Some say that we base our purchases on what we used at home as a kid. So that means I’ll be buying Crest Pro-Health Mouthwash for the rest of my life. But if I stop and think about why I use it, there is no rational basis, I just buy it because I always have. This caused me to wonder, “are all mouthwashes created equally?”

The answer is no. Various mouthwashes are available to us, and not all are the same. Although I have been buying the same brand of mouthwash for my entire adult life, I think it’s time to look at the other options.


Antibacterial Mouthwash

This is the standard model mouthwash. It covers the basics: preventing bad breath and gum disease. If your needs end here, this is the mouthwash for you. Antibacterial mouthwash will kill germs residing in your mouth, knock out bad breath, and fend off plaque and gingivitis. This is the category where my beloved Crest Pro Health belongs. “The alcohol-free mouthwash kills 99% of germs that cause plaque, gingivitis, and bad breath. It comes in two refreshing flavors, clean mint and cool wintergreen, to leave your mouth fresh after you complete your oral care routine.” That’s a pretty good summation of what all antibacterial mouthwashes do for you. This one is alcohol-free but not all others are. Mouthwashes can contain up to 20% alcohol, which is discouraging for many users. This alcohol content can be dangerous for children and recovering alcoholics if swallowed. Hence, the rising popularity of alcohol-free mouthwashes. These alternatives provide similar health benefits without the threats posed by alcohol-containing mouthwashes. If you decide to branch out from your usual brand in favor of an alcohol-free variety, consider a brand with Cetylpyridinium Chloride (CPC). This ingredient binds to the surface of germs and causes them to burst, which reduces buildup on teeth. CPC has shown to be a safe and effective alternative to alcohol in mouthwash.


Antibacterial Mouthwash


Fluoride Rinse

Our last few posts explored fluoridated water as a way to prevent cavities. If you are in the crowd that opposes mass fluoridation, you may consider a fluoride rinse instead of traditional mouthwash. This ensures that your teeth are protected from cavities, but you are in control of the dosage. No matter your stance, fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that helps strengthen tooth enamel, making it more resistant to decay. These washes protect your enamel but lack protection against gum disease. Unlike antibacterial washes, fluoride washes don’t actually remove the plaque. They work by protecting the teeth from the acid that bacterial plaque produces. This means that fluoride washes should be supplemented by brushing and flossing (like all other mouthwashes).


Prescription Mouthwashes

Dentists will often instruct patients with gingivitis or gum disease to use prescription mouthwash. These mouthwashes contain higher antibacterial properties than over-the-counter options but can have adverse effects. These high powered washes commonly cause staining on teeth, so their use is closely monitored by a dental professional. Chlorhexidine is the most common ingredient in prescription mouthwash. It has powerful antibacterial properties, and can be especially “helpful in maintaining a healthy mouth after a teeth deep cleaning procedure such as tooth scaling and root planing.” As mentioned, Chlorhexidine can cause tooth staining, so try to avoid red wine, coffee, or other potentially staining foods while using it.


Prescription Mouthwashes


Other Options

If you have especially sensitive teeth or gums, there are a multitude of sensitive mouthwash options available to you. Additionally, if you are recovering from a mouth procedure, your usual mouthwash may cause temporary pain. During these times, you may want to use an alcohol-free or sensitive mouthwash. No matter the cause, if you can’t stand traditional mouthwash, you should look into natural options. These rinses contain aloe vera and chamomile to soothe your teeth and gums, while still rinsing away germs.

Finally, when staring down the long aisle of choices, read labels to see what each different mouthwash offers. While most options accomplish the same effect, some cater towards whitening or plaque control, and there are lots of flavors to choose from (though you should never deliberately swallow mouthwash).


It may be time to spend some time in the mouthwash aisle to see if you are choosing the best option for yourself. I think I need to shop around before I definitively choose my childhood favorite. Do you think you would ever switch from the brand that your mom used to buy?