Types of Mouthwash : Guide to Mouthwash

There are several types of mouthwash which all perform a particular function. There are fluoride mouthwashes which help to strengthen your teeth, antiseptic mouthwashes which deal with tooth decay and hide bad breath and herbal mouthwashes which do not contain alcohol.

To re-iterate: the types of mouthwash available include:

  • Fluoride
  • Cosmetic
  • Antiseptic
  • Natural (herbal)
  • Total care

Fluoride mouthwashes contain sodium fluoride which helps to strengthen the teeth as well as adding extra protection against tooth decay. However, fluoride is present in toothpaste and tap water and is more than adequate for our needs. Be careful about consuming excessive amounts of fluoride.

Cosmetic mouthwashes do not offer the same protection as other types and are used more as a means of disguising bad breath (halitosis). They help to keep your teeth clean but do not reduce the risk of tooth decay.

Antiseptic mouthwashes contain chlorhexidine gluconate - a chemical which stops the growth of bacteria and is suitable for people with a mouth infection. They are also useful for people with bad breath (halitosis).

They are effective in that they can prevent the build up of plaque to a certain degree but they should be used in conjunction with a toothbrush and dental floss.

Avoid overuse of these as the high levels of chlorhexidine can cause discolouration of the teeth over a long period of time. But if you do experience this then your dentist or dental hygienist will be able to easily treat it.

Natural mouthwashes are alcohol-free (and contain no fluoride) and work in much the same way as conventional mouthwashes.

Some people find that a home-made mouthwash, such as those made from a pinch of salt and warm water, are useful following a tooth extraction. They can also treat a mouth infection or injury.

Total care mouthwashes contain anti-bacterial ingredients which help to reduce the build up of plaque and prevent gum disease.

Magic mouthwash

This may sound exotic but it is a type of mouthwash which is prescribed by your dentist to treat conditions such as mouth ulcers or inflamed mouth tissues caused by cancer treatment.

This mouthwash may include the following ingredients:

  • Antibiotics, e.g. tetracycline
  • Local anaesthetic, e.g. lidocaine
  • Glucocorticoids – to reduce any inflammation
  • Nystatin – an antifungal to treat oral mucositis
  • Maalox – an antacid which protects soft tissues in the mouth

You need to think about the type of mouthwash you need and why before deciding upon a particular brand. Everyone’s teeth are different and what suits one person may not suit another.

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