What Is Mouthwash?

A mouthwash, also known as mouthrinse is commonly used as part of a complete daily oral hygiene routine. There are a growing number of mouthrinses available on the market today, and this leaves many people are wondering if they should be using a mouthrinse, and if so, which one?

Who Should Use Mouthwash?

The CDHA’s (Canadian Dental Hygienists Association) statement on mouthrinses states that Dental Hygienists are encouraged to recommend oral rinsing to their clients.

Brushing and flossing focus on cleaning tooth surfaces, but teeth only account for about 20% of the surfaces in the mouth. The remaining 80% are tissues such as the tongue and inside of the cheeks where harmful bacteria dwell. Since mouthrinses cover more surface area than just brushing and flossing, this means nearly everyone can benefit from the use of a mouthrinse.

Children also benefit from using a mouthrinse, but it is important to check the manufacturer’s age recommendations. Anyone who is not able to hold liquid in their mouth without swallowing it should not use a mouthrinse.


Are All Mouthwash The Same?

Mouthrinses can be therapeutic (provide oral benefits) or cosmetic (provide temporary fresh breath and taste).

When choosing a therapeutic mouthrinse, an important consideration is whether it has the seal of approval from the Canadian Dental Association (CDA). This seal means that the product’s claims of oral health benefits have been proven. The seal of approval has been given to Listerine, Crest Pro-health and Peridex (available by prescription only) Other mouthrinses may have some benefits but haven’t had the rigorous testing or scientific proof needed to gain the seal of approval.

A full list of oral care products with the CDA seal is available here:


Types of Mouthwash:


There are different types of mouthrinses available depending on individual needs.

Essential oils mouthrinse (Listerine)- these over-the-counter rinses have anti-microbial action from the essential oils; eucalyptol, thymol and menthol. Listerine does offer alcohol-free options and some formulas contain fluoride to help prevent tooth decay. Listerine has the seal of the CDA and is proven to benefit oral health.

Cetylpyridinium Chloride/CPC mouthrinse (Crest Pro-health and Colgate Total)- These anti-microbial rinses are available over-the-counter and have the seal of the CDA meaning they are proven to benefit oral health. Some Crest Pro-health and all Colgate Total mouthrinses are alcohol-free.

Chlorhexidine/CHX mouthrinse (Peridex)- is a prescription mouthrinse that is the gold standard in reducing bacteria and gingivitis but is meant for short-term use. Some staining of the teeth and taste alterations can occur from using this rinse. However, your dentist may prescribe this rinse after oral surgery or in cases of more severe gum disease.

Fluoride mouth rinse- these mouthrinses have fluoride as the active ingredient. They are used to prevent tooth decay.

Moisturizing mouthrinse (Biotene)- these rinses provide some relief for those suffering from dry mouth. Dry mouth can be caused by some medications, Sjogren’s syndrome or certain medical treatments such as radiation therapy. Dry mouth can be uncomfortable and can put individuals at a higher risk of tooth decay.

Whitening mouthrinses- Mouthrinses are not in contact with teeth long enough to have major whitening results but may help prevent some stains from sticking to tooth surfaces.


Mouthwash Myths

MYTH: Alcohol-containing mouthrinses shouldn’t be used if you have xerostomia (dry mouth).

Studies show that mouthrinses containing alcohol do not lead to dry mouth or increased perception of dry mouth. Studies have shown that salivary flow actually can increase after rinsing.

MYTH: Alcohol-containing mouthrinses cause oral cancer.

However, there has been no link found between alcohol-containing mouthrinses and oral cancer. Alcohol consumed regularly over a long duration of an hour or more (heavy drinking) can increase oral cancer risk, but mouthrinses are only used for 30-60 seconds and do not pose a risk.

There are alcohol-free mouthrinses available for those that avoid alcohol for health reasons.

Mouthrinses do not replace brushing or flossing, however, they can be an important part of an oral hygiene routine. If you have any questions about mouthrinses, please ask your dental professional.

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