Should I use a Mouthwash?

Mouthwashes certainly have their place, but don’t be fooled they are not a substitute for brushing and flossing.

Visiting the super market will (in the same way as for toothpastes) have you completely overwhelmed by the choice;’ Anti- tartar!! Whitening!!! Keep plaque away for 24 hours!!! Smell like Roses’!!!

Marketing, marketing, marketing…. All these different messages the companies are pushing to try and make their mouthwash stand out from the rest.

Listerine gets heavily used by a lot of patients, proving that marketing really does work, as this is by far the most advertised mouthwash. I have got to hand it to Listerine- they do some pretty good TV advertisements- with those little soldiers in the Listerine placing shields on each of your teeth… Makes me laugh every single time. But their advertising works, otherwise they wouldn’t spend hundreds of thousands of dollars doing it.

It is the best known mouthwash bar none, but not necessarily the best. I remember professors in the periodontology department of my dental school saying that you may as well rinse your mouth with a lugg of Jack Daniels Whisky (minus the coke)- to which a happy murmur erupted from the dental students. This is not advised, I repeat not advised!

Listerine in particular bore the brunt of recent media concern regarding the ‘alcoholic content’ of mouthwashes as alcohol is known risk factor for oral cancer. Listerine and several other big brands have since brought out an alcohol free alternative which given the choice, is preferable to their other washes. A critical review that looked into all the studies that have been done on this topic, concluded there was no scientific data to back up this association.

Myth: Mouthwashes remove plaque.
Truth: Some can help suppress the amount of plaque that forms, but they don’t actually remove it.

What Mouthwash is the Best?

This is always a question I get asked and I normally reply “What exactly do you want to use it for?” because I think it depends:

  • If it is to freshen breathe; then pick one you like the taste and smell of.
  • If it is because you need to get some extra fluoride; you need a high fluoride mouthwash– your dentist is likely to recommend this to you- be it a daily fluoride rinse, or a weekly fluoride rinse.
  • If it is for gum disease, then chlorhexidine (savacol or corysdyl) has proved the most effective at reducing plaque build up, but with the taste and potential for staining, it is not often liked long term and most often kept to ‘once a month’ at most.

Is it possible to get one that does all three things? Yes it is possible. Often a high fluoride mouthwash will also make your breath minty fresh. When it comes to your gums- whether it be healing ulcers, following surgery, gingivitis or periodontal disease, in my opinion, the anti-plaque action and disinfection of chlorhexidine is hard to beat.

In the UK, Colgate Plax and Listerine mouthwashes have been accredited by the British Dental Association– an endorsement that should be taken into account when picking a product for you and your family.

What about Fluoride Mouthwashes?

Who should use them? What are the choices? These questions and more are answered in our section on Fluoride mouthwashes.