Different Categories of Mouthwashes
by Diane Haun, RDHAP | Mobile Dental Hygiene Services
There are four different categories of mouthwashes that are available over the counter. They are Cavity Preventing, Antiseptics, Whitening and Halitosis. Some mouthwashes claim to do many things. The best way to know which product meets your dental needs is to read the active ingredients on the label.
Cavity preventing mouthwashes must have fluoride listed as an active ingredient. Fluoride helps remineralize and strengthen the enamel and dentin against cavities. There is some research that xylitol may help in preventing cavities. This is an option for those people opposed to using fluorides, but the research is not yet confirmed. Calcium and phosphate aid in remineralizing teeth and can also prevent cavities from forming or progressing.
Antiseptic mouthwashes are used to prevent plaque build-up (not tarter). They are marketed as anti-gingivitis mouthwashes as they aid in killing the bacteria that cause gingivitis (gum disease) and cavities. Like cavity preventing mouthwashes these are also used for cavity prevention.
Whitening mouthwashes usually contain a hydrogen peroxide product. These help with preventing stains from everyday foods and beverages. They do not significantly whiten teeth. These are best used after a bleaching system, as they will help stop teeth from becoming yellow or stained again as quickly.
Mouth odor commonly known as halitosis can be treated with mouthwashes containing stabilized chlorine dioxide. This ingredient neutralizes the odorous gases that are produced by the bacteria in your mouth. Most mouthwashes will freshen your breath, but this ingredient is the only one that treats the actual cause of halitosis. There are also mouthwashes that are truly just fresheners which offer a temporary freshness that will help after eating garlic or onions by simply masking the strong odors until they subside on their own.
In summary, consumers need to determine which mouthwash treats their specific needs. Consulting a dental professional regarding which product is right for one’s needs is advisable. Everyone does not need to use a daily mouthwash, but most people do require one or more of these products to aid in them in achieving and maintaining a healthy mouth and smile.