Whether it's to mask bad breath,
fight cavities or prevent the buildup of plaque, the sticky material that con
tains germs and can lead to oral diseases, mouth rinses serve a variety of purposes. Or so we think.
Though they may leave your mouth with a clean, fresh taste, some rinses can be harmful, concealing the bad
breath and unpleasant taste that are signs of periodontal diseases which cause inflammation and degeneration of the supporting structures of the teeth and tooth decay. Your dentist will tell you. Most mouth rinses just don't wash.
What are the differences in rinses?
Rinses are generally classified by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as either cosmetic or therapeutic, or a combination of the two. Cosmetic rinses are commercial over-the-counter (OTC) products that help remove oral debris before or after brushing, temporarily suppress bad breath, diminish bacteria in the mouth and refresh the mouth with a pleasant taste. Therapeutic rinses have the benefits of their cosmetic counterparts, but also contain an added active ingredient that helps protect against some oral diseases. Therapeutic rinses are regulated by the FDA and are voluntarily approved by the American Dental Association (ADA).
Therapeutic rinses also can be categorized into types according to use: antiplaque/antigingivitis rinses and anticavity fluoride rinses (see table)
Commonly Used Rinses
1. Antiplaque/Antigingivitis Rinses
A. Therapeutic Antiseptics
1. Phenol products: Listerine+, Chloraseptic
2. Chlorhexidine products*: Peridex+*, Corsodyl+*
3. Sanguinaria products: Viadent
B. Cosmetic antiplaque rinses: Plax, Close-Up Anti-Plaque
2. Therapeutic Anticavity Fluoride Rinses
Act+, Fluorigard+, Listermint with Fluoride+
3. Cosmetic Breath Freshening Mouth Rinses
Cepacol, Lavoris, Scope, Signal, Clear Choice, Rembrandt Mouth Refreshing Rinse
A. Topical antibiotic rinses*#
B. Enzyme rinses*#
C. Artificial saliva rinses+*
D. Rinses that control tartar (the hard, crusted calcium deposits that form on teeth)#
+=approved by the American Dental Association
*=available by prescription only
#=still undergoing test
Should I use a rinse?
That depends upon your needs. Most rinses are, at the very least, effective oral antiseptics that freshen the mouth and curb bad breath for up to three hours. Their success in preventing tooth decay, gingivitis (inflammation of the gingival gum tissue) and periodontal disease is limited, however.
Rinses are not considered substitutes for regular dental examinations and proper home care. Dentists stress a regimen of brushing with a fluoride toothpaste followed by flossing, twice a day. If done consistently and properly, the brushing and flossing, along with routine trips to the dentist, should be sufficient in fighting), tooth decay and periodontal disease.
Which type should I use?
Again, that depends upon your need.
While further testing is needed, initial studies have shown that most
over-the-counter antiplaque rinses and antiseptics aren't much more
effective against plaque and periodontal disease
than rinsing with plain water. Most dentists are skeptical about the value of these antiplaque products, and studies point to only a 20 to 25 percent effectiveness, at best, in reducing the plaque that causes gingivitis.
Anticavity rinses with fluoride, however, have been clinically proven to fight up to 50 percent more of the bacteria that cause cavities. Nevertheless, many dentists consider the use of fluoride toothpaste alone to be adequate.
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Send comments to:Dr. Jay Last Update February 16, 2006