Ah yes, the ancient debate… Does mouthwash really work?

The battle to uncover the truth behind this deceptively simple question rages on, and we’re left with pros and cons for each side.

Much like anything else in life, there seems to be no definitive answer.

First things first, when we discuss mouthwash in this blog, we’re actually referring to cosmetic mouthwash, or “over-the-counter” brands, such as Listerine, Crest, etc. The other category of mouthwashes are therapeutic mouthwashes, and are typically only available through prescription from your dentist or other healthcare professional.

These days cosmetic mouthwashes are becoming more and more readily available in a wide variety of flavors and pronounced benefits; claims such as “tooth-strengthening” and “extra whitening power” are now being used to advertise for a rapidly expanding consumer market.

Our first suggestion when deciding which of the dozens of products is right for you is to check for the “ADA approved” seal, which will most often be on the front portion of the label in large, recognizable print.

From there, effectiveness varies depending on what your goal is.

Do you want a quick solution to freshen your breath? Yup, mouthwash will do that.

Do you want a product that will help you in your daily oral care? Yes, mouthwash in combination with brushing and flossing ensures a trifecta of oral preventative care.

Will mouthwash really strengthen your teeth? Maybe…probably not a whole lot.

Will mouthwash whiten your teeth? MAYBE…if combined with other daily care practices.

Is mouthwash a realistic and costly solution to halitosis? Nope. Sorry.

Can mouthwash adequately replace brushing or flossing? Absolutely not.

It’s also important to consider that some over-the-counter mouthwashes contain alcohol, which have been linked to oral cancer in some studies. This may or may not be due to the drying effect alcohol has on the mouth, thus leading to less production of saliva, which helps kill bacteria in the first place.

Ah, irony.

Fortunately, the majority of mouthwashes available in stores are alcohol-free and also contain fluoride, which can help strengthen enamel through moderate use.

All in all, when it comes to over-the-counter mouthwashes, its best to consider them an assisting tool to your daily brushing and flossing.

When used in combination with these two crucial practices, mouthwash has been shown to be effective in lowering plaque and tartar buildup, as well as significantly reducing gingivitis.

Remember that mouthwash alone should never replace either brushing or flossing!


If you have any questions about which mouthwash (whether cosmetic or therapeutic) may be most beneficial to you, our healthcare professionals will be more than happy to assist you!



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