photo credit: Flickr

photo credit: Flickr

Today’s mouthwashes might seem hi-tech and modern, but humans have been rinsing their mouths with special formulas for thousands of years to stave off tooth decay and make the breath smell sweeter. Medicine from India and China pioneered the idea, which was later adopted by the Greeks, Romans, and then the rest of the world. Though the concept of rinsing the mouth was the same, the ingredients differed wildly, including everything from salt to vinegar to oil — and beyond.

With modern medical science and a host of effective new ingredients, there’s a dazzling array of choices when it comes to mouthwash. How do you know which kind is healthiest for you?

For most dental patients, a germ-fighting mouthwash that also freshens breath is a better bet than a breath-freshening mouthwash alone. Choose your ingredients carefully to make sure you’re getting the best product for your specific concerns:

Alcohol is one of the most common ingredients in mouthwash to kill off germs and bacteria, but it can cause a stinging sensation for some patients, and is not appropriate for children. It may also dry the tissues, which is not a desirable result.

Alcohol-free ingredients like cetylpyridinium chloride, sodium fluoride, hydrogen peroxide, sodium chloride, and certain essential oils are acceptable alternatives to alcohol that promote good oral health.

Fluoride — in addition to fluoridated toothpaste — can further strengthen tooth enamel, making the teeth more resistant to tooth decay.

In certain cases (like recent oral surgery) and with certain conditions (such as gingivitis), you might be a candidate for a prescription mouthwash. Talk to your dentist about your concerns.

For an even healthier mouthwash choice, look for options that don’t contain unnecessary ingredients like food coloring or artificial preservatives.

And remember, mouthwash is a good addition to your brushing and flossing routine, but it’s not a replacement. Stick to your good oral hygiene habits and see the dentist regularly, and your teeth will stay in tip-top shape.


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