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Mouth Rinse

Mouth rinse can be helpful when used along with daily brushing and flossing. Each person's situation is unique. So ask your dentist if they advise mouth rinse and what type you should use.

Benefits of mouth rinse

Mouth rinse can help:

  • Clean between teeth

  • Reduce plaque

  • Slow tartar forming on your teeth

  • Prevent gingivitis and tooth decay

  • Give you fresh breath

What are the different types of mouthwash?

The FDA classifies mouth rinses as either cosmetic or therapeutic, or a combination of both.

Cosmetic rinses


  • Sold as over-the-counter products

  • Help remove oral debris before or after brushing

  • Temporarily hide bad breath

  • Don't lower your risk for gum disease or cavities

Therapeutic rinses


  • May be sold as prescription or over- the- counter

  • Help remove oral debris before or after brushing

  • Use active ingredients to kill bacteria and reduce plaque, bad breath, cavities, and gingivitis. Active ingredients may include fluoride, peroxide, essential oils, chlorhexidine, and cetylpyridinium chloride. Be sure to read the labels on mouth rinse to know what active ingredient is in the product and what benefits it provides.

Important safety tips

  • Rinses of any kind should not be a substitute for regular dental exams and correct home care.

  • Some mouth rinses contain high levels of alcohol. This may cause a burning sensation in the cheeks, tongue, and gums. Or may cause intoxication if swallowed or used too much. For children, even small doses of these over-the-counter rinses could cause death.

  • Mouth rinse isn't advised for children ages 6 or younger. They may swallow the rinse by mistake. This could cause nausea, vomiting, or intoxication.

  • If you have a prescription mouth rinse, use it as directed by your healthcare provider.

When to call your healthcare provider

Some symptoms may mean that you have a dental problem that mouth rinse can't fix. Contact your dentist if you have:

  • Bad breath that doesn't go away

  • Sore or bleeding gums

  • Pain

  • Trouble chewing or swallowing

  • Loose or sensitive teeth

  • White or red patch in your mouth

  • A sore in the mouth that doesn't go away

Online Medical Reviewer: Jessica Gotwals RN BSN MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: Michael Kapner MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Rita Sather RN
Date Last Reviewed: 2/1/2023
© 2000-2024 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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