a woman who uses mouthwash

Understanding Different Types of Mouthwash

While there are many brands of mouthwash available, mouthwash today usually fits into one of five types. Each type is designed to do a specific task, from simply hiding bad breath to providing total mouth care. To make the best choice for yourself and your family, you need to know what each type of mouthwash is and what it is designed to do.

Five Types of Mouthwash

The five general categories of mouthwash are:

  • Antiseptic
  • Cosmetic
  • Natural
  • Fluoride
  • Total Care

Characteristics of Mouthwashes

Antiseptic mouthwashes generally contain alcohol and another chemical that are designed to kill germs in the mouth, prevent plaque build-up to some degree, and disguise bad breath. The chemical component of antiseptic mouthwashes, chlorhexidine gluconate, stops bacterial growth and also is helpful for those who have a mouth infection. When used for an extended period of time, however, it can cause tooth discoloration.

Cosmetic mouthwashes offer the least oral protection of the five types. They are designed to disguise bad breath, also called halitosis. They do not prevent tooth decay.

Natural mouthwashes often contain herbs and other ingredients, such as xylitol, to promote clean, healthy teeth and good oral health. Usually natural mouthwashes do not contain alcohol, and they almost never contain fluoride.

A subcategory within natural mouthwashes is homemade mouthwash, which often has just one or two ingredients. Baking soda and warm water or baking soda, water, and hydrogen peroxide can clean teeth and also treat mouth infections or provide care after a tooth extraction. Even just a pinch of salt in warm water can provide relief when a tooth has been removed.

Fluoride mouthwashes contain sodium fluoride, which can strengthen teeth and inhibit tooth decay. However, you should take care not to ingest too much fluoride. The fluoride present in toothpaste and in tap water for those areas that have treated the water supply is more than enough to protect teeth.

Total care mouthwashes contain ingredients that are antibacterial, meaning they can help to prevent gum disease and also inhibit plaque build-up.

Making the Best Mouthwash Choice

The best mouthwash for you depends upon what you need it to do, and, in some cases, how you want the mouthwash to perform its task.

Antiseptic, cosmetic, and natural mouthwashes all perform some similar tasks, but natural mouthwashes are designed to be gentle and effective without any harsh ingredients. Therefore, natural mouthwashes might be the safest option for older children and teenagers.

Your dentist can recommend the best type of mouthwash for your particular oral needs. The right mouthwash can be an important element in a complete regimen of daily oral care that includes brushing and flossing. Good oral care is important because it promotes healthy gums, fresh breath, and clean, strong, whiter teeth.

Last Updated: September 03, 2014