Many dentists would agree that adding a mouthwash to your daily oral hygiene routine of brushing and flossing can be a great benefit to your oral health. Mouthwashes can be an effective means of helping to fight cavities, gum disease, bad breath and even dry mouth. Of course, choosing the right mouthwash is key. There are a variety of types and brands available over the counter, as well as by prescription. If your dentist prescribes a mouthwash, you can rest assured that you’ll be using one that’s best for you. But if you’re in the market for the right over-the-counter mouthwash, it may help to know that many of these products contain alcohol and may not be appropriate if you have any of the following conditions:
- Dry mouth – People who are suffering from chronic dry mouth (also known as xerostomia) should avoid using mouthwashes with alcohol because it exacerbates the condition.
- History of alcohol abuse – For obvious reasons, people who have a history of alcohol abuse should also choose mouthwashes that do not contain alcohol.
- People with irritated gums – Rinses containing alcohol can produce a slight burning sensation, but if you have irritated gums, mouthwashes with alcohol can actually be painful to use.
- Children – As a parent, you probably don’t want your children to use any product that contains alcohol, including mouthwash. This is particularly true since children sometimes swallow mouth rinses.
- Composite restorations – Recent studies suggest that alcohol-free mouthwashes work better on dental composite material used in restorations, such as fillings and crowns.
Fortunately, there are several over-the-counter mouthwashes that do not contain alcohol and are just as effective as those that do. There are also some natural and herbal alternatives that people find to be quite effective. Check the label on these products to identify those that accomplish your goals – whether it’s to freshen breath, prevent cavities, reduce the risk of gum disease, or offer relief from dry mouth. If you suffer from any type of oral irritation, look for ingredients that are anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory.
If you have difficulty deciding which mouthwash is best for you, talk to your dentist. He or she can provide more information on over-the-counter products available and can recommend which would be right for you. And, of course, don’t try to substitute mouthwash for any other part of your daily oral hygiene routine. Rinses should only be used to supplement those efforts, and should never replace regular brushing, flossing, and routine dental visits and exams.