Are Mouthwash and Mouth Rinse The Same?

Are Mouthwash and Mouth Rinse The Same?

Mouthwash vs. Mouth Rinse

The dental hygiene section at your local store can be a confusing place, with dozens of different products all fighting for your attention, each and every one of which promises you the brightest smile and freshest breath possible. However, how much do you actually know about what these products actually do? For instance, what’s the difference between a mouthwash and a mouth rinse?


What is a Mouth Rinse?

Although confusingly similar, they are actually two very different products which serve two very different purposes.

A mouth rinse is normally used prior to brushing and flossing your teeth. The purpose of a mouth rinse is to freshen your breath and to help prevent a buildup of plaque on the surfaces of your teeth. Mouth rinses often contain alcohol — for its antibacterial effect — and fluoride or other agents to help protect your teeth.

If you are one of the many people for whom brushing is not an effective treatment for gingivitis and plaque, your dentist may recommend a mouth rinse containing chlorhexidine, such as Peridex, Periogard, and Periochip. All three are highly effective rinses which work by killing a wide range of bacteria detrimental to dental health.

Anti-plaque/anti-gingivitis rinses have shown to decrease and inhibit gingivitis, a type of gum (periodontal) disease. Many of these rinses contain chlorhexidine gluconate, the most effective plaque-fighting drug tested to date, and are only available by prescription. They may taste bad or leave a bitter aftertaste in your mouth. These solutions typically contain alcohol, though they may be available without it. They are only advised for use for six months or less.

While some anti-cavity rinses have been clinically proven to combat up to 50% more cavity-causing bacteria, preliminary research has shown that most OTC anti-plaque rinses and antiseptics are not significantly more effective against plaque and gum disease than simply rinsing with water. The American Dental Association emphasizes that cosmetic oral rinses only mask – not eliminate – bad breath for a few hours. Many dental professionals believe that using fluoride toothpaste is adequate anti-cavity protection for the majority of people.

What is a Mouthwash?

A mouthwash, on the other hand, is used after brushing and flossing your teeth.

Mouthwashes are basically antiseptic solutions that are used to kill or retard the growth of bacteria in your mouth after brushing. To do this, mouthwashes commonly contain a high percentage of alcohol – up to 27 percent — and antiseptics. Other common ingredients include essential oils, flavoring agents, hydrogen peroxide, zinc, and fluoride.

It is up to you whether or not you should use mouthwash. Many dentists believe that using fluoride toothpaste alone is more than adequate cavity protection. Although fluoride-containing anti-cavity rinses have been clinically proven to fight up to 50% more of the bacteria that can cause cavities, and most rinses are efficacious at curbing bad breath and refreshing the mouth for up to three hours, preliminary research has shown that most OTC anti-plaque rinses and antiseptics are not significantly more effective against plaque and gum disease than rinsing with water.

Alcohol-Free Mouthwash

Some individuals view using mouthwash as part of everyday oral care routine, but the alcohol content deters them. Some of these people find it difficult to rinse for the recommended amount of time with an alcohol-containing product (many mouthwashes contain about 20% alcohol). Others are concerned that the 20% alcohol content is enough to cause illness in children or teenagers who experiment with drinking mouthwash. Furthermore, some alcoholics in recovery avoid mouthwash since the alcohol content was shown to trigger a relapse.

However, there are alternatives. There are alcohol-free mouthwashes available that provide similar oral health benefits to alcohol-containing products. Consider using a mouthwash containing CPC (cetylpyridinium chloride). This ingredient can be found in a variety of health care products, including Crest’s Pro-Health line of mouthwashes. CPC has been demonstrated to be both safe and effective. It binds to the surface of germs in a mouth rinse, causing them to burst, thereby reducing their buildup on the teeth. Another distinction between mouthwash and fluoride rinse.

For good dental health, mouth rinse and mouthwash can be good additions to your daily dental care regimen, but are not a replacement for regular brushing and flossing.

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