What is a Mouthwash? : Guide to Mouthwash

A mouthwash is a solution which is used to rinse away food particles and plaque from the teeth. It is used after brushing the teeth and can form part of a daily oral care routine.

It is seen as a form of protection against tooth decay and gum disease.

A mouthwash can also rinse away food debris and mucus which is located deeper inside the throat.

What does a mouthwash contain?

All mouthwashes differ slightly from each other in terms of their ingredients but there are ingredients which are common to all which include:

  • Flavouring, e.g. menthol (mint taste) or eucalyptol
  • Sweeteners, e.g. sucralose and saccharine
  • Water
  • Colouring
  • Enzymes
  • Fluoride (in certain brands)
  • Antiseptic, e.g. chlorhexidine gluconate or cetylpyridinium chloride
  • Preservative, e.g. methylparaben or sodium benzoate
  • Detergent
  • Calcium

Many brands of mouthwash contain alcohol which is a part of its anti-bacterial properties as well as giving it a sharp taste. However this has generated a fair degree of controversy as alcohol based mouthwashes have been linked to mouth cancer although this is still inconclusive.

They are also considered a risk for young children who may drink them by mistake or a temptation for alcoholics. The alcohol contained in a mouthwash has a drying out effect on the mouth and can in fact, worsen bad breath.

Some of the newer versions contain ‘oxidisers’or a chemical called zinc ion which protects against bad breath.

What are the different types of mouthwash?

There are a variety of different mouthwashes which include:

  • Antiseptic mouthwashes
  • Cosmetic mouthwashes
  • Fluoride mouthwashes
  • Natural or herbal mouthwashes

These are discussed in greater detail in our types of mouthwash section.

There is another type of mouthwash called ‘magic mouthwash’: this is prescribed by dentists for people who have undergone dental treatment such as oral surgery. This is also discussed in the types of mouthwash section.

Many dentists view mouthwashes as an addition to a dental hygiene routine and NOT as a replacement for brushing and flossing the teeth.

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