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Look for the ADA Seal—your assurance that the product has been objectively evaluated for safety and effectiveness by an independent body of scientific experts, the ADA Council on Scientific Affairs.

Mouthrinses

Mouthrinses are used for a variety of reasons: to freshen breath, to help prevent or control tooth decay, to reduce plaque (a thin film of bacteria that forms on teeth), to prevent or reduce gingivitis (an early stage of gum disease), to reduce the speed that tartar (hardened plaque) forms on the teeth, or to produce a combination of these effects. Most mouthrinses are available without a prescription.

What ingredients are commonly found in mouthrinse?

Basic ingredients include water, alcohol, cleansing agents, flavoring ingredients and coloring agents. Active ingredients vary depending on the type of mouthrinse, but they can be placed into four general groups:

  • Antimicrobial agents act directly on oral bacteria to help reduce plaque, decrease the severity of gingivitis and control bad breath.    
  • Fluoride helps reduce tiny lesions (tooth decay) on tooth enamel and make teeth more resistant to decay.    
  • Astringent salts can serve as temporary deodorizers that mask bad breath.    
  • Odor neutralizers act by chemically inactivating odor causing compounds.

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What’s the difference between cosmetic and therapeutic?

Cosmetic mouthrinses may temporarily control or reduce bad breath and leave the mouth with a pleasant taste. But they don’t deal with the causes of bad breath. They don’t kill the bacteria that cause bad breath or chemically inactivate odor causing compounds. Also, none of the cosmetic mouthrinses helps reduce plaque, gingivitis or cavities.

Therapeutic mouthrinses, on the other hand, can help reduce plaque, gingivitis, cavities and bad breath. Some fight the bacteria present in plaque, a sticky film that forms on teeth and gums. Plaque bacteria create toxins that can damage the gums. Plaque that is not removed with daily brushing and flossing can cause gingivitis, an early stage of gum disease. If plaque is allowed to continue to accumulate, gingivitis can progress to advanced gum disease, called periodontitis, which only a dentist can treat. Plaque can also turn into tartar (or calculus), a hard substance that can only be removed during a professional cleaning. Some therapeutic mouthwashes contain agents that either fight bad breath bacteria or that chemically inactivate odor causing compounds. Therapeutic mouthrinses that contain fluoride help prevent or reduce tooth decay.

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Do I need a mouthrinse?

Your dentist can advise you whether you need a mouthrinse depending on your oral health needs. Rinsing helps remove debris from the mouth. It can be done before or after brushing, but it is not a substitute for brushing or flossing. You may consider, or your dentist may recommend, using a mouthrinse with fluoride or antimicrobial agents as part of your daily oral hygiene routine.

If you have difficulty brushing and flossing, a mouthrinse may provide additional protection against cavities and periodontal (gum) disease. Anti-cavity rinses with fluoride help protect tooth enamel. Dentists may prescribe special rinses for patients who have had periodontal surgery.

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What is an “anti-gingivitis or anti-plaque” mouth rinse?

Anti-plaque, anti-gingivitis, antibacterial, antimicrobial or chemotherapeutic mouthrinses reduce bacterial count and inhibit bacterial activity that can cause gingivitis, a form of periodontal (gum) disease.

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Can a mouthrinse eliminate bad breath?

Therapeutic mouthrinses can help reduce bad breath. However, if you must constantly use a mouthrinse or breath freshener to hide unpleasant mouth odor, it would be a good idea to visit your dentist to see if there is some underlying cause that can be corrected.

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How does a mouthrinse get the ADA Seal?

A company earns the ADA Seal for its product by submitting scientific evidence that the product is safe and effective. The ADA Council on Scientific Affairs carefully evaluates the evidence according to objective guidelines. In the case of a mouthrinse, the Council may use any of the following guidelines, depending on the product’s intended use:

  • Chemotherapeutic Products for the Control of Gingivitis    
  • Products Used in the Management of Oral Malodor

A mouthrinse that claims to control gingivitis must substantiate that claim by demonstrating a statistically significant reduction in gingival inflammation. A mouthrinse that claims to control bad breath must substantiate that claim by showing that it works to reduce odors over a prolonged time frame. A mouthrinse that contains fluoride for reducing decay must either demonstrate effectiveness in clinical studies, or show that the formula is the same as a similar product that has been clinically proven. With any type of mouthrinse, a manufacturer must show that the product is safe and that it does not damage oral tissues or cause any internal problems.

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Should I brush, floss or rinse first?

The sequence in which you brush, floss and rinse makes no difference as long as you do a thorough job and use quality products. Check the mouthrinse manufacturer’s label for recommendations on how and when to use the product, and look for products that have the ADA's Seal of Acceptance.

At what age can a child use a fluoride mouthrinse?

The use of fluoride mouthrinses is not recommended for children six and younger because they may swallow the rinse. Always check the manufacturer’s label for precautions and age recommendations and talk to your dentist. Clinical studies indicate that regular use of a fluoride mouthrinse (daily or weekly, depending on the rinse) can provide additional protection against cavities over that provided by a fluoride toothpaste.

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Why look for mouthrinse brands that display the ADA Seal?

The Seal is your assurance that the product has been evaluated by an independent body of scientific experts, the ADA Council on Scientific Affairs, for safety and effectiveness. Look for the ADA Seal statement in a box on the product label. It tells you why the ADA has given the Seal to this product. You can also be assured that all claims on packaging and container labeling have been reviewed and approved by the ADA. Products with the prestigious ADA Seal must say what they do and do what they say.

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What products have earned the ADA Seal of Acceptance?

Get a Complete List of ADA Accepted Mouthrinses

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Additional Resources

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