These cancer treatments can harm cells in the mouth, causing oral mucositis, with symptoms such as dry mouth, swollen gums and mouth sores. This mouthwash is prescribed by a doctor and then mixed by a pharmacist. According to the Mayo Clinic, it contains three or more of the following ingredients:

  • An antibiotic
  • An antihistamine or local anesthetic
  • An antifungal
  • A corticosteroid
  • An antacid

If you are undergoing cancer treatment, speak with your doctor about magic mouthwash. Don’t use it without a prescription as some magic mouthwash side effects can include loss of taste, a burning sensation and nausea. 

Natural homemade mouthwash

If you like to know exactly what you’re putting in your mouth, you may prefer to make your own natural mouthwash at home. Here are two simple homemade mouthwash recipes you can try. You might also be interested in our natural toothpaste recipes.

Baking soda mouthwash

baking soda mouth rinse
Mix baking soda with water for this DIY mouthwash

Baking soda is used in many natural toothcare products. Its alkalinity means it helps to neutralize plaque acids, which are responsible for bad breath and enamel erosion. 

To make a baking soda mouth rinse, simply mix half a teaspoon of baking soda into a glass of warm water until it dissolves, rinse for 30 seconds, and spit. This DIY mouthwash won’t freshen your breath with mint, but it should help get rid of any nasty odors.

Salt mouthwash

Salt has natural antibacterial properties and can soothe inflammation and prevent healing. A saltwater mouthwash is very easy to make and is suitable for a wide range of dental problems, including recovery from dental procedures where the mouth tissue is too sensitive for a medicated mouthwash.

To make a natural saltwater mouth rinse, just dissolve half a teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water. Sip and rinse, then spit. You can use this as often as you like, especially if you find it provides relief from pain or swelling.

Some people choose to add essential oils like peppermint or tea tree oil to homemade mouthwash for their antibacterial properties and taste. It’s not recommended to use essential oils in your mouth on a regular basis unless you are aware of how they can disrupt the oral microbiome.

Hydrogen peroxide mouthwash

Another option for DIY mouthwash is hydrogen peroxide.  Make sure you don’t use too strong of a solution, just 1% or 3% is fine. You can swish it around and gargle it then spit it out. Make sure not to swallow it. Hydrogen peroxide can be especially helpful in treating mouth sores and sore throat, as it kills bacteria. To be completely safe, ask your dentist before using hydrogen peroxide as a mouthwash. 

How to use mouthwash

So now that you know which is the best mouthwash for your needs, let’s make sure you understand how to use it correctly.

using mouthwash
Swish the oral rinse vigorously for best results
  1. Check the instructions on the label. With stronger, medicated brands you might need to dilute the solution before use. The packet will also tell you how much to use, and how for how long.
  2. Measure out the correct amount. You can pour it into a glass or the bottle cap (which might have a marker to show the right amount), but don’t tip it straight into your mouth without measuring it. 
  3. Swish vigorously. Keeping your mouth closed, swish the liquid around your mouth and between your teeth. You might choose to gargle, too. Keep going for the specified time, usually 30 or 60 seconds.
  4. Spit. Don’t swallow any mouth rinse, since the ingredients can be harmful if ingested in large enough quantities.
  5. If using a fluoride mouthwash, don’t eat or drink for 30 minutes after use. This lets the fluoride have maximum effect protecting your teeth against decay.

When to use mouthwash

Unsure whether to use mouthwash before or after brushing? Unless specifically directed by your dentist, the answer is neither. That is to say, you won’t get much benefit from using mouthwash before you brush, and if you use it right after brushing it will wash away the beneficial ingredients in your toothpaste (particularly fluoride). Even if you use a fluoride mouthwash, the concentration is much lower than most toothpastes—around 100–250 ppm compared to 1350–1500 ppm.

So, when should you use mouthwash? Wait at least half an hour after brushing if you want an extra burst of freshness, or instead use it at another time when you don’t brush, for example after lunch.

How often should you use mouthwash?

Again, check the label or follow your dentist’s instructions. Many mouth rinses are safe for daily use over a prolonged period of time. However, some stronger rinses are only intended for short-term use. Exceeding the recommended usage may cause teeth staining and other problems.

If you find yourself relying on oral rinse throughout the day to cover up bad breath (and it’s not from smoking, food or drink), it’s best to visit your dentist and find out if there is an underlying cause that needs to be treated.

FAQs

What happens if you swallow mouthwash?

If you have accidentally swallowed mouthwash while rinsing your mouth, don’t panic. Although it’s not meant to be swallowed, ingesting such a small amount is unlikely to cause any side effects.

don't swallow mouthwash
Supervise children to prevent swallowing

Some people can be sensitive to ingredients like fluoride and ethanol, so it’s good to watch out for side effects which might include drowsiness, dizziness, and shortness of breath. Seek medical advice if you have any concerns, and take the mouthwash bottle or a photo of the label so the medical staff know which ingredients you might be reacting to.

There is a greater risk of children swallowing mouthwash, which is why they should always be supervised while using it. Most bottles have a child-proof safety cap, and the strong taste should put them off drinking it if they do gain access. However, if you suspect your child has ingested more than a small mouthful of mouthwash or they are experiencing side effects, it’s best to seek medical advice.

Does mouthwash stain teeth?

Stronger formulations containing chlorhexidine are intensive treatments designed for short-term use. Used over a prolonged period (four weeks or more), there is the potential for temporary teeth staining and tongue discoloration. 

You can minimize the chances of staining by avoiding coffee, tea, red wine, and other foods that stain teeth easily while using chlorhexidine mouthwash. Daily brushing and flossing will also help, and any stains left after treatment ends can be removed with a professional teeth cleaning.

How much alcohol is in mouthwash?

The alcohol content of mouthwash brands in the US ranges from around 14% to 26%. Using it as instructed and spitting it out won’t have any adverse effects, but there is the potential for abuse. Plenty of alcohol-free mouthwashes are available for people who would rather have a ‘non-alcoholic’ option.

Why does mouthwash burn or sting my mouth?

If you’re left with a burning or stinging feeling in your mouth after using an oral rinse, you’re probably sensitive to one of the ingredients. The most likely culprits are alcohol, chlorhexidine (used in gum disease mouthwash, and available with prescription) and chlorine dioxide or other bleaching ingredients used in whitening mouthwash.

You’ll probably have to experiment with a few different brands and formulations to find one that causes less sensitivity. A natural mouthwash might be a good option, although there is no guarantee you won’t react to certain essential oils and other natural ingredients, too.

Should you use mouthwash before or after brushing?

Mouthwash is best when used at least 30 minutes after brushing, so it doesn’t wash away the healthy effects of your toothpaste. Alternatively, you can use mouthwash during the day when you haven’t brushed your teeth. But it should never be used as a replacement for brushing your teeth. 

Can you buy chlorhexidine mouthwash over the counter in the US?

No. In the United States, chlorhexidine mouthwash must be purchased at a pharmacy with a prescription. You can buy chlorhexidine itself (not as a mouthwash) but it isn’t meant to be used as a mouthwash, and you shouldn’t try to use it as a mouthwash because it can have dangerous effects. 

What is the best mouthwash to reverse gingivitis?

The best mouthwash to reverse gingivitis will be an antibacterial and antiseptic mouthwash that has the ability to kill bacteria that lead to gum disease. Try TheraBreath Healthy Gums mouthwash, which uses cetylpyridinium chloride as an active ingredient to kill such bacteria.

Alternatively, your dentist may prescribe you a chlorhexidine mouthwash, which should only be used as directed by your dentist. 

What is the best mouthwash for sensitive teeth?

The best mouthwash for sensitive teeth will be alcohol-free and contain fluoride to help strengthen enamel. Sensodyne is known for its products for sensitive teeth and makes a mouthwash that gets very positive reviews

Is mouthwash bad for you?

Mouthwash can be a helpful part of your daily oral hygiene routine.  But when used incorrectly, it can have negative effects. Make sure to never use mouthwash as a replacement for brushing and flossing. Also, only used prescribed mouthwash according to your dentist’s instructions, as many aren’t meant for continued use. You should also be aware that although oral rinses make breath smell good, it could be masking a bigger problem, like bad breath caused by tooth decay or infection.

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Sources
Cochrane Library: Chlorhexidine mouth rinse as an adjunctive treatment for gingival health. Consulted 15th November 2019. NPR: Mouthwash and Poor Dental Hygiene May Up the Risk of Oral Cancer. Consulted 15th November 2019. Journal of Dental Hygiene: Cetylpyridinium Chloride Mouth Rinse on Gingivitis and Plaque. Consulted 15th November 2019. NCBI: The effect of xylitol on dental caries and oral flora. Consulted November 15th 2019. NCBI: Alcoholics who drink mouthwash: the spectrum of nonbeverage alcohol use. Consulted November 15th 2019.
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